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

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.


Italy’s Lombardy region to impose virus curfew

Updated 20 October 2020

Italy’s Lombardy region to impose virus curfew

  • The curfew from 11pm to 5am is expected to begin on Thursday night and last to November 13
  • More than 10,000 new Covid-19 infections were recorded in Italy on Friday for the time ever

ROME: Italy’s northern Lombardy region prepared Tuesday to impose a nighttime curfew, the most restrictive anti-coronavirus measure the country has seen since emerging from a national lockdown in the spring.
The curfew from 11pm (2100GMT) to 5am is expected to begin on Thursday night and last to November 13.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza gave his consent late Monday to the more restrictive measure proposed by the regional government, after an hours-long meeting.
“It’s an appropriate and symbolically important initiative that shouldn’t have particularly serious economic consequences,” Regional President Attilio Fontana said in the newspaper La Repubblica on Tuesday.
More than 10,000 new Covid-19 infections were recorded in Italy on Friday for the time ever, with Lombardy the hardest hit region, as it was in the beginning of the health crisis in February.
The region, which includes Italy’s financial hub of Milan, reported 1,687 new cases on Monday, with Italy’s southern Campania region coming a close second with 1,593.
Since Italy became the first hard-hit European country earlier this year, more than 36,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the country.
On Saturday, Lombardy ordered its bars to shut at midnight and prohibited the consumption of food and drink in public outside areas.
Italy has put in place recent restrictions to try to stem the new wave of infections, but none have so far imposed a curfew.
They include banning amateur contact sports, such as football matches, school trips, and restricting bars and restaurants to table service after 6pm.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said he does not envision another country-wide lockdown, which would further sap Italy’s struggling economy, but has said that he would not rule out limited ones.
Lombardy’s curfew is expected to only allow people to leave their home for reasons of health, work or necessity.
The new decree will also call for large shopping centers to be shut on weekends, according to Italian media reports.