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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Vote Leave loses legal challenge to illegal spending ruling

The Guardian reports that the official pro-Brexit campaign group has lost a judicial review aimed at trying to get an Electoral Commission ruling that it breached spending limits thrown out.

They say that Vote Leave was challenging the findings of a report issued in July that it had exceeded the prescribed £7m limit by channelling funds via another campaign group, but the high court concluded on Wednesday that its case was groundless. The judge also dismissed an attempt to claim that the commission did not have the power to investigate the alleged overspending:

Vote Leave was fined £61,000 by the watchdog in July and its accounting officer, David Halsall, was referred to the police for further investigation.

At the time, Matthew Elliott, the former chief executive of Vote Leave, claimed the commission had not followed due process in its investigation and that it was driven by “a highly political agenda”.

Bob Posner, the commission’s legal counsel, in turn complained that Vote Leave “resisted our investigation from the start, including contesting our right as the statutory regulator to open the investigation”.

Fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, Vote Leave was accused of submitting incomplete and inaccurate spending returns, and of channelling donations it had received to the smaller BeLeave group which it worked with “under a common plan”, meaning its true spending was £450,000 over the £7m limit.

The credibility of Vote Leave on this issue remains in tatters. Meanwhile those who fronted their campaign and supported it remain in Government, holding high office.
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