UK’s official Brexit campaign fined, referred to police

The Electoral Commission said the winning side in the referendum had worked together with a smaller pro-Brexit group called BeLeave to get around campaign finance rules. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 17 July 2018
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UK’s official Brexit campaign fined, referred to police

  • The report found that the Vote Leave campaign exceeded its legal spending limit of £7.0 million ( $9.3 million) by almost £500,000
  • Vote Leave returned an incomplete and inaccurate spending report

LONDON: Britain’s official Brexit campaign, Vote Leave, has been fined for breaking spending rules in the 2016 EU membership referendum, the Electoral Commission said Tuesday, adding that it had referred the case to the police.
The Electoral Commission said the winning side in the referendum had worked together with a smaller pro-Brexit group called BeLeave to get around campaign finance rules.
“We found substantial evidence that the two groups worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits,” said Bob Posner, the commission’s director of political finance and regulation.
“These are serious breaches of the laws put in place by parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums,” Posner said.
A Vote Leave spokesman accused the Electoral Commission of being “motivated by a political agenda rather than uncovering the facts.”
The spokesman said there were “a number of false accusations and incorrect assertions that are wholly inaccurate and do not stand up to scrutiny.”
The report found that the Vote Leave campaign exceeded its legal spending limit of £7.0 million (7.9 million euros, $9.3 million) by almost £500,000.
Vote Leave, which had support from leading euroskeptic Boris Johnson, also returned an incomplete and inaccurate spending report and failed to submit some invoices for its spending.
The report said the BeLeave group, which was founded by fashion student Darren Grimes, spent more than £675,000 with Aggregate IQ, a Canadian digital political advertising company, under a “common plan” with Vote Leave.
The company was mentioned in the scandal over Cambridge Analytica, a now defunct British company accused of misusing data obtained from Facebook to micro-target political ads.
Christopher Wylie, a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, alleged that pro-Brexit groups worked together to get around campaign finance rules by using the services of Aggregate IQ.
Wylie said that Aggregate IQ was linked to Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.
The Electoral Commission said it had referred the case to police.
“Investigation files have been shared with the Metropolitan Police in relation to whether any persons have committed related offenses which lie outside our regulatory remit,” the report said.
Vote Leave was fined £61,000 and Grimes was fined £20,000, the maximum levy for an individual.
But the Vote Leave spokesman said it had provided evidence to the Electoral Commission “proving there was no wrongdoing.”
“And yet, despite clear evidence of wrongdoing by the Remain campaign, the commission has chosen to ignore this and refused to launch an investigation.”
“We will consider the options available to us, but are confident that these findings will be overturned,” he said.


Migrants need better access to health care in Europe: WHO

Updated 41 min 37 sec ago
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Migrants need better access to health care in Europe: WHO

  • In WHO’s Europe region, which covers 53 countries, migrants represent almost 10% of the population, or 90.7 million of 920 million inhabitants
  • In 15 European countries, such as Austria, Turkey and Britain, asylum seekers have access to the same care as the local population

COPENHAGEN: Europe must guarantee migrants better access to health care, the World Health Organization urged Monday in its first report on the health of new arrivals to the old continent, where accessibility varies broadly.
“The most important is the access to health services. To improve their health, it is important to fill the gap for access to basic care,” Santino Severoni, the head of the WHO’s Migration and Health Programme, told AFP.
In WHO’s Europe region, which covers 53 countries, migrants represent almost 10 percent of the population, or 90.7 million of 920 million inhabitants.
But the proportion of migrants varies widely from country to country, accounting for 45 percent of Malta’s population to just two percent in Albania.
Depending on the country and migrant status, they may enjoy full access to the health care system or none at all.
In 15 European countries, such as Austria, Turkey and Britain, asylum seekers have access to the same care as the local population, whereas in Germany and Hungary they are only entitled to emergency care.
“People, and some governments, have been reacting emotionally when it comes to newcomers because of the lack of information and data,” Severoni said.
Contrary to what some may believe, “there is a very low risk ... of transmitting communicable disease from the refugee and migrant population to the host population,” he said.
For example, a large share of HIV-positive migrants contract the disease after arriving in Europe.
In addition, new arrivals are more likely to develop chronic illnesses as a result of their new lifestyle — such as less physical activity and too much fast food — and the poverty conditions some encounter.
While they are at lower risk of developing cancer than local populations — with the exception of cervical cancer — cancer tends to be diagnosed at a later stage, which makes the prognosis less certain.
Migrants’ children are meanwhile at greater risk of being overweight and having psychological problems than children in their host country, the report noted.