Pro-Brexit group accused of staging migrant videos to ‘whip up hatred’

A video put out by Leave.EU ahead of the EU referendum. Photograph: Leave.EU/Channel 4.

A video put out by Leave.EU ahead of the EU referendum. Photograph: Leave.EU/Channel 4. - Credit: Archant

The Brexit campaign group Leave.EU has been accused of staging viral photographs and videos of immigrants committing violent crimes to whip up hatred ahead of the EU referendum.

The Brexiteer group, which was headed up by former UKIP donor Arron Banks, had released a video before the 2016 EU referendum in which it demonstrated how 'easy' it was for migrants to cross into Britain illegally.

It was viewed hundreds of thousands of times before the UK went to polls to vote for Brexit.

But a Channel 4 News investigation found that the satellite data showed the boat involved had never left UK waters, and the footage showed that the 'migrants' entering the country were filmed before they left UK shores.

The investigation also claimed that Leave.EU staged photographs that the group said showed a migrant attacking a young woman in north London.

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It is claimed the photographs were sent to someone working for Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU's head of communications.

A leaked email was forwarded to the group's media team with the message: 'Migrants beating up girl in Tottenham Saturday... Can we get this ready to go as a press release.'

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Those photographs were never released.

Best for Britain supporter David Lammy MP said: 'This is wicked, nasty and totally fake propaganda designed to whip up hatred of migrants' but added people were 'starting to see through the lies'.

Jo Stevens MP, who sits on the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee, said: 'The video of the boat is very obviously fake and put together in a fake way. The photographs are a little bit more difficult to spot that, but clearly fake news with a deliberate intention of stoking hatred and anti-immigrant feeling and rhetoric.'

Responding to the allegations Arron Banks said: 'Leave.EU is the biggest viral political campaign in the UK, with 3.7 million engagements last week on Facebook alone, dwarfing political parties and other groups.

'Channel 4 is packed with ex-Guardian journalists and left-wing activists, who create fake news for a living!

'The campaign must be doing something right to annoy all the right people consistently.'

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