Legal backlash over Vote Leave

Legal backlash over Vote Leave

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Whistleblowers have levied accusations that Vote Leave broke electoral law during the Brexit referendum.

The Electoral Commission have accused Vote Leave of exceeding their spending limit, not accounting for all invoices and receipts, providing inaccurate figures for their campaign expenditure and not following protocol for a statutory notice. The allegations come from whistleblowers Shahmir Sanni and Christopher Wylie.

It is also claimed that Vote Leave received a donation of £600,000 from BeLeave in the penultimate weeks of the referendum. BeLeave was founded by Darren Grimes, a member of the Liberal Democrats, who apparently worked out of Vote Leave headquarters during the referendum. As a result, Vote Leave and BeLeave are being investigated for collusion, as they used the same datasets to target Facebook users through adverts. The electoral rules state that campaigns can work together, but should not have a “common plan,” which was apparent between the two.

However, Vote Leave have vehemently denied the allegations. The former Vote Leave chief, Matthew Elliott, argued that the allegations “do not stand up to scrutiny” as the electoral commission have “[failed] to seek or engage with the evidence.” Vote Leave have claimed that whistleblowers have fabricated information to gain a second referendum. The 500 page dossier provided by Vote Leave stipulated that the claim made about Facebook users being targeted by BeLeave was a “conspiracy theory… without evidence.” The dossier demands the Remain campaign to also be scrutinised.

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, often seen as the embodiments of the Vote Leave campaign, also disagreed with the accusations. Gove stated that the commission will face a legal challenge and distanced himself from the campaign, arguing that he was “not involved in the day to day running of the campaign.” Johnson believed the claims were “utterly ludicrous.” He tweeted that they won “fair and square- and legally.”

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