Brexit Party at 'high risk' of breaking electoral law over funding - but campaigners call for more action

PUBLISHED: 14:22 12 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:03 12 June 2019

Nigel Farage at the launch of the Brexit Party in central London. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA Wire.

Nigel Farage at the launch of the Brexit Party in central London. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA Wire.

The Brexit Party is open 'to a high risk of receiving and accepting impermissible donations' with the existing system that it uses to take donations, the elections watchdog has warned.

Boris Johnson launches his campaign to become leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party and Prime Minister at the Sky Loft, Millbank Tower. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.Boris Johnson launches his campaign to become leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party and Prime Minister at the Sky Loft, Millbank Tower. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

The Electoral Commission, which visited the business' headquarters days before votes were cast in the European elections, said it was making the recommendations to ensure it met "legal responsibilities".

The regulator warned it would take enforcement action if it does not comply.

There is no suggestion the Brexit Party has broken the law so far, but campaigners have called for more action to be taken.

The visit followed an escalating row over how the Brexit Party takes money from PayPal, with a loophole meaning that donations under £500 do not need to be declared.

Opponents fear that the money could come from anywhere around the world due to the lack of appropriate checks.

It led to former prime minister Gordon Brown warning that the party's leader Nigel Farage risked becoming "the man of Paypal" instead of his self-styled image as "man of the people".

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Farage had boasted hours after the Electoral Commission's visit that it had not found a "single misdeed", but today's statement served as a warning for his party.

Campaigners have called for more action to be taken, arguing that it should be the start of the investigations, not the end.

Labour MP David Lammy said: "Big questions must now be asked over whether the Brexit Party accepted or is accepting illegal donations. Once again, our democracy is under threat. The Electoral Commission should now deepen its investigation and we must give regulators the teeth to punish any law-breaking."

Jo Maugham QC tweeted: "Not good enough. Electoral Commission needs to do more than point out that @brexitparty_uk has a "high and on-going risk of receiving and accepting impermissible donations". It must investigate whether it *has* received them - and take enforcement action."

Journalist Carole Cadwalladr wrote: "Electoral Commission finds Brexit Party has "high & ongoing risk of receiving & accepting impermissible donations". This needs to be the start of the investigation not the end. @nigel_farage has said he's received more than £1 million. From where?"

An Electoral Commission statement said: "We have concluded that the fundraising structure adopted by the party leaves it open to a high and ongoing risk of receiving and accepting impermissible donations.

"We have made recommendations that will, if implemented by the party, achieve and maintain robust procedures for receiving funds and help it comply with its legal requirements."

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