Last week in Manchester, the Prime Minister warned there would be “grave consequences for trust in democracy” if Brexit were not delivered. We are already past this point. To restore trust in institutions and our democracy, we need to fully understand what happened during the EU Referendum campaign. This is why Fair Vote UK is continuing to fight for a Public Inquiry into wrongdoing in the EU Referendum.
Here’s a quick reminder of what a Public Inquiry could get to the bottom of:
1. Russian interference in the EU Referendum
This is a real and pressing concern which is simply not being investigated.
2. The involvement of foreign-based companies in the EU Referendum campaign
There is much evidence that shady, foreign companies supplied services to the designated Leave campaign and other campaigners during the EU Referendum campaign.
3. Issues of truthfulness during the EU Referendum campaign
In June 2016 and June 2018 the Electoral Commission recognised that the truthfulness of certain arguments used in 2016 was a concern. 1000 days have passed since the Referendum and still there has been no investigation into what lies and misinformation were spread, by whom, with what financial backing and to what effect.
4. The lack of effective sanctions and accountability for overspending in the EU Referendum campaign
In June 2018, The Electoral Commission referred to the current £20k sanction as being “a cost of doing business” for some campaigners. It is clearly not fit for purpose and needs an urgent review.
5. The scale of campaign donations in the EU Referendum
Donations of the scale of Arron Banks’s alleged £8.4 million to the Leave campaign or the £435,000 made to the DUP by the Constitutional Research Council are contrary to British values and our democracy.
6. The source of funds used by certain campaigners in the EU Referendum
Two recent DCMS reports noted that it was still unclear where some of the money for donations to the Leave Campaign have come from.
7. The anomalous rules relating to Northern Ireland have created gaps that may have been exploited during the EU Referendum campaign
Open Democracy has revealed that the DUP took out a full page advert in the Metro – which does not circulate in Northern Ireland – advocating leave and that the advert was paid for by Richard Cook of the Scottish-based Constitutional Research Council. This suggests coordination between the two entities.
8. Psychographic targeting in political campaigns and the lack of oversight of these new methods of political campaigning
Sophisticated new methods were used to target voters in the EU Referendum campaign, many of which have since been shown to be unethical and contrary to data protection legislation. The Information Commissioner has looked into the extent that profiling and targeting was in breach of data protection rights and taken action. However, there is still much we don’t know.
The Permission Hearing for the Public Inquiry will be later this month, on the 24th October. At the hearing, our lawyers will explain why the written refusal of permission back in January was wrong, and will make the case for permission to be granted so we can argue our case at a full hearing.
This has taken on a new urgency. With a probable upcoming election and possible new referendum, it’s important that all the lessons from the 2016 are learned. This way we can ensure that future elections are fought fairly.