Campaign group, Leave.EU have been fined £70,000 for illegal spending during the EU referendum campaign. The group failed to report £77,380 worth of campaign spending, taking them 10% over the legal spending limit.
Chief Executive of Leave.EU, Liz Bilney, has been referred to the police following an investigation into the spending scandal. The group was co-founded by Arron Banks in the months preceding the referendum, although Banks is not yet under investigation. Banks criticised the treatment Leave.EU has received, calling it a ‘politically motivated attack’.
Leave.EU was founded before the referendum as the main rival to the Vote Leave campaign, despite both groups having overwhelming similarities. Leave.EU, however, claimed that they were more representative of the wider British population, accusing Vote Leave of operating within a Westminster bubble. Leave.EU focussed on immigration as their main policy, while Vote Leave incorporated the infamous “£350 million to our NHS” slogan.
Leave.EU are also under investigation for a series of loans they received from US firm Goddard Gunster. Although no link between this and the work of Cambridge Analytica was found, Leave.EU will still face legal action for accepting foreign loans that exceeded the permitted budget. Leave. EU were also found guilty of misreporting 97 receipts, totalling £80,224.
Leave.EU were found guilty under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, 2000. Last year, the Liberal Democrats were fined £18,000 and Vote Remain £1,250 for unreported spending throughout the campaign. Vote Leave are still under investigation for unreported spending.
The referendum took place in June 2016, resulting in 48% voting to remain in the EU and 52% to leave. Since then, scandal has clouded conduct throughout the referendum campaign and its aftermath. News of Leave.EU’s illegal activity has caused many to question the legitimacy of the entire campaign. However, at present it seems regardless of the results of Leave.EU’s investigation, the UK will continue to process its departure from the European Union.