Campaigners for Britain to leave the EU have raised more money than their rivals in the Remain camp, although it was two of the unofficial Leave groups that attracted the largest donations.
Donations to both the In and Out sides from 1 February to 22 April totalled £15.6m, according to the Electoral Commission, which published the data on Wednesday.
The two largest donations, together worth more than £5m, were to Leave campaign groups backed by Arron Banks, the insurance millionaire and Ukip backer: Leave.EU and Grassroots Out. The official pro-Brexit organisation is Vote Leave.
The largest individual donation was made by Peter Hargreaves, founder of the financial advisory firm Hargreaves Lansdowne, who gave £3.2m to Leave.EU. The second largest came from Better for the Country Ltd, which is owned by Mr Banks, and which donated £1.95m to the umbrella group Grassroots Out.
Seven Leave campaigns raised £8.2m, while five Remain campaigns raised £7.5m.
Eleven pro-Leave campaigns were struck off by the Electoral Commission for not meeting registration requirements.
Lord David Sainsbury, a long-term backer of the Remain campaign, gave a total of £2.73m in a series of donations.
Other large individual donors included David Harding, founder of quantitative asset manager Winton Capital, who gave £750,000 to the Remain campaign; and Patrick Barbour, who gave £500,000 to Vote Leave. Mr Barbour founded two companies and has been a long-term supporter of the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party.
Nathan Kirsh, a billionaire South African property developer, gave £500,000 to the Remain camp via his company Tower Limited Partnership, which runs the Kirsh family office. This is the biggest corporate donation to Remain since February 1.
Mr Kirsh, 84, who owns grocery businesses, real estate and private equity investments around the world, came in at number 21 on this year’s Sunday Times Rich List with a £4.4bn fortune thanks to his controlling stake in Jetro, the US cash and carry operator. He bought the London skyscraper Tower 42 in 2011 for £280m.
Donations from the financial services community reached a total of £4.3m to the Leave campaign and £3m to Remain. However, the overall amount given to the Leave campaign was significantly boosted by Mr Hargreaves’ £3.2m individual donation; without that it received only £1.1m from financial services, roughly a third of the amount given to the Remain side.
After Mr Hargreaves, the second-biggest financial services donor to the Out campaign was Peter Cruddas, founder of online trading company CMC Markets, who gave £350,000.
Donations from the financial services community included large sums from Citigroup and Morgan Stanley in support of remaining in the EU. Foreign banks have spoken out in favour of staying in the bloc because they use the UK as a way to get access to Europe’s single market of goods, people and services.
While hedge fund managers such as Crispin Odey and Paul Marshall have previously come out in support of leaving, the Remain campaign received donations from hedge fund managers such as John Armitage, founder of Egerton Capital; Manny Roman, Man Group chief executive; and Caxton’s Andrew Law. Other leading financiers who gave to the Remain side include Johannes Huth, who runs private equity firm KKR in Europe; Bruno Schroder of the Schroder banking dynasty; and the prominent banker Sir Simon Robertson.
The Remain campaign also received £250,000 from Bloomberg, the financial information company, reflecting concerns by its founder that Britain’s financial services could be hit by a British exit. Michael Bloomberg is said to be concerned that the company’s business could be damaged by a weakening of London as a financial centre; Bloomberg is creating a new European headquarters in the city.
“The EU works in the interest of the elite and the 1 per cent so it is entirely unsurprising to find that the campaign to keep us in the union is financed by big banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan,” said Lord Owen, a committee member of Vote Leave. “With their unlimited cash they are lobbying the British people to act in a way that benefits their profit margins.”
Will Straw, campaign director for Britain Stronger in Europe, the official Remain group, said it was clear the various Leave groups had “deep pockets”, adding: “They have secured twice as much as the Remain campaigns. They have also tried to get around strict Electoral Commission spending rules, but they have been found out.”
Under the EU Referendum Act 2015, registered campaigners must complete four pre-poll reports setting out what donations and loans they have received of more than £7,500 between February 1 and June 22. Campaigners must register with the Electoral Commission if they intend to spend more than £10,000 to support a particular outcome.
Political parties that are also registered as referendum campaigners are not required to submit such reports.
Additional reporting by Conor Sullivan.
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