Britain’s electoral watchdog has opened an investigation into spending carried out by the official Leave and Remain camps during the UK’s referendum campaign.
The Electoral Commission said on Friday it was investigating Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave over whether both camps fully reported their spending to the authority in the run up to the vote last June.
Bob Posner, director of political finance at the Electoral Commission, said:
It is disappointing that some campaigners, including both lead campaigners, appear to have not fully reported all their spending as they should have.
Missing spending details undermines transparency and makes the returns harder for the public to understand. Where it appears campaigners have not fulfilled their legal obligations, we have begun and will continue to take action to deal with this.
The watchdog said the investigation would also include the Liberal Democrats and six other non-official groups including the anti-EU group Grassroots Out Limited “which appears to have missing donation and/or loan reports in its return for spending under £250,000″. Grassroots Out was bank rolled by Ukip donor Arron Banks.
Around £32m was spent on the campaign – with the Leave side boasting donations of £16.4m and Remain at £15.1m. The official pro-EU camp was made up of a series of cross-political party figures and lead by former Marks and Spencer chairman Stuart Rose.
Vote Leave was made up of pro-Brexit MPs Michael Gove and Boris Johnson and was headed up by former Tory chancellor Nigel Lawson and businessman John Mills.
“Both the lead campaigners – The In Campaign Limited (‘Britain Stronger in Europe’) and Vote Leave Limited – do not appear to have delivered all the necessary invoices and receipts to support their returns”, said the Electoral Commission.
“There are also issues with the delivery of all the details required in the return, including supplier details for a number of payments.”
Amid the issues under investigation, the Commission added that another non-official campaigner, the European Movement of the UK Limited, “declared a total spend of £329,000 but has supplied payment details of only £290,000″.