Vote Leave broke campaign spending rules, says election watchdog
The Electoral Commission is expected to find that the official campaign to take Britain out of the EU broke rules around election spending.
A draft report from the body has found that Vote Leave was guilty of four incidences of breaking electoral rules.
The watchdog is set to say that the Vote Leave campaign failed to accurately declare over £250,000 in campaign spending, with investigators claiming that an email between campaign boss Dom Cummings and Brexit donor Anthony Clarke shows there was a “common plan” to flout spending rules during the campaign.
The draft report claims that Vote Leave donated £625,000 to smaller campaign group, BeLeave, in a concerted plan to dodge strict spending rules.
Vote Leave could now face fines of up to £80,000 and be referred to the police if there are grounds for possible criminal charges.
The allegations are disputed by Vote Leave, who have filed a 500-page rebuttal to the Electoral Commission, accusing them of conducting a “vindictive and biased” investigation which failed to take evidence from senior Vote Leave staff.
The group’s former Chief Executive Matthew Elliott blasted the Electoral Commission for listening to “fantasists” and said that the report was a “huge breach of natural justice”.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Elliott said: “Their initial conclusion is that we have overspent, that a donation we made to another group during the course of the campaign was incorrect, we shouldn’t have made that donation.”
“They’ve listened to these, quite frankly marginal characters who came out in March, and listened to their stories, but haven’t had evidence from Vote leave side of things.
“I think it is a huge breach of natural justice that they haven’t wanted to listen to our opinions and our story and we were the people running the campaign.
“We are the people would could give them the facts, rather than basing all their opinion on the fantasists.”
He added that whistleblowers who had come forward to give evidence about the Vote Leave campaign were motivated to attack the pro-Brexit group so that a second EU referendum would be called.
Tasmin Allen, who represents the whistleblowers, said that there was “evidential basis” for the accusations.
“Vote Leave may not like this conclusion, but there is clearly a proper evidential basis for it”, she said.
“The commission should be permitted to complete its work and we await the release of its final report.”
A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said: “The Commission has concluded its investigation and, having reached initial findings, provided Vote Leave with a 28-day period to make any further or new representations. That period ended Tuesday 3 July.
“The unusual step taken by Vote Leave in sharing its views on the Electoral Commission’s initial findings does not affect the process set out in law.”