The pro-Brexit lobby group was founded to support Nigel Farage’s Leave campaign.
Leave.EU, the political campaign group set up to support the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, has been put into liquidation, government policy papers House of Companies page reveal.
The data shows the organization owes £7.1m in debt, including £7m to co-founder Arron Banks. The controversial co-founder reportedly cancels the loan.
The lobby group was founded in July 2015 as The Know, to bolster withdrawal efforts to leave the European Union. It changed its name to Leave.EU in September of the same year.
The campaign was co-founded by British businessman and UKIP donor Arron Banks, alongside property entrepreneur Richard Tice, who has led Reform UK since March 2021. The lobby group received early backing from the millionaire Jim Mellon, who donated a sum thought to be in the region of £100,000.
Investigations and scandals
The campaign for Britain to leave the European Union has been mired in scandal and has been repeatedly investigated and fined for issues ranging from defamation to election spending.
In May 2018, the group was fined £70,000 after the Electoral Commission found it had failed to declare at least £77,380 in expenses.
Following an investigation by the Information Commissioner into the misuse of personal data by political campaigns, in February 2019 Leave.EU and an insurance company owned by Arron Banks were sentenced to a fined £120,000 for breaching data law. Leave.EU claimed the fine was a “politically motivated attack on our involvement in Brexit”.
Several months later, in May, a Channel 4 News investigation revealed that Nigel Farage had received £450,000 from Leave.EU co-founder Arron Banks. The investigation revealed that the British businessman and political donor had, through one of his companies, rented a lavish £4.4million home in Chelsea for Farage.
Banks also provided a £30,000 car and paid £20,000 for a driver for Farage. Documents seen by Channel 4 News also revealed that Banks, through his companies, spent hundreds of thousands of pounds promoting the ‘Farage brand’ in America, which included funding Farage on several visits. in the United States in the year following the Brexit vote.
The lobby group has also been criticized for “serious breaches” of electronic marketing, involving the sending of nearly 30,000 emails containing a Leave.EU newsletter to subscribers of insurance brand GoSkippy. This resulted in Leave.EU being fined £70,000. He also lost an appeal he made against the fines in 2021.
Banks resigned from the group as director in January 2021.
Plagued by scandals and fines, it emerged the pressure group went into liquidation in April, owing £7.1million, including a £7million debt to Arron Banks. According to reports, the banks loaned the group £6 million at interest-free until it was, at the end of 2020, transferred to Rock Holding Ltd. At that time, an interest rate of 4% above the Bank of England base rate was applied.
Leave.EU also owes £52,050 in fines to the Information Commissioners Office.
It has been said that the apparent cancellation of the £7million debt can be seen by the banks as a reasonable price for the disruption created by Brexit.
Chris Bryant, chairman of the House of Commons standards committee, commented: “I wonder when we will realize the real damage that has been done. [by Banks] to this country. The £7million he has in his pocket is frankly the least of it.
Ben Bradshaw, Labor MP for Exeter, said: ‘£7million is a very small fine for the long-term damage Banks has done to Britain.
Bradshaw has previously called on the government to investigate the role ‘black money’ potentially played in the EU referendum. He said: “The whole sad saga illustrates the importance of strong independent regulation of political donations and campaign finance at a time when the Conservative government is determined to emasculate the Electoral Commission.”
The reaction to the news that the pro-Brexit lobby group whose co-founder donated thousands of pounds to fund the ‘Farage brand’ has gone into liquidation has not been too sympathetic.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is editor of Left Foot Forward
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