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Electoral Commission opens applications for EU Referendum lead campaigner designation

Published: 4 Mar 2016

Groups and individuals intending to apply for designation as the lead campaign for either outcome in the EU Referendum will be able to submit applications to the Electoral Commission during the four-week application period starting from 4 March.

One lead campaign can represent each side of the referendum debate, acting as the lead group on behalf of those campaigning for that outcome.

Bob Posner, Director of Party and Electoral Finance & Legal Counsel at the Electoral Commission said:

"We will be running a fair, open and transparent process for designating lead campaigners. It is important that any campaigner applying for designation carefully reads our guidance before submitting their final application as we will be basing our decision purely on the evidence provided within it."


Any registered campaigners who wish to apply to be a lead campaigner will have until 31 March to compile and submit their applications to the Commission. Campaigners seeking to apply for designation as a lead campaigner can read the Commission's guidance and application form which provide information about the assessment and decision criteria.

Following the end of this application period, the statutory deadline for the Commission to appoint lead campaigners is 14 April 2016, which is the day before the start of the referendum period. The referendum period is the statutory period in the run up to a referendum poll when the majority of the regulatory controls on campaigners apply, including the spending limits. The Commission will make its decisions on whether and if so which campaign group to designate on one or each side of the referendum outcome, as soon as practicable within the period from 1 to 14 April.

The Commission must apply certain statutory tests when designating lead campaign groups in the run up to the EU Referendum. These tests provide that, if there is only one applicant for an outcome, the Commission will designate them unless it is not satisfied that they adequately represent those campaigning for that outcome. If there is more than one applicant, the Commission will designate whichever of the applicants appears to the Commission to represent to the greatest extent those campaigning for that outcome.

The European Union Referendum Act 2015 allows the Electoral Commission to designate lead campaign groups on both sides of the debate or for one side only.

The benefits of being a lead campaigner are:

  • A higher spending limit of £7 million
  • One free distribution of information to voters
  • The use of certain public rooms
  • Referendum campaign broadcasts
  • A grant of up to £600,000 to be used for certain spending including the administration costs associated with setting up and running a referendum campaign and the costs associated with the TV broadcasts and free mailing to voters that they are entitled to as lead campaigners

In addition to these statutory benefits, lead campaign groups can have:

  • A dedicated page in the Commission's public information booklet which will be distributed to all households in the UK (in both English language and bilingual English/Welsh language versions)
  • The inclusion in the booklet of a link to a page on the campaigner's website, which should include their opinion on what will happen in the event of either referendum result

The Act states that the Commission can designate a lead campaigner on only one side of the referendum if is unable to designate lead campaigners for both outcomes.

If a lead campaign group is appointed on only one side of the referendum then that campaigner does not receive the grant of up to £600,000, the referendum campaigner broadcasts, or the content in the Commission's public awareness booklet or the link in the booklet to the campaigner's website.

The Electoral Commission will publish all applications for designated lead campaigner status and the reasons for its decision in the interests of transparency.


For more information please contact:

Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704
Out of office hours 07789 920414

Notes to editors

1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK's democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections.

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. For more information see our website.

3. The application form for lead campaigner status is available on the Commission's website along with guidance for campaigners and the assessment matrix to be used by the Commission in its decision-making.

4. The benefits of registration as a non-lead campaigner for the EU Referendum, including the spending limits for political parties are outlined here.