The Leave campaign broke the rules – there’s the justification for a Final Say, prime minister

The Leave campaign broke the rules – there’s the justification for a Final Say, prime minister

As the parliamentary debate on the withdrawal agreement progresses, the call for a people’s vote becomes increasingly irresistible. A case in the High Court (Wilson and others v the prime minister) offers another argument in its favour: the government has a constitutional duty to at least re-consider whether it should proceed with Brexit.

All public bodies are subject to a legal duty, whenever they make a decision, to take all relevant considerations into account. This duty applies at every level, from district councils through to the prime minister. Where a public body fails to take a relevant consideration into account, its decision can be set aside.

The conduct of the Leave campaigns during the 2016 referendum is just such a relevant consideration. The Electoral Commission has found that Vote Leave incorrectly reported its spending and, in fact, exceed its spending limit by nearly 10 per cent. Spending limits are put in place to ensure that no side can “buy” an election. When Vote Leave exceeded its spending limit it gave itself, and by extension the entire Leave campaign, a significant unfair advantage. The Electoral Commission also found that Darren Grimes, founder of BeLeave misreported donations from Vote Leave and the campaign group “Veterans for Britain” also broke electoral rules. Grimes has denied any wrongdoing and is appealing the fine.

Organisations associated with the Leave side have also been fined by the information commissioner. The commissioner found that Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance, a company owned by Arron Banks, misused data belonging to Eldon’s customers and illegally sent 300,000 emails.
Full article in The Independent
Brexit: High Court rejects challenge to annul referendum result in major blow to Remain campaigners

Brexit: High Court rejects challenge to annul referendum result in major blow to Remain campaigners

A High Court challenge seeking to annul the result of the Brexit referendum because of “corrupt and illegal practices” by the Vote Leave campaign has been dismissed.

Mr Justice Ouseley said he was refusing permission for a full hearing of the claim because of the long delay in bringing it forward and because of “the want of merit”.

The decision came as a bitter blow to campaigners, British expats living in Europe, who had crowdfunded the case, which was heard last Friday.

Called UK in EU Challenge, the case argued that breaches of campaign spending limits – punished by the independent Electoral Commission – meant the 2016 referendum was not a “free and fair vote”.

The campaigners had also based the case on what they saw as Ms May’s refusal to act on the growing evidence of illegality in the months since the Commission’s findings.

Vote Leave carried on spending, despite busting its limit two days before the June 2016 vote – and was later found by the Electoral Commission to have broken the law.

Read full article in The Independent

Brexit: Leave ‘very likely’ won EU referendum due to illegal overspending, says Oxford professor’s evidence to High Court

Brexit: Leave ‘very likely’ won EU referendum due to illegal overspending, says Oxford professor’s evidence to High Court

It is “very likely” that the UK voted for Brexit because of illegal overspending by the Vote Leave campaign, according to an Oxford professor’s evidence to the High Court.

An exhaustive analysis of the campaign’s digital strategy concludes it reached “tens of millions of people” in its last crucial days, after its spending limit had been breached – enough to change the outcome.

The evidence will be put to the High Court on Friday, in a landmark case that is poised to rule within weeks whether the referendum result should be declared void because the law was broken.

Professor Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, at the university, said: “My professional opinion is that it is very likely that the excessive spending by Vote Leave altered the result of the referendum.

“A swing of just 634,751 people would have been enough to secure victory for Remain.

“Given the scale of the online advertising achieved with the excess spending, combined with conservative estimates on voter modelling, I estimate that Vote Leave converted the voting intentions of over 800,000 voters in the final days of the campaign as a result of the overspend.”

The conclusion came as Theresa May scrambled to find a concession she could give to rebel Tories to persuade them to back her deal, as she appeared to be veering towards a heavy defeat in next Tuesday’s landmark vote.

Full article in The Independent

Brexit: Campaigners seek judicial review of 2016 vote

Brexit: Campaigners seek judicial review of 2016 vote

The UK in EU Challenge group says the result should be quashed because of “misconduct” by pro-Leave campaigners.

Mr Justice Ouseley’s decision is expected on either Monday or Tuesday.

An earlier attempt to challenge the result was rejected on the grounds that it had not been proven that any wrongdoing affected the vote’s outcome.

The case is being brought against the government by four British citizens living on the European continent, Susan Wilson, Elinore Gayson, Carole-Anne Richards and John Shaw.

They say the Article 50 process, by which the UK is leaving the EU, should be halted due to breaches of spending limits and other irregularities by leave-supporting groups during the referendum.

Lawyers for the group say the infractions, which resulted in Vote Leave and Leave.EU being fined £61,000 and £70,000 respectively by the Electoral Commission earlier this year, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the result under the terms of the 1983 Representation of The People Act.

‘Proven illegalities’

Speaking after the hearing, Susan Wilson said she was hopeful of success.

“We also maintain our firm belief that the referendum result cannot be considered the ‘will of the people’,” she said.

“The Leave campaign’s fraudulent behaviour has been proven by the Electoral Commission and we are continually frustrated that the government fails to acknowledge the impact of this illegality and continues to defend its position.”

Read full story on the BBC website

Jon Danzig’s World – EU referendum broke code of good practice

Jon Danzig’s World – EU referendum broke code of good practice

In all democracies, it’s essential that elections – including referendums – are run fairly, and that the regulatory authority has the power to annul an election or referendum if serious irregularities may have affected the result.

That’s not just my opinion. Such a requirement forms part of the Venice Commission’s ‘Code of Good Practice on Referendums’.  Although the code is voluntary and not legally binding, the UK is one of the 61 member states of the Commission and helped to form the Code, which was adopted in 2006. The Commission advised me:
“The Code was and is strongly supported by the Committee of Ministers recommending to the member States to respect its provisions.”
The UK’s Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, currently sits on the Commission’s Committee of Ministers.
Clause II 3. 3 e) of the Venice Code states:
‘The appeal body must have authority to annul the referendum where irregularities may have affected the outcome. It must be possible to annul the entire referendum or merely the results for one polling station or constituency. In the event of annulment of the global result, a new referendum must be called.’
In the UK, our Electoral Commission is the independent regulatory body for elections and referendums, set up by Parliament to “regulate political finance in the UK” and to “promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity.” 
I asked the Commission if they have the power to annul a referendum, in accordance with the recommendations of the Venice Code.
They replied:
“In short, no we do not have the power to annul an election or referendum.”
If the Electoral Commission had the power to annul a referendum in accordance with the Venice Code, then it’s unlikely that members of the public would now be calling on the High Court to declare the EU referendum “void” as a result of serious irregularities. 
The case of Susan Wilson & Others versus The Prime Minister, is scheduled to move to a full hearing on 7 December.
The case will argue that Brexit must be declared void and the notification of Article 50 quashed because, “various criminal offences may have been committed”. 
Read the full Jon Danzig’s article in his blog…