Watchdog says its review of Brexit Party funding is ‘ongoing’

A review of Brexit Party funding systems is “ongoing”, the electoral watchdog has said.

The Electoral Commission visited Nigel Farage’s party headquarters on Tuesday to look at its funding model, following concerns about where donations were coming from.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown had demanded an investigation by the watchdog, claiming “dirty money” could be funnelled to the party from foreign organisations attempting to influence UK politics.

An Electoral Commission spokesman said it did not see evidence of electoral offences on the visit – but today said the review has not been closed and will continue after the European election on Thursday.

He said: “Our review of the systems in operation by the Brexit Party is ongoing. This will inform our regulatory work following the European Parliamentary elections and any recommendations we make to the party.

“We will also make any recommendations on the wider issue of the workings of the political finance rules in our statutory report on the administration of the poll.”

The spokesman said raising small donations and using online platforms was “legitimate” and “increasingly common in politics”.

However, he added: “Both open up additional risk in relation to compliance with UK political finance law.

“This risk is that it increases the potential for individuals or organisations to evade the permissibility rules, which primarily seek to prevent significant sums entering UK politics from overseas.

“It is the responsibility of any organisation adopting such an approach, and campaigning to influence people’s votes at an election, to ensure it has the systems in place to maintain its compliance with the law.”

Meanwhile, a complaint alleging Nigel Farage failed to declare donations from Leave campaigner Arron Banks will be investigated by the European Parliament.

The allegation, made by Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder to European Parliament president Antonio Tajani, follows reports by Channel 4 News that Mr Banks spent around £450,000 on Mr Farage in the year following the EU referendum in 2016.

Leave campaigner Arron Banks reportedly spent around £450,000 on Mr Farage on the year following the referendum (PA/Victoria Jones)
Leave campaigner Arron Banks reportedly spent around £450,000 on Mr Farage on the year following the referendum (PA/Victoria Jones)

Under EU rules, MEPs must declare payments made to them, or other support given by third parties.

On Tuesday, Mr Tajani referred the issue to an advisory committee of five MEPs that investigates the conduct of members.

Mr Farage will be invited to comment before the committee, which will not sit until June 4 at the earliest, after this month’s European elections, a parliament source said.

When confronted by Channel 4 News on Tuesday about the alleged donation, Mr Farage told the broadcaster: “I’ve taken no money at all, no cash at all of any kind, zero.

“I might have used the house. I have been to a party in America but I’ve taken no money at all.”

When asked if he should have declared anything, Mr Farage replied: “No. Because it’s nothing to do with politics.”

In an earlier interview with the Press Association, Mr Farage labelled Channel 4 News “political activists”, after its investigation into his finances.

The party had banned Channel 4 from attending events but has today agreed to allow the broadcasters’ journalists access.

And Mr Farage accused the Electoral Commission of being “absolutely full of Remainers” after the watchdog announced a search of his party’s offices.

After the review on Tuesday, a Brexit Party spokesman said: “We believe in continuous improvement and welcome constructive recommendations from the Electoral Commission to enhance our processes and procedures.”