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Details of major campaign spending during EU Referendum published by Electoral Commission

Published: 24 Feb 2017

The detail of more than £27 million of campaigner spending at the EU Referendum has been published by the Electoral Commission, the independent political finance regulator.

The Commission has published the data provided in line with its statutory duty as outlined in section 124 of the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000. It comprises returns from seventeen registered campaigners, each of which reported spend of more than £250,000.

Commenting on the data, Bob Posner, the Electoral Commission’s Director of Political Finance and Regulation & Legal Counsel said:

“The spending returns that we have published indicate that this was the most well-funded referendum ever in the UK. Voters must be given an opportunity to see what campaigners at last year’s historic referendum spent their money on in order to secure votes.”

After an initial inspection of these spending returns, the Commission is considering a number of issues under its Enforcement Policy. Investigations have been opened into the spending returns submitted by both the lead campaigners – The IN Campaign Limited (‘Britain Stronger in Europe’) and Vote Leave Limited – as well as the Liberal Democrats, and Mr Peter Harris.

The Commission is undertaking further examination of the spending returns submitted by the five other campaigners before deciding whether to formally assess these returns. The Commission is also assessing Grassroots Out Limited which appears to have missing donation and/or loan reports in its return for spending under £250,000. Only after an assessment has taken place will the Commission consider whether to open investigations into these returns. The Commission will publish the outcome of its investigations on its website.

Issues under consideration

Issues under consideration include the following, although further issues involving these or other campaigners may come to light:

  • Both the lead campaigners – The IN Campaign Limited (‘Britain Stronger in Europe’) and Vote Leave Limited – do not appear to have delivered all the necessary invoices and receipts to support their returns. There are also issues with the delivery of all the details required in the return, including supplier details for a number of payments. The Liberal Democrats spending return also appears to be missing some details including invoices, receipts and supplier names.
  • One campaigner, the European Movement of the UK Limited, declared a total spend of £329,000 but has supplied payment details of only £290,000.
  • Two campaigners, Labour Leave and the UK Independence Party submitted returns with discrepancies in the way they reported the same campaigning activity.
  • One campaigner, Mr Peter Harris, delivered his spending return late and without the required audit report. Another campaigner, Conservatives IN, appears to have delivered a donation report late.

The Commission has not yet determined whether any offences have been committed in respect of these issues.

Bob Posner added:

“It is disappointing that some campaigners, including both lead campaigners, appear to have not fully reported all their spending as they should have. Missing spending details undermines transparency and makes the returns harder for the public to understand. Where it appears campaigners have not fulfilled their legal obligations, we have begun and will continue to take action to deal with this.

“Our statutory role requires us to publish spending returns provided to us by campaigners which we expect to be in a fit state. To make a number of these ready for publication, the Commission has had to work with some campaigners to improve the quality of information originally submitted. This has included calling campaigners in to explain their returns. The Commission will continue to examine campaigners spending returns until it is satisfied that they are complete and accurate.”

Campaigners that spent over £250,000 were required to submit an independently audited spending return to the Commission by 23 December 2016. A breakdown of the seventeen campaigners whose campaign spending we have published today can be seen in the notes to editors.

The spending returns of those who reported spend under £250,000 and two campaigners who spent in excess of that were published in November 2016. The total spend reported by all registered campaigners at the EU Referendum was over £32 million.

Details of the campaign spending published today, including copies of individual invoices or receipts for costs over £200, are available on the Commission’s online interactive database here.

Reported Donations

Under the legislation, registered campaigners were required to complete four pre-poll reports setting out what donations and loans they had received over £7,500 between 1 February 2016 and 23 June 2016. These were published by the Electoral Commission and a summary of the pre-poll reports is available here.

As part of their spending return, campaigners were also required to report a combined total for any donations accepted with a value between £500 and £7,500.

Taken together campaigners that spent over £250,000 reported accepting donations totalling over £31 million.

The breakdown between non-political party campaigners registered for both outcomes was:

OutcomeDonations over  £7,500Donations £500-£7,500Total
Remain £14,326,358 £839,263 £15,165,621
Leave £15,620,421 £754,446 £16,374,867

Campaigners that are also registered political parties did not have to report donations or loans during the referendum regulated period, because they already submit quarterly donations and loans returns to the Electoral Commission. Under the current law, donations and loans reports in Northern Ireland remain confidential for security reasons.

Grant claims by lead campaigners

For the EU referendum, the Commission made available £600,000 to each lead campaigner, as allowed by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, and provided instructions on how this money could be claimed and spent.

Both designated lead campaigners claimed the full amount of the grant and used it in accordance with the terms and conditions. The final audited amounts paid under the grant were:

Vote Leave ltdAmount paid
Referendum addresses £600,000
Total £600,000

The In Campaign LtdAmount paid
Establishing / operating offices £200,000
Referendum addresses £400,000
Total £600,000

Full details of the grant claims, including invoices and receipts, can be seen here.


For further information contact: The Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors

1. The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:

  • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focussing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
  • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
  • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency
  • The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

2. The Electoral Commission has specific responsibilities and functions in relation to the delivery and regulation of referendums held under PPERA, which applies to any referendum Bill brought before the UK Parliament unless specifically stated otherwise. s.124 of the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which states that the Commission shall “as soon as reasonably practicable after receiving the return, make a copy of the return and of the documents accompanying it available for public inspection”.

3. Reported spending by campaigners

Remain campaigners

Reported spend (£)
Best For Our Future Ltd £409,438
Conservatives IN Ltd £658,431
European Movement of the UK Ltd £297,470
Labour Party £4,845,733
Liberal Democrats £2,225,058
The In Campaign Ltd £6,767,584
Unison - The Public Service Union £461,084
Virgin Management Limited £488,101
Remain Total £16,152,899

Leave campaignersReported spend (£)
Brexit Express £630,236
Democracy Movement £421,308
Democratic Unionist Party - D.U.P. £425,622
Labour Leave Limited £494,897
Leave.EU Group Ltd £693,022
Mr Peter Harris £421,433
UK Independence Party (UKIP) £1,354,393
Vote Leave Limited £6,789,892
WAGTV Limited £303,623
Leave total £11,534,426

Total £27,687,325

4. A full list of registered campaigners for the EU Referendum can be seen here.

5. Registered campaigners were limited as to how much they could spend during the formal ‘referendum period’ (which began on 15 April and ran until the close of poll on 23 June). Designated lead campaigners had a spending limit of £7 million each. Other registered campaigners had a spending limit of £700,000. Political parties that registered as campaigners had a spending limit based on the percentage of the vote they received at the last general election. See our media handbook for information here.

6. The grant given to lead campaigners could be used towards the basic infrastructure costs of establishing or operating campaign offices during the referendum period, costs associated with ensuring voter inclusion and public safety at campaign events and the costs associated with the benefits available to lead campaigners of sending a free mailing and the referendum campaign broadcasts.

7. Vote Leave Limited submitted two separate claims against the grant totalling £600,000. As evidence for these claims, they submitted an invoice for the amount of £657,228.00. The Commission paid out only the maximum grant available of £600,000 in two separate payments against these claims.  The In Campaign Limited submitted two separate claims against the grant totalling £600,825.15. The Commission paid out the maximum amount available of £600,000 against these claims.

8. For more information about the rules regarding donations and loans at the EU referendum, see our media handbook here.

9. The figures reported by campaigners have been rounded to the nearest £. Exact figures are available on our website.