Why I'll be making Leave EU's move to Ireland as difficult as possible
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Leave.EU's decision to register themselves in Co. Waterford, Ireland is very unwelcome, concerning and more importantly, requires rigorous scrutiny.
While some commentators may have allowed themselves a wry smile at the irony that an organisation set up to take the UK out of the EU have themselves decided to remain within the bloc, the irony and mild humour should not get in the way of the fact that this requires rigorous scrutiny.
The concerns from an Irish point of view are manifold and I have referred several of them onto the relevant authorities. Firstly, how can an organisation located in Bristol with activities concentrated in the UK can retain a .eu domain name when 80,000 other domain names registered to British users have been suspended? The attractiveness of retaining this domain and indeed title are obvious to an established online platform like Leave.EU in terms of maintaining it’s high search engine ranking, presence on social media, political brand and much else. But the UK has left the EU, why should they be able to brass plate their way to retaining that lucrative domain?
As a campaigning organisation, Leave.EU retains a considerable database of personal and corporate data, if they are now operating out of a new office in Waterford, then the retention and use of all this data must be in line with the EU’s GDPR rules. The EU-UK Trade Agreement facilitates a 'bridging period' of six months for adequacy, but Leave.EU will need to identify a Lead Supervisory Authority for the purposes of Data Protection and, if it has moved from the UK to Waterford, has it correspondingly moved from the jurisdiction of the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office to that of the Data Protection Commissioner and, by default, the extended jurisdiction of the European Data Protection Board?
It must be remembered that Leave.EU are first and foremost a political campaign group, are they registered with the Standards in Public Office Commission? Will and have they declared any political donations, revenues and expenditure to the appropriate authorities now that they are domiciling themselves in Ireland in order to retain their .eu domain name?
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Given the decision to establish an office in Waterford while still being operational and run out of the UK, are Leave.EU’s books in orders? It is important the Irish Revenue Commissioners assess their activity and ensure all is in order.
One might ask, why pursue these matters, what about free speech and who cares about Brexit anymore, isn’t it done? That might be true but while we cherish free speech, we should always question the activities of these organisations who often hide behind the notion of free speech to engage in utterly odious political behaviour. We have sadly seen in Washington DC what the consequences can be and in turn, we must recognise that rigorous scrutiny must always be applied to campaign groups - especially one like Leave.EU.
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Throughout the Brexit process, both before the referendum and during the campaign, Leave.EU has courted controversy and spouted the most incendiary rhetoric from the outset. When not attacking the EU and demanding a no-deal Brexit, key figureheads helped fundraise for the pro-Brexit, Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.
Indeed, Leave.EU has focussed much attention on personal attacks on Irish politicians like Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and Ireland in general as well as our Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. Barnier himself is extremely popular Ireland and European Movement Ireland will award him the annual European of the year award this month in recognition of his commitment to Ireland and the entire EU during the Brexit negotiations.
From a personal point of view, I have no interest in seeing a group like Leave.EU relocate their particular brand of extremist politics to Ireland either to use Ireland as a handy vehicle to maintain the high profile of their brand name within UK politics or to try and clumsily spread the contagion of their work into Ireland, a strongly pro-EU country with ‘remain’ generally scoring 85% - 90% in opinion polls of Irish voters.
To be frank, Leave.EU are not welcome in Ireland, but if they are to base themselves here, they better have their paperwork in order. I and others intend to make their attempts to operate from Ireland as difficult as possible.
Neale Richmond is a Fine Gael TD (Member of Parliament) for the Dublin Rathdown Constituency. He formerly Chaired the Irish Senate’s Brexit Committee.
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