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Conclusion of assessments into allegations regarding certain EU Referendum campaigners

Published: 3 Aug 2018

The Electoral Commission has concluded its assessments of allegations about the campaigning activities of specific permitted participants at the EU Referendum.

Allegations made by The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP

Correspondence from The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP was made public in May and June 2018. This made allegations that spending on three campaign videos should have been declared as ‘joint spending’ by Britain Stronger in Europe (BSIE), the designated lead ‘remain’ campaigner. Allegations were also made about the late registration of a number of campaigners that had associations with BSIE.

  1. 5 seconds to Mark an X / Don’t F**k My Future / Project Ruby videos

    The rules in place for the EU Referendum were set by Parliament. They allowed campaigners to work together to achieve a particular outcome. Where there was ‘working together’, campaigners were not allowed to exceed their individual spending limit and had to include details in their spending returns. Where ‘working together’ involved a designated lead campaigner, all the spending counted towards the lead campaigner’s total.

    Under the rules, the following did not count as joint working, as they are permitted and do not dictate how money is spent:

    • Donations from an individual or group to multiple campaigners.
    • A single supplier working for multiple campaigners.
    • Campaigners registering late in the campaign.

    The Commission has therefore concluded that:

    • DDB Ltd (otherwise known as Adam and Eve) were a registered campaigner at the EU Referendum. They incurred and reported spending on the videos. In this matter, there is not sufficient grounds to suspect that BSIE breached the joint spending rules.
    • DDB providing services to more than one campaigner; or BSIE hosting a campaign video from another campaigner on its website are not, on their own, evidence of joint working with BSIE as part of a common plan.
    • However, following information provided by Ms Patel, we have opened an investigation into whether another registered campaigner, ‘Wake Up and Vote’ (WUAV) incurred joint spending with DDB that has not been declared as such in their spending returns.
  2. BSIE and the late registration of campaigners

It was alleged that five campaigners were set up by BSIE and acted under a common plan. The Commission has not been provided with, or found evidence for an investigation to be opened.

Separately, the Commission has previously concluded that extracts from two books published since the referendum that describe daily telephone meetings of certain ‘remain’ campaigners and chaired by BSIE did not meet the threshold for an investigation to be opened. Evidence indicates that the meetings were advisory and did not involve or result in decisions on referendum spending.

Our blog: When does working together break the rules? has more information on the ‘working together’ rules. Should evidence of any breaches of the rules come to light, the Commission will consider those in line with its Enforcement Policy.

Allegations made by the BBC Northern Ireland programme Spotlight “Brexit, Dark Money and the DUP”

On 26 June 2018, the BBC Northern Ireland programme Spotlight was aired. It made allegations about whether the DUP incurred joint spending with other EU Referendum campaigners but did not declare it under a common plan.

After requesting further evidence from BBC Northern Ireland and being told that there was no “significant information” other than what was in the programme, the Commission considered whether other sources were available to evidence the allegations made in it.

The Commission has concluded it does not have grounds to open an investigation into the allegations made by BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight.

The Commission continues to be prohibited by legislation from disclosing any information concerning donations to Northern Ireland recipients made prior to 1 July 2017 (section 71 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000). We continue to urge the UK Government to bring forward legislation that will enable us to publish information on donations from January 2014.

Ends

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

See the Commission’s response to The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP dated 2 August 2018

See the Commission’s response to The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP dated 15 January 2018

See the Commission’s letter to BBC Northern Ireland dated 2 August 2018

See the Commission’s media briefing on when it opens an assessment and an investigation

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, focusing 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.

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