Peter Geoghegan https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/20798/all cached version 16/10/2018 15:02:18 en How the Electoral Commission turned blind eye to DUP's shady Brexit cash https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Emails reveal elections regulator was ‘concerned’ by revelations about mysterious £435,000 donation – but closed the case quickly without investigation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/gregorycampbell_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/gregorycampbell_0.jpeg" alt="Gregory Campbell" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>DUP Treasurer Gregory Campbell MP. Image, BBC, fair use.</span></span></span><br /></span><p><span>Senior Electoral Commission staff privately expressed ‘concerns’ that the Democratic Unionist Party had broken UK election law, openDemocracy can reveal. At issue was a controverisal £435,000 donation to the party’s 2016 Brexit campaign. But just weeks later the watchdog closed the case without investigating the DUP’s Brexit cash.<br /><br /></span><span>The Electoral Commission was watching closely when BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight team broadcast </span><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299"><span>Brexit, Dark Money and the DUP</span></a><span> in late June. In internal emails, staff at the regulator said that the film raised ‘concerns’ about the source of the DUP’s donation, which came from a shadowy group called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC). <br /><br />Staff at the watchdog also said that the programme provided "new information" which suggested the DUP had been 'working together' with other Leave campaigns in contravention of electoral law.<br /><br /></span><span>But barely a month later, the Electoral Commission announced that it did “not have grounds” to launch a full investigation into the DUP’s Brexit spending. The emails, released to openDemocracy under freedom of information laws, suggest that little attempt was made to examine the allegations aired in the BBC film, with senior staff stressing the need to swiftly “draw a line” under the issue. <br /><br /></span><span>Barrister Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project said that the Electoral Commission’s decision not to investigate the DUP was “</span><span>utterly inexplicable from a genuinely independent regulator”.</span><span> Maugham and </span><span>Ben Bradshaw MP have annouced that they will seek juduicial review proceedings against the regulator for its 'whitewashed' investigation into the £435,000 DUP donation and its failure to investigate the CRC. </span><span>openDemocracy first </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts"><span>broke the story</span></a><span> of the DUP’s Brexit cash back in February 2017.</span></p><h2><span>“Sufficient for us to have concerns”</span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>Political donations in Northern Ireland were secret until last year but parties still had to follow the same rules as the rest of the UK. Spotlight alleged that DUP treasurer Gregory Campbell did not perform due diligence before accepting £435,000 from the CRC. In the programme Campbell told a journalist from the investigative website </span><a href="http://source-material.org"><span>SourceMaterial</span></a><span>: “How would I be or anybody in our party be expected to know who the individuals are that are involved in the organisation?”<br /><br /></span><span>The day after the film aired, the Electoral Commission’s head of regulation Louise Edwards wrote to colleagues that Campbell’s comments were “sufficient for us to have concerns” about whether permissibility checks had been carried out on the source of the donation – the biggest in Northern Irish political history. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/ZlrSOp623dKulqA2yCRMaxtuOI3MI9BCNcX0BMX96DWEfeCy_7qpl6ZgA-FCYgyUoqtNg0uVeUePQjmVXP85kP5UZTX5Ovi2PiBhTVSevbk0Lm4zKiaRNjRHrWOFbwGLZwFhi2sM" alt="" width="602" height="456" /></span></p><p><span>A separate, handwritten note said “Gregory Campbell did not know who donor was or why it mattered”. The note is labelled “Ann Watt”. She is the head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland and was interviewed by Spotlight.<br /><br /></span><span>That same day, in an exchange with Electoral Commission chief executive Claire Bassett, Watt said of the Spotlight film that “the most compelling point they made was on potential joint working. There is new information there.” </span></p><h2><span>A common plan?</span><span><span> </span></span><span><span> </span></span><span> </span><span><span> </span></span><span> </span><span><span> </span></span><span> </span><span><span> </span></span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>The Electoral Commission has previously found Brexit campaigners guilty of breaking the law having earlier decided against launching full investigations. Last year, the regulator reopened an investigation into Darren Grimes after openDemocracy <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">revealed</a> how Vote Leave used loopholes to give the fashion student more than £600,000.<br /><br /></span>In July,&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/17/darren-grimes-the-student-pro-brexit-activist-fined-22k-vote-leave">Grimes</a></span><span> and Vote Leave were fined £61,000 between them after the Electoral Commission found that the two campaigns had been working together, which is prohibited under UK elections law unless it's declared. The commission said they had a clear “common plan” for spending £675,000 with an obscure Canadian data analytics firm called Aggregate IQ.<br /><br /></span><span>The DUP spent money with many of the same companies as Vote Leave, including tens of thousands with </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-"><span>Aggregate IQ</span></a><span> and almost £100,000 on merchandise from the same </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit"><span>small company in Cambridgeshire</span></a><span> that supplied the Vote Leave campaign.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><br /></span><span>The Spotlight film found further evidence of potential joint working. The DUP’s contact with Aggregate IQ was Lee Reynolds, director of Vote Leave in Northern Ireland. (Reynolds, who is also a DUP councillor, said he did not direct DUP activities with Aggregate IQ.) An </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/24/eu-referendum-spending-official-campaigns-investigation-opens-electoral-commission"><span>advert in the Metro</span></a><span> newspaper taken out in the DUP’s name – at a cost of £282,000 – was actually </span><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299"><span>booked by</span></a><span> the Constitutional Research Council’s chair, Richard Cook.<br /><br /></span><span>The Electoral Commission has extensive powers of investigation. But the emails suggest that the watchdog chose not to use them to examine the allegations made against the DUP and Cook.<br /><br /></span><span>The watchdog's head of regulation did write to Gregory Campbell the day after the Spotlight broadcast, saying that the DUP treasurer was required to ensure that all donations are permissible. “Anyone knowingly or recklessly making a false declaration… commits an offence,” Louise Edwards told the East Londonderry MP.<br /><br /></span><span>Campbell replied on 3 July expressing his “disappointment” that the regulator had written to him after a “biased BBC output”. Campbell said his interview had been used “out of context” and “in an attempt to convey an incorrect impression” that he was not familiar with electoral law. The DUP treasurer made no mention of whether or how he had checked the permissibility of the £435,000 donation.<br /><br /></span><span>A week later, Edwards wrote to Electoral Commission colleagues saying that she intended to reply to Campbell acknowledging his letter and reminding “him that if he does ever have questions about permissibility or donations more widely, he can always ask us”. There appears to have been no further communication between the regulator and the DUP treasurer over the source of the Brexit cash.</span></p><h2><span>“Draw a line” </span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>The emails also show that the regulator placed the onus on the BBC to provide it with information. On 27 June, while discussing a media query from the Irish News</span><span>,</span><span> an Electoral Commission staffer said that the regulator should tell the press that “we have asked the BBC to provide us with copies of any evidence it holds... This would put the pressure (rightly) on the BBC to provide us, the regulator, with the evidence.”<br /><br /></span><span>Senior Electoral Commission staff seemed particularly concerned about the optics of the Spotlight film. The morning after it aired the watchdog’s chief executive Claire Bassett asked her colleague at the Northern Irish Electoral Commission Ann Watt whether the programme was “getting much traction” and complained that the film “did seem to conflate a number of things and in doing so risked adding 2 and 2 together and getting 12!”</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/NOWNLKMrxMw08z_gO87Nk3sYHaLm5-SCk_eLF7E8pIb4c44NbLDE50_Yy0KENIHbC0aicfPQ0GFgfV6QIcjVSoEplZgOTSXEQebB1g5pJqciiNnPs4xi1HcdnkiKhX1eXWvIcCHh" alt="" width="602" height="624" /></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>openDemocracy has also learned that a senior BBC Northern Ireland journalist did provide the Electoral Commission with a lengthy letter outlining their main claims and how the regulator could independently verify the allegations made in the programme. But it appears that the regulator decided not to investigate even before it received the BBC’s letter.<br /><br /></span><span>On 16 July, the day before the BBC’s letter was sent, the Electoral Commission’s head of regulation Louise Edwards wrote to Ann Watt saying that suggesting the Electoral Commission put out a “short statement… to draw a line” under the issue. Edwards suggested that the statement about the DUP could be combined with an announcement that it would not be investigating claims about the Remain campaign that former cabinet minister and prominent Brexiter Priti Patel lodged last December.<br /><br /></span><span>“It plays quite nicely with a similar statement we want to make on the complaint Priti Patel made about various remain campaigners, so there’s merit I think in doing the two together,” Edwards wrote.<br /><br /></span><span>On 26 July, less than ten days after receiving an extensive letter from the BBC outlining the allegations raised by the Spotlight film, an unnamed Electoral Commission staffer wrote: “I have now reviewed this and agree we should not investigate.” In response, Edwards expressed satisfaction that the issue was “dealt with in a timely way”.<br /><br /></span><span>On 2 August, the Electoral Commission announced publicly that it “did not have grounds” to open an investigation into the DUP. On the same day, the regulator also said it would not be examining Priti Patel’s complaints further.<br /><br /></span><span>Following the announcement, Gregory Campbell attacked the BBC and Spotlight presenter Jim Fitzpatrick. “Why was the programme fronted by a self‐confessed 'EU Remain' campaigner? The programme included an interview with me which was not authorised by me or provided by me for the programme, was there payment made for the interview?” the DUP treasurer said in a press statement. </span></p><h2><span>Utterly inexplicable </span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>Jolyon Maugham, barrister and director of the Good Law Project, has said that if the Electoral Commission does not open full investigations into the DUP and the Constitutional Research Council </span><span>(CRC) </span><span>he will bring a judicial review against the regulator. Last month, the</span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/14/electoral-commission-misinterpreted-law-vote-leave-high-court"><span> High Court ruled</span></a><span> that the Electoral Commission had misunderstood the law surrounding donations to Vote Leave, following a case taken by the Good Law Project.<br /><br /></span><span>"This was the biggest known political donation in Northern Irish history. The DUP's own treasurer was caught on tape saying he didn't know who the donor was and didn't think it was his job to check. This is the clea</span><span>r</span><span>est contravention imaginable of electoral law. Yet the Electoral Commission didn't even bother to investigate. This is utterly inexplicable from a genuinely independent regulator," Maugham told openDemocracy.<br /><br /></span><span>SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said: “It will come to many as a shock that given the evidence so far that the regulator has made this inexplicable decision on the DUP donation, and if it has now come to the point that a leading Queens Consul should seek a judicial review on this decision, then our notion of access to free and fair elections are to my mind ill served by the present regulations.”<br /><br /></span><span>An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “In line with our Enforcement Policy, the Commission carried out an assessment into claims made by BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight that the DUP and Vote Leave failed to declare joint working at the EU referendum.<br /><br /></span><span>“We concluded that we did not have grounds to open an investigation into the allegations that were made due to insufficient evidence. The decision was made after a thorough review of the programme, information that was provided to us and other sources.<br /><br /></span><span>“The Commission continues to be prohibited by legislation from disclosing any information concerning donations to Northern Ireland recipients made prior to 1 July 2017 (section 71 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000). We continue to urge the UK Government to bring forward legislation that will enable us to publish information on donations from January 2014.”<br /><br /></span><span>The CRC remains one of the most opaque groups in British politics. The only person officially connected with the CRC is </span><span>Richard </span><span>Cook, a former Scottish Tory vice chair. The only other group to receive money from the CRC is the staunchly pro-Brexit European Research Group. In December 2016, the </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/01/brexit-minister-linked-to-group-that-used-loophole-to-channel-435000-to-dup"><span>CRC gave former Brexit minister Steve Baker £6,500</span></a><span> to “fund hospitality for ERG members and their staff” at a pre-Christmas event.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/electoral-commission-contradict-dup-on-brexit-donor-transparency">Electoral Commission contradicts DUP on Brexit donor transparency</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/electoral-commission-demand-right-to-publish-northern-irish-brexit-campaign">Electoral Commission demand end to ban on publishing Northern Irish Brexit campaign donor details</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Fri, 05 Oct 2018 06:58:49 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 119893 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Parliament watchdog probes Rees-Mogg’s hard Brexit lobby group over “other sources of funding” https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/parliament-watchdog-probes-rees-mogg-s-hard <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>EXCLUSIVE: Emails released by UK parliamentary standards watchdog reveal a ‘second’ bank account held by the powerful ERG group of Tory MPs, as they pressure May to abandon Chequers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Official_portrait_of_Mr_Jacob_Rees-Mogg_crop_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Official_portrait_of_Mr_Jacob_Rees-Mogg_crop_1.jpg" alt="Jacob Rees-Mogg, official portrait" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jacob Rees-Mogg. Image: UK Parliament,&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/">Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)</a> </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The UK parliamentary standards watchdog is probing the financial affairs of a group of Tory ultra-Brexiteers, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Brexit Minister Steve Baker, openDemocracy can reveal today.</p><p dir="ltr">The European Research Group (ERG) has dominated news headlines this week, with reports of plots to oust prime minister Theresa May if she does not abandon her Chequers plan, and putting forward <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/12/eurosceptic-group-paper-on-irish-border-offers-no-breakthrough-ideas-erg">heavily criticised proposals for the Irish border</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">In June, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) wrote to the ERG seeking clarification about how it uses taxpayer money – and other unknown “sources of funding”. &nbsp;IPSA was reacting to concerns about public money being misused to support the ERG’s high-profile political campaign for a hard-line, uncompromised Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">The ERG has received ‘research funds’ (<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">paid out of MPs’ expense claims</a>, and therefore ultimately funded by the taxpayer) from the offices of key current and former cabinet ministers such as Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling, David Gauke and David Davis. The group uses one bank account to lodge the funds received from IPSA for parliamentary ‘research’ services.</p><p dir="ltr">However in June this year the ERG confirmed to IPSA that it holds a second bank account for paying for drinks, MPs’ breakfasts and other expenses. The existence of the second account was not referred to in IPSA’s initial review of the group’s research output, which was conducted last year. At the time, IPSA concluded that “the ERG was found to have noticeably less formal governance structure and internal controls… which could present a risk to compliance.”</p><p dir="ltr">IPSA has subsequently requested assurances from the hard-Brexit group about the way different income streams are managed through the two bank accounts. IPSA told the ERG it required “further conversation with you about how this separation [of accounts and funds] is maintained.” Groups are not allowed to use parliamentary funding for “party-political purposes.”</p><p dir="ltr">The ERG responded by saying that the second bank account “pays for occasional functions, MPs’ breakfasts, drinks, etc. That’s it really.” </p><p dir="ltr">IPSA met the ERG in early July to discuss the matter. openDemocracy have requested further information from IPSA about this meeting and the ERG’s second bank account. </p><p dir="ltr">The ERG is highly secretive about its membership list, even though its activities are taxpayer-funded. The group is thought to include 80 Tory MPs, and it is currently under no obligation to publish its accounts. </p><p dir="ltr">The result is that the British public is entitled to very little information about the financial and political activities of a key group of Tory MPs which colleagues say operates as a “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">party-within-a-party</a>”, and which stands accused of <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-customs-union-rules-brexit-brexiteers-tory-conservatives-a8332101.html">holding Theresa May hostage</a> over the final deal with Brussels.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Political neutrality a “bad joke”, says Tory MP</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 15.55.10.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 15.55.10.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="436" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Email from IPSA to the ERG, asking them to provide materials on which they will be assessed, obtained by openDemocracy under the Freedom of Information Act.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">According to emails obtained by openDemocracy, one ERG bank account lodges the funds received from MPs who claim taxpayers cash for so-called “pooled research.” Since 2011 this has amounted to at least £300,000 – but, as the ERG refuses to publish its full membership list of MPs, the true figure could be far higher. </p><p dir="ltr">However in emails exchanged between the ERG and IPSA, the parliamentary watchdog states that the ERG has “other sources of funding” which “presumably can be used for campaigning/party political activity”. </p><p dir="ltr">IPSA told the ERG that they had a responsibility to “seek assurances” that funds were being properly used. </p><p dir="ltr">In another email sent to IPSA in June this year, the ERG states that it does not, as a research group, “do political campaigning.” This assurance followed an openDemocracy investigation last year which revealed that taxpayer cash was being used to fund what many Tory and Labour MPs saw <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-demand-full-investigation-of-hard-brexit-backing-tory-party-within-par">as partisan political activity.</a> &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">After openDemocracy’s reporting on this issue last year, IPSA said it “examined” the ERG’s research output and concluded it was largely “factual and informative” and not “party-political”. However, the extent of the review appears to have been limited to a basic request to the ERG to submit a selection of “briefing material”. &nbsp;<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />The review had limited concerns over only one ERG document, which said that Labour’s decision to vote against the Withdrawal Bill in 2017 was “irresponsible, a breach of trust with their voters and a vote to create chaos.” IPSA told the ERG that it should “avoid using similar language in the future.”</p><p dir="ltr">One Tory MP familiar with the output of the ERG questioned whether the group’s output could be seen as not party-political: “IPSA must have been handed a nicely filleted folder of safe stuff if it reached the conclusion that all was fair and balanced. ERG activities of the last week alone show the idea of party political neutrality to be a bad joke,” the MP told openDemocracy.</p><h2 dir="ltr">“Alternative solutions” to Chequers</h2><p dir="ltr">The lobbying company headed by Lynton Crosby, CTF Partners, were reported by The Sunday Times to be working with the ERG to derail Theresa May’s proposed deal with the EU worked out at Chequers in July. The CTF-ERG tie-up is thought to be targeting May with the aim of replacing her with Boris Johnson before all the strands of any Brexit deal are formally secured. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The ERG were also reported to have hired Hans Maessen, the former president of the Dutch customs association, to help them compile alternative solutions to the Chequers plan. </p><p dir="ltr">It is not clear if CTF Partners are charging the ERG their usual retainer fee, regarded as being among the highest in the UK lobbying industry. Maessen has also refused to comment on the veracity of the ERG link, or if he is working with Rees-Mogg on a pro bono basis. </p><p dir="ltr">This week a private meeting of the ERG with more than 50 MPs attending reportedly discussed ways of ousting the prime minister. The gathering, in the Thatcher Room at Portcullis House, considered the timing of a possible confidence vote against the PM if she did not ditch the Chequers plan. </p><p dir="ltr">Under current parliamentary funding rules, MPs must not use IPSA funding for party political purposes. In another email sent to the ERG in September last year, IPSA make it clear that “party political briefings are not eligible for IPSA funding.”</p><p dir="ltr">One Tory MP who has previously been outspoken about the influence of the ERG told openDemocracy that the immediate unity of the Conservative party was now in the hands of “a few historically blind and economically innumerate ideologues.” They added: “Both IPSA and the Electoral Commission should do all they can to make public everything they know on this group of MPs."</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘No comment’ on other sources of Brexit cash</h2><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission (EC) is legally entitled to be informed of donations above £7,500 to the ERG. One donation of £10,000 was lodged with the commission in March last year. The name ‘Paul Dyer’ is listed by the regulator. No further details are given. </p><p dir="ltr">Additionally, in 2016 £6,500 was given to the ERG by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">the obscure Glasgow-based Constitutional Research Council (CRC)</a>, the organisation responsible for channelling the controversial £435,000 pro-Brexit donation to Northern Ireland’s DUP ahead of the 2016 EU referendum. Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, then chair of the ERG, said the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/01/brexit-minister-linked-to-group-that-used-loophole-to-channel-435000-to-dup">CRC cash</a> was used to fund a Christmas 2016 hospitality party for ERG members. </p><p dir="ltr">The CRC’s chair, Richard Cook, has refused to comment on where the money given to the ERG originated, just as he has refused to divulge where the controversial DUP donation came from. He is not required by law to do either.</p><p dir="ltr">As no accounts are published by the ERG, there is no way of verifying if other donations of under £7,500 have been received and lodged in the non-IPSA bank account. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Theresa May’s gamble</h2><p dir="ltr">The ERG’s power as a group of unified Brexiters who want a clean, no-ties break with Brussels will be crucial to the outcome of the UK parliament’s vote on whatever Brexit deal Britain makes with the European Union.</p><p dir="ltr">Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister credited with transforming the ERG from quiet irrelevance into a forceful, secretive unit that Downing Street cannot ignore, told a private meeting in Westminster this week that 80 Tory MPs would vote against the prime minister’s Chequers’ plan. </p><p dir="ltr">Whether Baker is overplaying the influence of MPs under his control is unclear, but it remains a risk Number 10 has not yet been prepared to take. It is understood that the current Brexit minister, Dominic Raab, conducts a daily telephone update call to either Baker or Rees-Mogg on the state of negotiations with Brussels. </p><p dir="ltr">Full details of the information contained in the IPSA emails seen by openDemocracy were put to Rees-Mogg’s ERG office. The group was asked to comment on its accounts, on any financial relationship with Sir Lynton Crosby and Hans Maessen, and on the research material it sent to IPSA. </p><p dir="ltr">At the time of publication no reply had been received. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">Revealed: The Tory MPs using taxpayers’ cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">Six of Theresa May’s cabinet are paid up “members” of secret group demanding a total break from the European Union </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">UK Government minister hides leading role with hard Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/tory-ministers-taxpayer-cash-hard-Brexit-erg">MPs demand ‘urgent investigation’ into Cabinet ministers&#039; support for hard-Brexit lobby group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy James Cusick Thu, 13 Sep 2018 14:44:00 +0000 James Cusick, Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghegan 119641 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Liam Fox spends tens of millions on firms warning of Brexit dangers https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/liam-fox-spends-tens-of-millions-on-firms-warning-of-bre <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The international trade secretary says even a no-deal Brexit would be good for British business. But his department has spent huge sums with companies that warn of Brexit dysfunction, chaos and disruption.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Defense.gov_News_Photo_110524-D-WQ296-244_-_British_Defense_Minister_Liam_Fox_3rd_from_right_meets_with_Secretary_of_Defense_Robert_M._Gates_right_in_the_Pentagon_on_May_24_2011._The_meeting.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="British Defense Minister Liam Fox (3rd from right) meets with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates (right) in the Pentagon."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Defense.gov_News_Photo_110524-D-WQ296-244_-_British_Defense_Minister_Liam_Fox_3rd_from_right_meets_with_Secretary_of_Defense_Robert_M._Gates_right_in_the_Pentagon_on_May_24_2011._The_meeting.jpg" alt="" title="British Defense Minister Liam Fox (3rd from right) meets with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates (right) in the Pentagon." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span><em>Then defence secretary Liam Fox meets US secretary of defence Robert M. Gates in 2011. CC. R. D. Ward. Some rights reserved.</em></span><br /><br />Liam Fox is often seen as the most bullish Brexiter in Theresa May’s cabinet. For the Brexit trade minister ‘no deal’ is nothing to fear. But Fox’s Department for International Trade (DIT) has spent tens of millions on consultants who have warned of “chaos” and economic disruption after Brexit, an openDemocracy investigation has found.</div><p dir="ltr">Firms that have won lucrative contracts from DIT have said that British politics is “so dysfunctional” that the government’s current Brexit strategy is “very unlikely” to survive “in its current form”. A DIT-funded trade body even complained that the Brexit trade ministry is “plagued” by indecision, with lateness “systemic in the organisation”.</p><p dir="ltr">Fox&nbsp;has also given thousands of pounds of public money to a company run by a former Westminster insider, and hired a scandal-hit contractor that had been accused of making excessive profits from aid contracts. <br /><br />Anti-Brexit campaigners have accused Fox of the "height of hypocrisy" for saying that Britain would thrive&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/28/uk-trade-minister-liam-fox-says-he-does-not-want-a-no-deal-brexit.html">outside the EU</a>&nbsp;even without a Brexit deal while spending big with companies that have warned the opposite.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Squeeze and offshoring</h2><p dir="ltr">Over the past two years, DIT spent more than £23m on marketing campaigns with Dentsu Aegis, according to government <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications?departments%5B%5D=department-for-international-trade&amp;publication_type=transparency-data">transparency data</a>. But earlier this year, the ad agency said that Brexit has resulted in less money being spent on advertising in Britain.</p><p dir="ltr">"The Brexit process has done little to boost economic confidence and there are concerns that a squeeze on household spending may result in cuts to marketing spend," Dentsu Aegis’s Global Adspend Forecast <a href="https://www.carat.com/caratcdn/media/9388/jan-2018-executive-summary-final.pdf">report said</a> in January.</p><p dir="ltr">As part of Fox’s ‘Great’ trade campaign his department has also spent almost £17m with M&amp;C Saatchi - the ad firm behind the remain campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">DIT also paid more than £20m to executive management firm <a href="https://green-park.co.uk/service/interim-management/">Green Park</a>. In a <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/preparing-uncertainty-its-time-arm-interims-jo-sweetland/">LinkedIn post</a> last year, a managing partner in human resources at Green Park wrote that there is “no denying Brexit will affect the supply of talented, diverse candidates, will encourage movement of European talent and will enable large-scale off-shoring and the creation of new European hubs for historically British-based traders”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Chequers and chaos</h2><p dir="ltr">Multinational consultancy EY has received more than £30m from Fox’s department. In its most <a href="https://emeia.ey-vx.com/4850/110836/july-2018/update-130718.asp">recent advice</a> to business on Brexit planning, EY warned that Theresa May’s Chequers plan is “very unlikely” to survive “in its current form”.</p><p dir="ltr">Grant Thornton received more than £15m from the Department for International Trade, but the consultancy’s Dutch outfit has reported fears of “<a href="https://www.grantthornton.nl/en/insights-en/articles/transport-and-logistics-sector-expects-chaos-after-brexit/">chaos</a>” in transport and logistics sector after Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">Fox has complained the British businesses are “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37324491">too lazy and fat</a>” to export overseas but a trade body that received DIT funding said that the department has “no budget” for supporting small businesses and is “disincentivising” companies from exporting.</p><p dir="ltr">"There is no budget to support any exhibition in the shipbuilding sector in the 2018-19 financial year,” Tom Chant, director of the Society of Maritime Industries, <a href="https://www.maritimeuk.org/media-centre/news/department-international-trade-must-drastically-its-game-achieve-global-britain-ambitions/">said in June</a>. The society has received over £57,000 from the department, with the last payment in 2017.</p><p dir="ltr">“Apart from the fact that we have no budget, the lateness of all DIT decisions seems to be systemic in the organisation,” said Chant. “How does this match with the UK being a global trading nation?”</p><p dir="ltr">DIT also spent more than £11.5m on ‘subscriptions’ to the World Trade Organization as part of the process of leaving the European Union. Liam Fox has spoken enthusiastically of trading under WTO terms in the event of no-deal Brexit, with the minister even putting the chances of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement at ‘60/40’.</p><p dir="ltr">The department’s published spending data lists hundreds of companies. Not all have a position on Brexit. In April of this year, DIT spent £189,000 on marketing and media with workspace start-up Second Home, which is run by former Number 10 advisor <a href="https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2017/12/12/2196756/the-struggles-of-second-home/">Rohan Silva</a>. Fox's department also hired a scandal-hit aid consultancy as part of a new investment promotion programme in India, Pakistan, South Africa and Nigeria.</p><p dir="ltr">Adam Smith International (ASI) withdrew itself from bidding for contracts from the Department for International Development (DFID) for a year up to February 2018 following <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/mar/02/uk-aid-company-bosses-quit-crackdown-profiteering-adam-smith-international">media reports</a> that a member of staff had improperly obtained DFID country business plans. A subsequent DFID <a href="https://www.devex.com/news/asi-cleared-to-resume-bidding-on-uk-s-dfid-contracts-92167">assurance review</a> found that “ASI did not gain any significant or specifically identifiable commercial advantage from reviewing the business plans”.</p><p dir="ltr">The contractor successfully bid for cash from Liam Fox’s department while it was sitting out DFID funding rounds. In December 2017, the department for international trade gave ASI a contract worth more than £25,000.</p><h2 dir="ltr">“Height of hypocrisy”</h2><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the People’s Vote campaign that argues for a second referendum on Brexit said: “It’s the height of hypocrisy for Liam Fox, who frequently plays down the risks of a disastrous no deal Brexit, to be handing over millions to companies that are warning exactly the opposite.</p><p dir="ltr">“Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the most pointless minister in the Government doesn’t seem to be on top of his own department’s spending.”</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesman for DIT said: “We really don’t care [if a company] is for Brexit or against Brexit or have not expressed an interest at all. It is very much about providing services that deliver value for money for the taxpayer, which are high quality and which have been objectively identified through a fair, open and transparent tender process.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal">Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/martin-donnelly/liam-fox-s-brexit-aims-require-not-so-much-skilled-negotiating-team-as-fairy-godm">Liam Fox’s Brexit aims would require “a fairy godmother” - full speech by Fox&#039;s former top official</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Tue, 04 Sep 2018 15:02:31 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 119537 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker remained in charge of secretive Tory ultra faction https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/ex-brexit-minister-steve-baker-remained-in- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Under the ministerial code, Baker was supposed to cut his ties with the European Research Group when he joined the government in 2017. But newly released emails show that as Brexit minister, he offered them private briefings on critical government policy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 19.02.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 19.02.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Steve Baker MP, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Control and influence over a hard-line Brexiteer group of Conservative MPs remained in the hands of Steve Baker throughout his time as a Brexit minister, according to new documents obtained by openDemocracy. Jacob Rees-Mogg was merely the public face of the secretive group.</p><p dir="ltr">Baker led the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">taxpayer-funded</a> European Research Group (ERG) of pro-Brexit MPs until being appointed a minister in 2017. But while in office he offered to address the ERG privately on government policy. These briefings were not recorded in transparency data from Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU).</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/672633/2018-01-08_MINISTERIAL_CODE_JANUARY_2018__FINAL___3_.pdf">Official rules</a> bar ministers from “being associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with government policy.” Although the ERG has often clashed with the government over Brexit, Baker continued to “act as though he was just the lightly-detached chief executive of the ERG”, according to a senior Conservative source with knowledge of the group’s activities. </p><p dir="ltr">Baker resigned his ministerial post last month at the same time as his boss at DExEU, David Davis, complaining he had been “blind-sided” by Theresa May’s ‘Chequers’ plan. </p><p dir="ltr">Since that resignation, Baker has re-emerged as a leading voice in the powerful ERG lobby, which some <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/16/theresa-may-narrowly-avoids-defeat-after-caving-in-to-rees-mogg">believe</a> controls the short-term future of May’s premiership. The ERG is set to unveil an alternative blueprint for a hard Brexit ahead of September’s Conservative party conference. The paper has been jointly written by Baker and Rees-Mogg.</p><p dir="ltr">In July 2017, just weeks after Baker became a minister, officials acting for him were in direct contact with the ERG. The correspondence included arrangements for Baker to give private briefings to the group about the so-called Great Repeal Bill.</p><p dir="ltr">One redacted email, sent from a DExEU mailbox, states that “Steve (Baker) would like to brief interested ERG members on the Repeal Bill, at a convenient time next week”. </p><p dir="ltr">The ERG does not publish lists of its members—thought to include more than 80 MPs—but another email notes that there is a “larger group” and “a smaller more senior one" within the ERG. Baker is invited to choose which group to address. A subsequent email, with an ERG email signature, remarks, “Steve Baker has kindly offered to brief the group on the contents of the Great Repeal Bill.” </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.09.09.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.09.09.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The Repeal Bill, formally known as the EU Withdrawal Bill, is a critical piece of legislation which has the primary aim of ensuring EU law will no longer be applied in the UK after exit from the European Union. It aims to also end the power of the European Court of Justice.</p><p dir="ltr">Baker publicly left the ERG when he was promoted into May’s administration following the 2017 general election. But Baker’s severing of formal ties with the ERG appears to have been merely an administrative gesture. </p><p dir="ltr">One Whitehall official with DExEU connections told openDemocracy: “Those close to Mr Baker regarded him as never really leaving the ERG. He clearly saw the group as a necessary powerbase and these emails show how keen he was [to] remain a general rather than the observer he should have been.”</p><p dir="ltr">Previously openDemocracy and others have revealed that Baker held other meetings with the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">ERG</a> and lobbyists that were not recorded in transparency logs.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Baker “untouchable”</h2><p dir="ltr">Baker’s use of DExEU civil servants to contact a secretive group that some regard as a ‘party within a party’ could merit investigation by the Cabinet Office. But pro-EU Tory backbenchers believe such complaints are currently pointless. One told openDemocracy: “Baker in many respects is untouchable. His lead role in the ERG, and the damage he could inflict, gives him political armour.”</p><p dir="ltr">Despite taking taxpayers’ money to fund their operations, the ERG has repeatedly refused to make public the names of its members. In the correspondence released to openDemocracy, DExEU has redacted all the email addresses of those expected to attend Baker’s briefing, citing data protection rules. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.14.26.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.14.26.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="216" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Since his resignation last month, Baker has quickly slotted back into a leadership role among ERG MPs. He has publicly <a href="https://twitter.com/SteveBakerHW/status/1034054316938747904?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet">dismissed fears</a> over a ‘no deal’ Brexit. </p><p dir="ltr">The ERG’s <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/conservatives-brexit-theresa-may-chequers-deal-tory-party-erg-a8491256.html">hard-Brexit policy paper</a> by Baker and Rees-Mogg is expected to attack May’s Chequers plan and question the merits of any ties with the EU. Rumours of its content have suggested it will describe May’s plan as continuing to honour rules handed down by Brussels.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Marshalling his troops</h2><p dir="ltr">In a speech to the Commons in July, Baker threatened to scupper any “high-alignment” deal with the EU when it came to the Commons. He offered a barely-coded warning that there were 40-plus hard-Brexiteers—seen as a reference to the ERG—who would vote with the SNP and Labour to kill off the Chequers plan.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">previously revealed</a> that Baker was a regular attender at ERG meetings in the House of Commons during his time as a minister. Despite criticism from Labour MP Ben Bradshaw that his failure to publicly list such appearances contravened ministerial rules, Baker claimed his attendance at ERG gatherings was only on a personal, rather than a ministerial, basis.</p><p dir="ltr">A Cabinet Office examination accepted Baker’s reassurance that his attendance at ERG meetings which discussed Brexit policy could be put down to a “personal” interest as a constituency MP rather than ministerial interest. </p><p dir="ltr">Baker took over as chair of the ERG in 2016 and is credited with a relaunch that turned it from a largely ignored backwater of euro-scepticism into an effective 80-strong gathering of MPs aiming to end the “<a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/tory-euroskeptic-brexit-rebellion-cameron-eu/">EU’s despotism</a>”. He is on record stating that the entire EU needs to be “wholly torn down” and that it was a barrier to international “free trade and peace”.</p><p dir="ltr">When Baker was promoted into the government after the June 2017 general election, the chair of the ERG passed to Suella Braverman. Her promotion into DExEU alongside Baker later that year saw the chair pass to Rees-Mogg.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/braverman.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/braverman.jpg" alt="" title="" width="300" height="168" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suella Braverman. Image, Channel 4 News, fair use.</span></span></span></p><h2 dir="ltr">Lack of transparency</h2><p dir="ltr">Baker has been criticised previously for failing to respect ministerial rules in office. Earlier this year, <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.jnY9EV5z9#.xdBk6EXDk">Buzzfeed</a> reported that Baker had a series of undisclosed meetings with Shanker Singham, formerly of the Legatum Institute and now at the Institute of Economic Affairs.</p><p dir="ltr">More recently, Baker was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/brexit-influencing-game-iea-us-rancher-tucker-link">in the spotlight</a> after it emerged that Singham had introduced the Brexit minister to controversial US agribusinesses to discuss opportunities that might arise from a deregulated post-Brexit UK.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA denied that the meetings with Baker, along with others arranged with the then foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the then Brexit secretary, David Davis, and the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, were part of an elaborate ‘cash for access’ programme.</p><p dir="ltr">An aide working for Baker told Greenpeace—which had been investigating the IEA’s US donor connections—that any suggestion the then Brexit minister attended meetings because “access” to him had been sold “is entirely false”.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, Baker was again in the news when it emerged that he had invested £70,000 in a company that is encouraging investors to buy gold to <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/steve-baker-glint-pay-buy-gold-to-avoid-impact-of-brexit-no-deal-sterling-2018-8">avoid the hit of a no-deal Brexit</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">The allegations in this piece were put to Steve Baker’s office. He has yet to respond.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Correction, 31 August 2018: When this article was first published, it mistook the status of Steve Baker's ministerial position. This has now been corrected.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">Revealed: The Tory MPs using taxpayers’ cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">Six of Theresa May’s cabinet are paid up “members” of secret group demanding a total break from the European Union </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy James Cusick Wed, 29 Aug 2018 05:00:00 +0000 James Cusick, Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghegan 119465 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: how the UK’s powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MPs work together https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/revealed-how-uk-s-powerful-right-wing-think-tanks-and-conse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Institute of Economic Affairs, accused of offering US donors access to government ministers, is among right-wing think tanks meeting monthly. Conservative MPs have attended, too.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_3385.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_3385.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>55 Tufton Street, where many of the meetings take place. Image, Adam Ramsay, CC2.0.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The UK’s leading right-wing think tanks discuss strategy and tactics at regular monthly meetings that have been attended by Conservative MPs, openDemocracy has learned. Among those in attendance are the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), which has been accused of offering donors access to government ministers and civil servants.</p><p dir="ltr">Politicians and campaigners say the meetings raise concerns about transparency in British politics. Separately, openDemocracy can reveal today that the IEA also receives regular funding from British American Tobacco. The IEA does <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-charity-watchdog-probes-pro-brexit-anti-nhs-think-tank">not declare its funders</a>,</p><p dir="ltr">The regular think tank meetings are chaired jointly by staff from the pro-Brexit website Brexit Central and low-tax campaigners the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA). Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, chair of the Tories’ policy commission, recently tweeted his thanks to both Brexit Central editor Jonathan Isaby and TPA campaign manager James Price “for their invitation to speak at Tuesday meeting of think tanks”. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 18.05.02.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 18.05.02.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="120" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The think tank meetings have taken place at 55 Tufton Street, home to numerous think tanks and lobbying outfits. Among them are the TPA, until 2015 the pro-Brexit group Business for Britain, and the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which denies the overwhelming scientific consensus around humans causing climate change. </p><p dir="ltr">Monthly meetings are regularly attended by at least 30 people including representatives from free-market think tanks the Adam Smith Institute and the Centre for Policy Studies, and news site Brexit Central, as well as the IEA and the TPA. A source familiar with the meetings said that it was an opportunity “for everyone to convene together and align their messaging towards the same goal” on everything from Brexit to Labour party policy announcements.</p><p dir="ltr">Meetings are said to include a number of guest speakers and updates from each think tank, as well as planning of future activities. “You would divvy things up, sometimes might say, ‘The IEA would do that,’ or, ‘The TPA should so this,’” the source added. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Ministerial access</h2><p dir="ltr">The TPA, Brexit Central and the IEA have all confirmed to openDemocracy that they participate in the monthly meeting. Some of these groups had <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/18/vote-leave-whistleblower-sues-taxpayers-alliance-for-unfair-dismissal">previously dismissed</a> reports that they attended fortnightly meetings involving various right-wing think tanks. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA’s access to government ministers and senior officials have been in the spotlight this week after an investigation by Greenpeace and The Guardian secretly filmed the think tank’s director Mark Littlewood telling <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/brexit-influencing-game-iea-us-rancher-tucker-link">undercover reporters</a> that his organisation was “in the Brexit-influencing game” and that US donors could get to know ministers on “first name terms”. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA is a registered charity. The Charity Commission is currently investigating the think tank over <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-iea-thinktank-over-cash-for-access-claims">concerns about its political independence</a>. Separately, questions have been raised over whether the IEA should be registered as a lobbyist. The IEA said that the Guardian story was “incorrect”, adding, “We have put in a complaint calling for a retraction.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the think tank hired Shanker Singham, whose work on trade for another think tank, Legatum, proved controversial. The Charity Commission later <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">concluded a report he had co-written</a> on the benefits of Brexit had “failed to met the required standards of balance and neutrality”.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/mapped-shanker-singhams-unparalleled-access-to-government-ministers-a">unparalleled access</a>” to the Brexit process, including regular meetings with a host of ministers. Singham’s contact with Steve Baker, a former minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, came under particular scrutiny after <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.tskv2xp0V#.pc1bznqBj">BuzzFeed reported</a> that Baker had failed to declare frequent meetings with the adviser. Baker told BuzzFeed that they had not discussed government business and so there was no requirement to register the meetings. </p><p dir="ltr">Dominic Raab, the new Brexit secretary, is also one of the IEA’s most vocal supporters, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">crediting its founders</a> with inspiring deregulations, union reforms and business tax cuts that “saved Britain”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Revolving door’</h2><p dir="ltr">Commenting on openDemocracy’s revelations about the regular think tank meetings, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “This raises further concerns about the role and influence of the IEA and other shady, non-transparent lobby groups.</p><p dir="ltr">“It seems as if there is a revolving door between right-wing lobbyists, undisclosed donors and senior hard Brexiters expressing undue and unaccountable influence on this extremely important area of public policy.”</p><p dir="ltr">Till Bruckner, advocacy manager for transparency advocates Transparify, said: “Politically influential nonprofits that take money from hidden hands behind closed doors raise red flags because it is completely unclear who funds their operations, and for what purposes. Democracy is undermined when political agendas and discourse are influenced by dark money groups. For this reason, elected representatives and the media should steer clear of them."</p><p dir="ltr">After responding to openDemocracy’s queries earlier today, James Price of the TPA published some of his responses on the campaign group’s <a href="https://www.taxpayersalliance.com/tpa_confirms_that_people_can_meet_in_room_and_disagree_in_good_faith">blog</a> confirming that the meetings take place. </p><p dir="ltr">“The meeting is an opportunity for people to let others know what research they are working on; what public events they are holding—which is useful information to avoid diary clashes, as I’m sure you can understand; and to hear from interesting speakers from the worlds of politics and the media (shocker, given that we work in the worlds of politics and the media),” Price told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">IEA communications officer Nerissa Chesterfield said that the regular meetings “involve like-minded groups, the purpose of which is to update each other on the reports and research they have published or are currently working on. Yes, the IEA is among the regular attendees and we attend to outline and explain our latest research.”</p><p dir="ltr">Brexit Central editor Jonathan Isaby said: “In a personal capacity I chair a monthly meeting of individuals on the broad centre-right with an interest in public policy.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">Tobacco cash and ‘astroturfing’</h2><p dir="ltr">The Greenpeace/Guardian investigation revealed for the first time that the IEA has long received funding from the oil company BP. openDemocracy can reveal today that the group also receives regular funding from British American Tobacco. In a letter to the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, which holds shares in the company, BAT confirmed that it contributed “circa £40,000” to the think tank in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017, and expected to do so again in 2018. </p><p dir="ltr">The website <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs#2016_.22Broadly_Similar_to_2015.22_and_.22Likely_be_the_Same_in_2017.22">Tobacco Tactics </a>has previously revealed donations from British American Tobacco up to 2016, and that the think tank has worked with Phillip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International within the last five years. The current status of these relationships is unknown.</p><p dir="ltr">Asked about these donations, Chesterfield commented: “We respect the privacy of our donors and don’t place a list of them in the public domain; a cornerstone of a free society is being able to associate freely and we want to uphold that. However, our donors are free to make their donations known if they wish to.”</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">previously revealed</a> that in 2014, the IEA received a grant of $155,000 from the US-based Templeton Foundation to “<a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">seek alternatives</a>” to “public, pay-as-you-go financed systems of pensions, disability insurance, healthcare and long-term care”, and to promote privatisation of each of these areas. </p><p dir="ltr">Chesterfield rejected allegations that funders influenced IEA publications. “We make independent editorial decisions and then seek funding. The work we undertake is work we will do regardless of whether it raises donations,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">The extent to which the TPA, the IEA and others appear in the media has also attracted attention. A <a href="https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/The_DirectorGeneral_of_the_BBC_Tony_Hall_BBC_Stop_giving_airtime_to_organisations_whose_funding_is_not_transparent/?aglhIab">campaign has been launched</a> by South West England Green MEP Molly Scott Cato calling on the BBC not to invite guests who do not divulge their organisation’s funders. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Scottish National Party MP Martin Doherty-Hughes said: “The more we understand about the activities of these groups, the more it becomes apparent that we’re dealing with ‘astroturfing’ on an industrial basis, with big-money donors hiding behind a veneer of legitimacy to push their own narrow agenda. We need a clear and unambiguous picture of who is behind this model, and a ban on them appearing in the media until we have this transparency.”</p><p dir="ltr">Many of the groups involved in the monthly think tank meetings had strong links with the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum. Former Vote Leave boss Matthew Elliott founded the TPA and is ‘editor at large’ at Brexit Central.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave's treasurer <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-jon-moynihan-obe-to-its-board-of-trustees/">Jon Moynihan</a> was appointed to the IEA’s board earlier this year. The think tank also hired <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-new-digital-manger-darren-grimes/">Darren Grimes</a> as its digital manager. Grimes, whose BeLeave campaign received more than £600,000 from Vote Leave in the final weeks of the referendum, had previously worked for Brexit Central. Grimes was recently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/17/darren-grimes-the-student-pro-brexit-activist-fined-22k-vote-leave">fined £20,000</a> by the Electoral Commission for breaking electoral law over donations to BeLeave, the campaign that he headed.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>On August 1 this piece was amended to reflect that Business for Britain is no longer based at 55 Tufton Street and that James Price corresponded with openDemocracy as well as publishing portions of this correspondence on the TPA website.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab: is he the IEA’s man in government?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal">Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 31 Jul 2018 17:26:36 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 119082 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The DUP’s Facebook ads for Brexit targeted voters outside Northern Ireland https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dup-s-facebook-ads-for-brexit-targeted-voters-outside-north <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Information released by Facebook shows the DUP said Brexit would be “better for our borders”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.56.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A DUP Facebook advert, as released by Facebook.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">New Facebook data released by the parliamentary inquiry into Fake News shows that online adverts from the Democratic Unionist Party during the Brexit referendum campaign were targeted overwhelmingly at England, Scotland and Wales, rather than at the DUP’s home territory of Northern Ireland, openDemocracy can reveal.</p><p dir="ltr">The Facebook data also shows that the DUP adverts included an image saying a Leave vote would be “better for our borders”— a claim that has proven controversial in Northern Ireland, where many voters have expressed concern about what Brexit will mean for the borders with Ireland and with the rest of the UK. The other adverts said “better for jobs”, “better for family budgets” and “better for security”.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP adverts were arranged by the firm AggregateIQ and funded with a £435,000 donation from an unknown source. They were seen by up to 4.7 million times in England, Scotland and Wales, but only up to 860,000 times in Northern Ireland itself, according to openDemocracy’s calculations.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.31.57.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.31.57.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span> openDemocracy first started investigating the DUP’s Brexit campaign after coming across pro-Brexit posters in Scotland funded by the party, and a wrap-around advert in Metro newspaper, which appeared across England, Scotland and Wales. Metro isn’t distributed in Northern Ireland. </p><p dir="ltr">The £435,000 donation to the DUP came to the party via a group called the Constitutional Research Council, which is chaired by Richard Cook, former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservatives party. Speaking about Cook at Prime Minister’s Questions, Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons, described Cook <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-07-04/debates/4FEC9C7F-CFE0-4CC0-8B98-58927A0A54E2/PrimeMinister">as having</a> “a trail of involvement in illegal activities and foreign money”.</p><p dir="ltr">The new information from Facebook, released by the Fake News Inquiry, also included adverts from Vote Leave and from the BeLeave campaign. The two groups were recently fined by the Electoral Commission who found that BeLeave’s campaign was co-ordinated with Vote Leave, and therefore that its expenditure on these advertisements should have been counted as Vote Leave expenditure, which took Vote Leave over its £7m spending limit by more than £500,000.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Naomi Long, leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party, raised concerns about the revelation. She said:</p><p dir="ltr">“These figures raise further questions as to whether there was any co-ordination of campaigns throughout the EU referendum in order to get around legal spending limits.</p><p dir="ltr">‘With the DUP’s messaging in this social media campaign, particularly around "securing borders" and their targeting strategy geared more towards a GB rather than NI audience, questions must be asked as to why precisely these were chosen and whether the large campaign donation which they received from the shadowy Constitutional Research Council came with any direction as to how the money should be spent and where. </p><p dir="ltr">‘This is just one of many concerns which have been aired around the DUP’s alleged conduct during the referendum, as well as the wider campaign. The Electoral Commission should be looking closely at these figures and following up to ensure full transparency.’</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP did not respond to our request for a comment.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.32.15.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.32.15.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.44.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.44.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">Meet the Soopa Doopa branding agency that delivered Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Facebook Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Sat, 28 Jul 2018 11:29:46 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 119050 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: Charity watchdog probes pro-Brexit anti-NHS think tank https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-charity-watchdog-probes-pro-brexit-anti-nhs-think-tank <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Institute of Economic Affairs has been a fixture of political and media debates on Brexit and more. Now, the Charity Commission is examining whether the IEA breached rules on political independence</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 16.54.51.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 16.54.51.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Institute for Economic Affairs. Image, Youtube, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Charity Commission is examining whether the Institute of Economic Affairs has breached charity regulations on political independence, openDemocracy can reveal. The watchdog is looking at the free market think tank after concerns were brought to the commission’s attention. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA is one of the UK’s most influential think tanks. IEA representatives regularly appear on the media, advocating everything from <a href="https://iea.org.uk/publications/universal-healthcare-without-the-nhs/">privatising&nbsp;the NHS</a> to a <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/david-davis-is-right-to-fear-the-consequences-of-the-pms-chequers-deal/">hard Brexit</a>, and it has strong links with a number of Conservative ministers, including new Brexit secretary <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab</a> and health minister <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/new-health-secretary-matt-hancock-12891819">Matt Hancock</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA – which does not disclose its funders – is registered as an <a href="http://beta.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-details/?regid=235351&amp;subid=0">educational charity</a>. The Charity Commission does not register charities that exist for a political purpose.</p><p dir="ltr">The charity watchdog says that it will look at information provided about whether the IEA breached rules on political independence before deciding whether to take action against the think tank.</p><p dir="ltr">Concerns about the IEA’s charitable status have been raised previously. Last year, the Charity Commission found that a hypothetical Conservative manifesto jointly written by the IEA and the Tax Payer’s Alliance calling for tax cuts and more privatisation <a href="https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/charity-commission-to-take-no-regulatory-action-over-iea-complaint.html">breached</a>&nbsp;charity guidance on political activity. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Andrew Purkis, a former Charity Commission board member, called on the regulator to act against the IEA.</p><p dir="ltr">“(The IEA) are basically a political organisation. I have never really accepted that they are principally there for education and research. They are there to promote an agenda. They obviously feel that they are on a roll, that they are looked to that particular brand of right wing, free market Brexiteers,” Purkis told openDemocracy. </p><p dir="ltr">“If they were not a charity they would simply be categorised as a right wing think tank that promotes particular ideological views.”</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA said “we are confident that the IEA is acting in accordance with Charity Commission regulations.”</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA has taken an increasingly pro-Brexit stance in public, <a href="https://twitter.com/iealondon/status/1016426016489820161">tweeting</a> earlier this week that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would allow the UK to "crack on with its own trade deals".</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 13.45.54.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 13.45.54.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="214" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the IEA hired former Legatum Institute trade chief <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Shanker Singham</a> to head up a new trade unit. Singham, who has has also had dozens of meetings with British government ministers, is said to enjoy "<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/mapped-shanker-singhams-unparalleled-access-to-government-ministers-a">unparalleled access</a>"&nbsp;to senior Brexit officials.</p><p dir="ltr">Last month, the Charity Commission ruled that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum</a> had “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">crossed the line</a>” and failed to meet its charitable objectives in its pro-Brexit coverage. The regulator ordered the think tank to take a paper co-authored by Singham entitled the Brexit Inflection Point off its website.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA has strong links with pro-Brexit Conservatives. The new minister in charge of the Department for Exiting the European Union, Dominic <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Raab</a>, is a strong supporter of the think tank, appearing at IEA events and crediting the IEA with supporting a book he co-authored with Tory MPs, Britannia Unchained, that described British workers as “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19300051">among the worst idlers</a>”.</p><p dir="ltr">New health minister Matt Hancock has been criticised this week after it was revealed that he received donations worth <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/new-health-secretary-matt-hancock-12891819">£32,000</a> from an IEA chairman. Last week, on the 70th birthday of the NHS, the IEA described the service as an “<a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/hold-the-birthday-cheers-poor-nhs-performance-costing-lives/">international laggard</a>”, adding that “it is time to look to the social health insurance systems in Europe”.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA refuses to reveal its sources of funding, regularly receiving the <a href="http://whofundsyou.org/">lowest rating</a> for transparency from campaign group Who Funds You? But it has received funding from tobacco firms as the industry <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs">sought to avoid regulation</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA also <a href="https://iea.org.uk/donate-from-usa/">accepts funding from the USA</a> through the American Friends of the IEA, which was set up to allow US-based corporations and individuals to donate to the IEA. The American Friends of the IEA has donated more than $500,000 since 2010 according to <a href="http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/541/541899539/541899539_201512_990.pdf">documents filed</a> in the US. The IEA has also received more than half a million dollars from the US-based <a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">Templeton Foundation</a> to conduct research in recent years. </p><p dir="ltr">Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake said: “It is essential that all charities, particularly those (whose) activities relate to highly political issues like Brexit, should be scrupulous in observing their charitable status. The Charity Commission must be equally scrupulous in enforcing that status.”</p><p dir="ltr">QC and tax expert Jolyon Maugham said: “The front page of the IEA's website – today – is dominated by the headline "David Davis is right to fear the consequences of the PM's Chequers deal." Of course the IEA has the same right as anyone else to argue for political outcomes. But what it doesn't have is the right to do so at public expense”.<br /><br />A Charity Commission spokesperson: “Our job is to hold charities to account against the charity law framework. Concerns about the political independence of the Institute of Economic Affairs have been brought to the Commission’s attention, and we are currently assessing this information. We assess all concerns brought to us in line with our risk framework in order to determine if there are regulatory issues that require engagement.”</p><p dir="ltr">Stephanie Lis, director of communications at the IEA, said: “We are confident that the IEA is acting in accordance with Charity Commission regulations. The IEA’s mission is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.</p><p dir="ltr">“We accept donations from individuals, foundations and companies both domestic and foreign in order to pursue our charitable objectives. We do not – unlike many of the organisations Who Funds You? rate highly – accept funding from the UK (or any other) government, and all our donations are capped to protect our independence.</p><p dir="ltr">“We do not accept any earmarked money for commissioned research work from any company, whilst the vast majority of our research is blind peer-reviewed by leading academics. We are totally confident that our output is rigorously independent and free from any conflicts of interest.”</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA, which was founded in 1955, has been described as the UK’s original neoliberal think tank. Its board includes the economist <a href="http://www.economistsforfreetrade.com/News/brexit-could-boost-uk-economy-by-135-billion-say-top-economists/">Patrick Minford</a>, who is often quoted approving by Jacob Rees Mogg and Brexit donor and hedge fund manager <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/nov/06/why-are-hedge-funds-supporting-brexit">Michael Hintze</a>. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave's treasurer <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-jon-moynihan-obe-to-its-board-of-trustees/">Jon Moynihan</a> was recently appointed to the IEA’s board. The think tank also hired <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-new-digital-manger-darren-grimes/">Darren Grimes</a> as its digital manager. Grimes, who had worked for Brexit Central, is subject of an Electoral Commission investigation in relation to a £675,000 donation from Vote Leave during the Brexit referendum. Media reports suggest that the watchdog will find that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/04/vote-leave-breached-electoral-rules-watchdog-will-find-reports">electoral laws were broken</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab: is he the IEA’s man in government?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">UK Government minister hides leading role with hard Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Wed, 11 Jul 2018 16:09:14 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 118800 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Dominic Raab: is he the IEA’s man in government? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The controversial right-wing think tank has long nurtured the new Secretary for Brexit and his “war of ideas”. What will this mean now?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Raab.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Raab.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dominic Raab, addressing the Institute for Economic Affairs' birthday party. Image, Youtube, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">As Dominic Raab steps into government, he brings with him a whole intellectual infrastructure. Where David Davis was essentially a lone wolf, and Boris Johnson looked like a blundering opportunist, the new Brexit secretary has always hunted with a pack: specifically, with a controversial right-wing think tank called the Institute of Economic Affairs, and what is effectively its parliamentary wing, the Free Enterprise Group.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA is one of the UK’s most influential think tanks. Its representatives regularly appear on the media, advocating everything from <a href="https://iea.org.uk/motion-this-house-would-abolish-the-nhs/">privatising healthcare</a> to <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/minimum-price-on-alcohol-will-hit-those-on-low-incomes-hardest/">opposing minimum pricing</a> on alcohol. </p><p dir="ltr">The free-market think tank’s influence runs through a significant portion of the Conservative party, too. In 2016, new health minister Matt Hancock was heavily criticised after accepting a <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/matthew-hancock-tory-mp-accepted-4000-donation-from-think-tank-before-announcing-charity-lobbying-a6880071.html">£4,000 donation</a> from the IEA’s chairman just weeks after announcing a clampdown on charities lobbying advocated by the think tank. The policy was later dropped. </p><p dir="ltr">Dominic Raab seems particularly enamoured by the IEA. Speaking at the think tank’s 60th birthday celebrations in 2015 (see video below), Raab outlined how crucial the IEA had been to his thinking, and to giving him and his ideas a platform. </p><p><iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/OMNgUrVOWeY" height="259" width="460"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">In 2009, before the Brexit minister was an MP, Raab <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Assault-Liberty-Dominic-Raab/dp/0007293399#reader_0007293399">wrote a book</a>,&nbsp;<i>The Assault on Liberty: What went wrong with rights</i>. The book was <a href="https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2009/01/dominic-raab-is.html">launched at the offices</a> of the Institute for Economic Affairs.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2012, as an MP, he and his colleagues wanted “to take on this ludicrous, debilitating, anti-austerity, anti-capitalist narrative put out there by the egalitarian left in this country”. They penned a book together, <i>Britannia Unchained</i>, in which Raab’s line that British workers are “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19300051">among the worst idlers</a>” grabbed headlines across the press, but which was more worrying because of its proposals – a string of radical-right ideas, like <a href="https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2012/09/coffee-house-interview-chris-skidmore-on-britannia-unchained-lazy-brits-and-how-the-government-should-be-unpopular/">for-profit schools</a>, and abolishing a whole collection of <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/new-brexit-secretary-dominic-raab-12883639">basic workers’ rights</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Talking about the book later, Raab said, “it was the IEA which supported us in waging the war of ideas and launching that book.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Dark-money funded think tank</h2><p dir="ltr">The IEA refuses to reveal its sources of funding, regularly receiving the <a href="http://whofundsyou.org/">lowest rating</a> for transparency from campaign group Who Funds You? But we do know where some of its money comes from. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA was long financed by tobacco firms as the industry <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs">sought to avoid regulation</a>. The group also <a href="https://iea.org.uk/donate-from-usa/">accepts funding from the USA</a> through the American Friends of the IEA, which was set up to allow US-based corporations and individuals to donate to the IEA. The American Friends of the IEA has donated more than $500,000 since 2010 according to <a href="http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/541/541899539/541899539_201512_990.pdf">documents filed</a> in the US. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA has also received more than half a million dollars from the US-based <a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">Templeton Foundation</a> to conduct research in recent years. In 2014, the group received a grant of $155,000 to “<a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">seek alternatives</a>” to “public, pay-as-you-go financed systems of pensions, disability insurance, healthcare and long-term care”, and promote privatisation of each of these areas, according to the Templeton Foundation's website.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA was founded in 1955 as the UK’s original neoliberal think tank, and has been described in Andrew Marr’s <i>History of Modern Britain</i> as "undoubtedly the most influential think tank in modern British history".</p><p dir="ltr">The MPs who wrote <i>Britania Unchained</i> were all members of the “Free Enterprise Group”, a faction of Conservatives most of whom were first elected in 2010. In many ways, the Free Enterprise Group operated as the IEA’s parliamentary wing, with the two groups <a href="https://iea.org.uk/events/free-enterprise-group-and-iea-pre-autumn-statement-media-briefing-0">organising</a> <a href="https://iea.org.uk/in-the-media/press-release/free-enterprise-group-institute-of-economic-affairs-growth-forum-proposal">events</a> and <a href="https://iea.org.uk/events/free-enterprise-group-and-iea-pre-autumn-statement-media-briefing">media briefings</a> together, calling on the government, for example, to make it easier for bosses to sack workers and “<a href="https://iea.org.uk/in-the-media/press-release/free-enterprise-group-institute-of-economic-affairs-growth-forum-proposal">reducing regulation and red tape</a>” – which is usually code for abolishing basic rights at work, as well as protections for the environment and consumers.</p><p dir="ltr">Raab’s views have been widely circulated since his appointment as new Brexit secretary yesterday. Feminists, he says, are “now among the <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/8279200/Dominic-Raab-men-should-burn-their-briefs-in-protest-at-obnoxious-feminist-bigots.html">most obnoxious bigots</a>”. “The typical user of a food bank,” <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/29/tory-mp-dominic-raab-jeered-over-food-bank-comments">he thinks</a>, “is not someone who’s languishing in poverty, it’s someone who has a cashflow problem episodically.”</p><p dir="ltr">It’s important to see that these aren’t simply gaffes from some home-counties Tory out of touch with the modern world. They are the views of a politician who has been nurtured and promoted by a radical think tank, which refuses to reveal where it gets its money from.</p><p dir="ltr">In his speech at the IEA’s birthday, Raab talked about swimming on a beach in Brazil and emerging from the water only to discover that the current had quietly moved him hundreds of metres along the shore. The IEA operates similarly, he said, quietly moving British politics to the right, without anyone noticing. </p><p dir="ltr">But as a politician they have nurtured over a decade takes on the reins of Brexit, will voters start to pay more attention to the private interests secretly funding this ubiquitous think tank, seeking to quietly steer political debate in our country? Let’s hope so.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/we-cant-ignore-patels-background-in-britains-lobbying-industry">We can&#039;t ignore Priti Patel&#039;s background in lobbying</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Tue, 10 Jul 2018 15:06:10 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 118779 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who actually are Vote Leave? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/who-actually-are-vote-leave-brexit-boris-johnson-michael-gove <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Electoral Commission is expected to find that the largest pro-Brexit campaign group broke the law during the EU referendum. Who are the people involved?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/gove johnson taxi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/gove johnson taxi.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Boris Johnson and Michael Gove on the Vote Leave bus. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave is back in the spotlight. The UK Electoral Commission is widely expected to find that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/04/vote-leave-breached-electoral-rules-watchdog-will-find-reports">the biggest pro-Brexit campaign group broke the law during the EU referendum</a>, including through the “co-ordination” of a controversial £625,000 donation to a young fashion student, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Darren Grimes</a>. Fines for Vote Leave are likely, criminal charges could follow.</p><p dir="ltr">But who are the key people behind Vote Leave? Here’s a comprehensive guide to all the main characters involved.</p><h2>UK foreign secretary, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson</h2><p dir="ltr"><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/UMyHNIlgIIYYZTNaw4bFbCRCJ829mfmQGGKAGZn1KHD79N94dkRmQocrDq1AoWdUTgUP-0LbMT6tIVzK3l5txzXp4zfDPUifrLEbK95vZ1_zXvU9mhBWBmvgxdXKRIimiuCwoICO" alt="Boris Johnson with Leo Johnson. Image, Financial Times, CC2.0, some rights reserved." width="602" height="401" />&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Boris Johnson is a former Times journalist who was sacked for making up a quote from his godfather and lying to his editor <a href="https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/times-boris-johnson-flat-lied/">about it</a>. Despite this, he was given a job at the Telegraph by a connection from his time at Oxford University, Max Hastings, as the paper’s Brussels correspondent, a position he used to write a string of stories mocking and attacking the EU. “That many of Johnson’s stories bore scant relation to the truth did not matter,” <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/07/boris-johnson-peddled-absurd-eu-myths-and-our-disgraceful-press-followed-his">according to Martin Fletcher</a>, “They were colourful and fun”.</p><p dir="ltr">Johnson, also a former London mayor, was a member of the “core group” of Vote Leave’s campaigns committee which, according to the group’s website, met “on a daily basis”.</p><h2><span>UK Environment secretary, Michael Gove</span></h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 10.40.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 10.40.56.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="393" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Michael Gove (front) with Darren Grimes (back). Image, Twitter, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A one-time Tory leadership candidate – after ‘<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3667482/Game-Michael-Gove-stand-Tory-leader-setting-stage-bitter-battle-Brexit-ally-Boris-Johnson-Theresa-May.html">stabbing Johnson in the back</a>’ at the 11th hour – Gove was co-convenor of the Vote Leave campaign committee and another member of Vote Leave’s core group. Gove has <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/michael-gove-denies-knowing-about-ps625000-vote-leave-donation-to-beleave_uk_5abb5932e4b06409775b58d0">previously denied</a> knowledge of Vote Leave’s controversial £625,000 donation to fashion student Grimes and his micro-campaign BeLeave, which the Electoral Commission is expected to find constituted ‘working together’, in contravention of electoral law. Now Gove says his role in Vote Leave has been overstated. “I wasn’t involved in the day to day running of the campaign, I was out there making the case for leaving the EU rather than managing the hidden wiring of the campaign,” he told Sky News recently.</p><h2>Vote Leave chief executive, Matthew Elliott </h2><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/eGxI-Jh7gp2ZE0fncfZQsRe9mvroLtocczVXKaq0YAAX6UZVcCOzr-drwM2gZ6ERMJm9NVc7p-Xj9VGjczyYSQFlnkQ7JDvk-AFquQcLK9ysnbWtDCBjQTMsTpe7jvekFdFk8Hrj" alt="Matthew Elliot. Image, Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images" width="602" height="401" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">One of the few figures who still has a legal role in Vote Leave, acting as its company secretary, Elliott – who says that the Electoral Commission investigation is “<a href="https://news.sky.com/story/vote-leave-broke-campaign-spending-rules-says-electoral-commission-11425636">a huge breach of natural justice</a>” – has long been a key figure in the background of Conservative politics. He was chief executive of No2AV during the 2011 AV referendum, and founded the Taxpayers Alliance and <a href="https://brexitcentral.com/matthew-elliott-business-britain-helped-change-course-history-three-short-years/">Business for Britain</a>. These days, Elliott works as editor-at-large at the website Brexit Central. He is a former fellow at the controversial Legatum Institute, which has hit headlines for its <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Brexit lobbying</a> and been rapped over the knuckles by the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">charity regulator</a>. Elliott also works for City firm Shore Capital, owned by Tory donor Howard Shore and Brexit backer, and has <a href="https://medium.com/@wsiegelman/matthew-elliott-ceo-of-pro-brexit-vote-leave-was-a-partner-at-awareness-analytics-partners-a2p-52451c7e8a3f">business links </a>to the billionaire US political funders the Koch brothers. Elliott is one of only four people to remain listed as a director of Vote Leave Ltd.</p><h2>Vote Leave campaign director, Dominic Cummings</h2><p><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/cZAejK_T6UN1dmO5ZLKEgOzcPQgax-e0eG7r6iob__DYiRKyDEnGt14b6eNifBE5r6EvxXDxKcGA8TDAxxSmpDYh0yD9ua60-tRf_ej8f3ADiXpUjKx4wvx8gR59qaO315Y-PuEn" alt="Dominic Cummings. Image, Youtube, fair use" width="602" height="377" />&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/Whm0hNv9ZApLHET_c9aQzo4S48dVEiIXLaBFK_GQzZ9oaCxivJm0lyh1N04cvz-IQLmU4SjizA6b5-sczKsW_sdc1k7bFRZN-nwZIKl4EPa0GtsqgCRuThDMeiQMrdtfZ80lhOZN" alt="" width="602" height="171" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Former Special Adviser to Michael Gove, Cummings previously worked for the Conservative Party and ran the ‘No’ campaign in the referendum on devolution in the North East of England in 2004. Cummings was campaign director of Vote Leave, and was a member of the ‘core group’ which oversaw the campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">A former Vote Leave staffer said that Cummings had a first rate political brain but less developed interpersonal skills. “Some people found him really odd,” the source said. Steve Baker Brexit minister and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">eminence grise </a>of the ERG, a hard Brexit lobby group, has said of Cummings: “[He] is like political special forces. If you don’t care about what collateral damage you sustain, he’s your weapon of choice.” Cummings and Elliott frequently clashed during the referendum. More recently, Cummings has <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44158826">refused requests</a> to appear before the high-profile UK parliamentary inquiry into ‘fake news’.</p><h2>Former Labour MP, Gisela Stuart</h2><p><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/blLvnGxG3HoQahlEV4xky6cI1v6UZGebgeSGpesW8kTLXpdQ7BDnCQXiqpssrwqf7EbELehQunRv5PU9GvsF_aO0r4KpNPoJYEDUyQIZ-6mSeGT5rojRmgLaFxqxnjyj0pNzPk84" alt="Gisela Stuart. Image, Foreign and Commonwealth Office" width="602" height="401" />&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston until last year, Stuart was chair of Vote Leave. She was also co-convenor of the Vote Leave campaign committee and a key presence on the core group, regularly speaking on behalf of the campaign at events across the country. In June 2016, Stuart was accused of having a conflict of interest relating to her involvement in a firm which, according to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/13/labour-mp-gisela-stuart-inquiry-alleged-failure-declare-interests-vestra-wealth">the Guardian</a>, “advises individuals about their tax affairs and offers ‘offshore and international planning for non-domiciled and non-resident clients’.” The parliamentary standards commissioners found that Stuart <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/pcfs/not-upheld/gisela-stuart.pdf">had not breached any rules</a>.</p><h2>Liam Fox, Iain Duncan Smith, Frank Field, Priti Patel, Steve Baker, Nigel Dodds and many more</h2><p><br /><span><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/4jWwwQKGEb2Az2WN1bdcpzZ4ZmMeMeGedCSzx7VnSwEJr1kXs_LVb-Tc_P78m0Y9mJO_VHrZ5VYIFHkAzp4WB8a0o-KCaRM4XkB66FX68EHozt3dB_9TVlzru0Fhs4V-mjsRbKAU" alt="Liam Fox. Image, Tech. Sgt. Michele A. Desrochers, public domain" width="602" height="400" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Numerous prominent politicians, mainly Conservative and Democratic Unionist (DUP), sat on the Vote Leave campaign committee, which met weekly. A number – such as Liam Fox and Steve Baker – now hold cabinet positions in charge of delivering Brexit. How many of them knew about the controversial and sudden donation to Darren Grimes’s ‘BeLeave’ campaign is not clear.</p><h2>Vote Leave ‘responsible person’, Alan Halsell</h2><p dir="ltr"><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/RtonO0suy8T4KUMlryAbgzZt7oGZY0DBF6UERr-PGzaH2kRBMEg8PNafGUuWsH5PzrVKrtnl3K8GSM0DiXQqRob52GzwPNTw1TaVppU3R-G_VPPtr2FdZiGGxkSJ-NvNOiJ97tWi" alt="A Silver Cross pram. Image, Silver Cross, Wikimedia, Creative Commons 3.0." width="558" height="534" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The person legally responsible for Vote Leave is businessman and solicitor Alan Halsell. In a document submitted to the Electoral Commission, Vote Leave said “at the centre of the Vote Leave governance system is the Responsible Person. On 22 March, the Board decided that this role should henceforth be discharged by a non-executive officer, in order to maintain distance and independent oversight of the activities of the employed staff. The Board, therefore, decided to reassign the post to Alan Halsall, who is a solicitor, a member of Board of Directors, a member of the Finance Committee, a member of the Compliance Committee, as well as being a respected entrepreneur and business leader.”</p><p dir="ltr">Halsell rose to prominence as chairman (until 2015) of the pram manufacturers Silver Cross, famous as producers of iconic British prams used by the British royal family and China’s elite.</p><p dir="ltr">He also has a background in toy manufacturing, and is a former director of the British Toy and Hobby association.</p><p dir="ltr">As well as being the person legally responsible for Vote Leave, Halsell is listed on Companies House as one of three ‘people with significant control’ of Vote Leave Ltd and one of four remaining directors of Vote Leave Ltd. He’s also the former co-chair of the pro-Brexit group Business for Britain. </p><h2>Vote Leave finance, Jon Moynihan</h2><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/6P5BSi8y39sPPgEXjXr8orsGIN3Pz8ozWcfmLQKB1fGOwRItprdXIN88cc3ROq-FlMC2ZqQ9AEczzABMDbC7E4p7kS7bRRecDeWDfp8wm6B9tjERRLWHj3yJ_3uREPzNIX6gr2tu" alt="Jon Moynihan being interviewed by the Today Programme. Image, YouTube, fair use." width="602" height="341" /></p><p dir="ltr">Moynihan was chairman of Vote Leave’s finance committee. Like Halsell, he is one of four remaining directors of Vote Leave Ltd and one of three people listed as owning the company. Moynihan is a <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=jon%20moynihan&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">significant donor</a> to the Conservative Party, and was recently <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-jon-moynihan-obe-to-its-board-of-trustees/">appointed to the board</a> of the controversial ‘think tank’ the Institute for Economic Affairs. He is also president of the <a href="https://www.royalalberthall.com/about-the-hall/the-charity/about-the-charity/victorian-governance-system/">Royal Albert Hall</a>. During the referendum, Moynihan encouraged listeners to the BBC’s Today Programme to vote leave because the EU <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCxBViKkSSc">spends money on</a> “bridges to nowhere up in the far reaches of Scotland”.</p><h2>Vote Leave compliance, Daniel Hodson </h2><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/l1M0Ru_Pbfs7mMK9KluW2EWKLu8W2ddiAuRd27EzK1ESQ3bX9vhIxmgm8ZjLm7gsLCioEardRRzkoiM3N3SOMDtPfxWKEzaseEthaHUabRam8nnCckYv0-49AXPXzTmJ7yvIFV3J" alt="Image, Twitter, fair use" width="602" height="444" /></p><p dir="ltr">Hodson was chairman of Vote Leave’s Compliance Committee and remains a director of Vote Leave Ltd and one of its three owners. He’s <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/view-from-the-top-daniel-hodson-chairman-the-city-for-britain-brexit-leave-remain-a7720216.html">a former chief executive</a> of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_International_Financial_Futures_and_Options_Exchange">London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange</a> (LIFFE), and was director of “the City for Britain” pro-Brexit group. As well as being involved in Vote Leave, he was a key member of Business for Britain.</p><p dir="ltr">Business for Britain is registered at 55 Tufton Street, the same address as a number of prominent think tanks and campaign groups that refuse to disclose their donors, including the Taxpayers’ Alliance.</p><h2>Former Labour MP, Ian Davidson</h2><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<img src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/jo9dFf8pgwRlCFRccJXZ20kcXk47Ww74sXp9vUE3-pAN6yo8c6jWUWqgTzPfMDFmlTqvTjyare9SdCu0pvBal6_4e4AkrNSsJsWQQ-xPVJ1P9aydT7-SZR95wzmYIzXMOf424wDG" alt="Ian Davidson (left). Image, Danny Lawson/PA Archive/PA Images" width="602" height="344" /></p><p dir="ltr">Davidson, a Scottish Labour MPs who lost his seat to the SNP in 2015, was a member of the Leave Campaign’s ‘core group’. Asked by openDemocracy about news that the Electoral Commission is expected to find that Vote Leave broke the law during the referendum, and about the donation spent on Darren Grimes’s behalf, Davidson said: “I know absolutely nothing about this. I was not involved in any way…. I don’t know the group, I don’t know the individual to whom it is alleged the money has been given and I don’t know anything about the decision making process that led to him being given money if indeed he was.”</p><p>We haven’t seen the Electoral Commission report yet, and so there is no allegation that any of these people broke election laws.</p><p><em>This piece was edited on July 7 to reflect that Matthew Elliott is no longer involved with the Legatum Institute.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Who are Veterans for Britain?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/peter-geoghegan/vote-leave-trying-to-bury-bad-news">Vote Leave is using media to bury bad news</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Thu, 05 Jul 2018 16:03:10 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 118729 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Vote Leave is using media to bury bad news https://www.opendemocracy.net/peter-geoghegan/vote-leave-trying-to-bury-bad-news <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Electoral Commission is expected to find that Vote Leave broke electoral laws. Now Vote Leave is trying to set the media agenda before the report is released</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-26699854.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-26699854.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Michael Gove (left) and Boris Johnson hold a press conference at Brexit HQ in Westminster, London. Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA Images</span></span></span>On September 11 2001, a UK government special advisor wrote a memo to department of transport staff. With the world transfixed by the horror in New York, she wrote, “it is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury.”</p><p dir="ltr">England beating Colombia on penalties in the World Cup does not have quite the same news value as the largest terrorist attack in US history, but for Vote Leave it does not matter much. Today is a very good day to bury bad news it seems, particularly the news that the Electoral Commission will find that the largest leave campaign broke UK electoral law during the Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Late last night, with every front page and news bulletin dominated by the dramatic scenes at Spartak stadium, news broke on the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44704561">BBC News website</a> that Vote Leave is expected to be found guilty of four breaches of British electoral law, including telling a donor to give more than £600,000 to fashion student Darren Grimes just days before the vote. The draft Electoral Commission report - details of which have apparently been preemptively leaked to the BBC - follows a lengthy investigation prompted by reports from <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">openDemocracy</a> and others raising serious concerns about Vote Leave’s spending.</p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission report has yet to be published. But anyone criticised in an official report has to be given advance warning prior to publication. (This legal process is known as ‘Maxwellisation’, after the late press baron Robert Maxwell.) So there’s at least a few prominent figures with some key details of the Commission’s findings in their back pocket.</p><p dir="ltr">As part of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">BBC news story</a> onetime Vote Leave head honcho Matthew Elliott appeared in a sit down interview with politics editor Laura Kuenssberg. Elliott denied that Vote Leave had broke any rules and decried the Commission for allegedly failing to follow due process - even though the final contents of the regulator's report are not known. (If Elliott said anything about the importance of allowing the regulator’s investigation to follow due process that ended up on the cutting room floor.)</p><p dir="ltr">Kuenssberg prefaced one question by saying that Vote Leave “might be innocent in theory but it sounds like you were guilty in practice”. Such a presumption of innocence - bestowed before the Electoral Commission report has even been published - is exactly what Vote Leave is hoping to establish in the public's mind now, before the potentially grisly findings come out in full.<br /><br />We already knew that the Electoral Commission was expected to find against Vote Leave – because the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44567588">BBC itself </a>had reported news of the draft report two weeks previously. In that piece our election laws became ‘rules’ and, curiously, anonymous Vote Leave staff were afforded extensive space to rubbish the findings – an unnamed campaign source described the draft report as "bizarre" and having "gone way off track" in comments that featured far more prominently that reactions from named advocates for electoral reform.</p><p dir="ltr">So what’s the advantage for Vote Leave or anyone else in leaking a report critical of your own organisation? The answer to that was quickly apparent on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme this morning. The Electoral Commission cannot comment in advance of its own report so Elliott’s denials of any wrong-doing framed the story when it was reported on a two-way with Kuenssberg in the early hours.</p><p dir="ltr">Later, live on air, environment minister Michael Gove shrugged off questions about the Electoral Commission report, congratulating the BBC three times on a “great scoop”. Gove and Boris Johnson were both co-convenors of the Vote Leave campaign committee: the same Vote Leave which appears to have given the BBC a ‘scoop’ that looks more like crafty PR from Vote Leave than a genuine revelation.</p><p dir="ltr">The questions about what Vote Leave did during the referendum campaign matter. This is not about leave or remain. It is about how elections in the UK are regulated, now and into the future.</p><p dir="ltr">As we at openDemocracy and others have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/dup-dark-money">shown time and again</a>, shady money and influence has an undue sway on British politics. In May, the Commission ruled that Arron Banks's&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44080096">Leave.EU</a>&nbsp;broke electoral law. That the Electoral Commission has now found that the biggest Leave campaign – and a group that senior cabinet ministers were intimately involved with – broke the law should be headline news.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Instead, the Vote Leave story will be relegated by the football, and when it is mentioned, it is framed by Matthew Elliott’s denials. Textbook media management. </p><p dir="ltr">And the hope, for Vote Leave, is that when the Electoral Commission report is published today's spin will ensure the regulator's findings barely cause a ripple. That cannot be allowed to happen. At stake are fundamental questions about how our democracy works, and how our election laws are being broken. <br /><br />Having given Matthew Elliott's denials so much airtime, it is incumbent on the BBC and others to report in full and at length the eventual Commission report, and to interrogate the serious questions it is expected to raise about how the referendum was won, and whether our democratic system was compromised.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-evidence-that-leave-groups-co-ordinated-to-get-round-re">&#039;Crimes&#039; committed by Brexit campaigners? One extraordinary coincidence offers a new clue</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-brexit-campaigner-obtained-data-for-millions-of">Revealed: Brexit campaigner obtained millions of voters&#039; data</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Wed, 04 Jul 2018 12:01:36 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 118704 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "Serious flaw" in management of Brexit donor Arron Banks's charity https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/serious-flaw-in-management-of-brexit-donor-arron-bankss-charity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="color: #222222; font-family: sans-serif;">Charity Commission finds Love Saves the Day “inadequately” managed and administered. Trustees, including Banks and other senior Leave.EU staff, failed to properly account for charitable funds.</span><br style="color: #222222; font-family: sans-serif;" /></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-33531217.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-33531217.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A charity set up by Brexit backer Arron Banks has been strongly criticised by the Charity Commission. The regulator found a “serious flaw” in how the Love Saves the Day Foundation was managed and administered, with trustees including Banks and Leave.EU chief executive Liz Bilney, failing to properly account for all charitable funds.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks, who claims to have spent more than £8m on the campaign to leave the European Union, has become of the most controversial characters in British politics, with questions raised over everything from the size of his fortune to the extent of his links with Russia.</p><p dir="ltr">Love Saves the Day was set up in 2015. The charity’s website reported charitable work worth hundreds of thousands of pounds taking place around the world, including in Lesotho and Belize. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />But a Charity Commission investigation – opened after media reports of Banks’s Brexit spending – found that the charity’s trustees “were not properly accounting for all charitable funds”. The charity’s published accounts showed no income or expenditure.</p><p dir="ltr">The regulator also told trustees that the charity’s website “must be taken offline as a matter of urgency” as it “risked misleading the public due to the charity’s inactivity.” Love Saves the Day has since been wound up and its website closed down.</p><p dir="ltr">“The public rightly expect high standards of governance, transparency and accountability of charities. The trustees of Love Saves the Day fell short of these expectations with their inadequate management and administration of the charity,” said David Holdsworth, Deputy CEO of the Charity Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “Once again, Mr Banks, the main funder of the campaign for Brexit, has been found to have made misleading statements about his affairs. This is why it is so important we have a full investigation into how the campaign for Brexit was funded and the sources of that money, so that the public can have confidence in the legality of the campaign and the legitimacy of the result.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">SNP MP Martin Doherty-Hughes said: "<span>As is now abundantly clear, the Brexit peddled by Banks and his cronies was an entirely self-interested one which didn't spend much time worrying about the common good."</span></p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks rejected the Charity Commission’s findings, saying that Love Saves the Day “closed due to difficulties with the supporting law firm acting as a trustee”, adding "I bet Holdsworth voted Remain!”</p><p dir="ltr">Banks is biggest political donor on record in Britain. After a major openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">investigation</a> last year found serious questions about the extent of Banks’s wealth, the Electoral Commission launched a fresh investigation into Banks’s Brexit campaigning. </p><p dir="ltr">In May, the electoral regulator fined Leave.EU £70,000 for breaching electoral law and referred CEO Liz Bilney to the Metropolitan Police. Bilney was also a trustee of Love Saves the Day.</p><p dir="ltr">In June 2015, Love Saves the Day told the Charity Commission that it had received requests from interested donors, according to correspondence released to <em><a href="https://theferret.scot/arron-banks-winds-charity-regulator-investigates/">the Ferret</a></em> under freedom of information legislation last year. The charity also told the regulator that trustees would receive monthly financial reports.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time, the trustee said that the charity was due to receive a £10,000 donation. The Charity Commission found this £10,000 was never received by Love Saves The Day Foundation. Instead, the trustees had instructed the donor to transfer the funds directly to another charity. </p><p dir="ltr">“If a trustee provides funding to a charity, then it must be declared as income in the charity’s accounts, along with any related expenditure. By not doing so, the trustees were not properly accounting for all charitable funds,” the Charity Commission report said.</p><p dir="ltr">Outside of the UK, Love Saves the Day reported working in two countries close to Banks’s business interests: Belize and Lesotho. Among the charity’s trustees was former Leave.EU communications director, Andy Wigmore. A naturalised Belizian, Wigmore represented his adopted country in shooting at the 2016 Olympic Games and he was Belize’s diplomatic envoy to the UK before <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/leave-crusader-loses-belize-envoy-job-after-johnson-intervention-s82nrw7t3">losing that job</a> last year.</p><p dir="ltr">Another trustee, James Pryor, worked in Lesotho on numerous projects. Ahead of the 2015 general election in Lesotho Pryor worked for another Banks connected company, <a href="http://www.chartwellpolitical.co.uk/what-we-do">Chartwell Political</a> advising the Basotho National Party. Wigmore and Pryor posted photos on <a href="https://www.byline.com/column/67/article/1643">social media</a> of themselves in the country “burning the midnight election oil.”</p><p dir="ltr">An openDemocracy investigation into Banks’s work in Lesotho found that rather than the Basotho National Party paying Chartwell for its advice, Chartwell was donating money to the Basotho National Party. The investigation also called into question the size of reported diamond finds at a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Lesotho mine</a> controlled by Banks.</p><p dir="ltr">Among projects Banks has supported is the Federation of Lesotho Women Entrepreneurs. The donation was made after the Federation president Mamahlapane Magdalene Rakuoane was introduced to Banks in London, by then Lesotho High Commissioner in the UK, Felleng Makeka.</p><p dir="ltr">After she returned home, Banks gave the project around £88,000. According to documents in the public domain, this donation was not made through Love Saves the Day.</p><p dir="ltr">A press statement from Arron Banks said that he had donated over £1m to charities : “How I choose to make donations to charity is my business and my business only, in the case of Love Saves the Day, it was set up in support the many charities I choose to donate to year on year.</p><p dir="ltr">“It was closed due to difficulties with the supporting law firm acting as a trustee. </p><p dir="ltr">“Apart from this individual, to suggest, as the David Holdsworth has done, that the other trustees of Love Saves the Day fell short of expectations with inadequate management and administration is utter rubbish. The charity did not raise any money from the public or receive any donations while it was being set up."</p><p dir="ltr">Banks said that the Charity Commission report was politically motivated.</p><p dir="ltr">“In the current climate of attacks by the establishment organisations on anyone who has supported Brexit, it’s hardly surprising.</p><p dir="ltr">"I bet Holdsworth voted Remain!”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-charity-investigated-by-charity-commission">Arron Banks’ charity investigated by Charity Commission </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Peter Geoghegan Wed, 27 Jun 2018 23:00:01 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 118618 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mapped – hard Brexit guru Singham's 'unparalleled' access to government https://www.opendemocracy.net/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/mapped-shanker-singhams-unparalleled-access-to-government-ministers-a <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As Shanker Singham steps down from advising the Brexit trade department following openDemocracy's revelations of a potential conflict of interest, we reveal the full extent of his government access.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/singham.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/singham.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Image:&nbsp;</em><em>Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment</em></p><p>Last week, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal">openDemocracy broke</a> the news that Shanker Singham had begun advising PR and lobbying firm Grayling about Brexit. The appointment raised eyebrows: the former Washington lobbyist, who rose to prominence at the controversial think tank&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum</a>, was also a member of Brexit minister Liam Fox's trade advisory team. Singham insisted there was "no conflict" between the two roles. Transparency campaigners said there was a "glaring conflict of interest".</p><p>Today news has broken that Singham, who also heads a trade unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs, has <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/trade-guru-shanker-singham-quits-over-role-at-lobbying-firm-m5wwjh5hw">stood down</a> from the "committee of experts" advising the Department for International trade. Singham, who has been described as the "<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">hard Brexit Svengali</a>",&nbsp;has emerged as one of the most influential voices in Brexiter circles.&nbsp;<br /><br /><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Data compiled by openDemocracy</a> also shows that since the Brexit vote in June 2016, Singham has also had dozens of meetings with British government ministers including Boris Johnson, David Davis and Steve Baker, as well as Fox. The meetings and events were either unminuted or information relating to them was withheld by government departments. Singham also had<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X">&nbsp;undeclared meetings with Brexit ministers</a>, according to <em>Buzzfeed</em> reports.</p><p>Here, for the first time, is the full extent and details of Singham's connections with government ministers and officials. There is no allegation of any wrong-doing in these meetings.&nbsp;</p><p> <iframe src="https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1tdYxLVEoOAzTIaCZ_L01lmBXsVOfMwDEwgItbSUK3yU&amp;font=Default&amp;lang=en&amp;initial_zoom=2&amp;height=1000" width="100%" height="1000" frameborder="0"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit">Revealed: Legatum’s “extraordinary” secretive monthly meetings with Brexit minister</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Mon, 25 Jun 2018 12:49:26 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 118578 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK Government minister hides leading role with hard Brexit group https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="color: #222222; font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: small;">Exclusive: Steve Baker accused of playing "fast and loose" with ministerial rules after openDemocracy investigation finds Brexit minister had undisclosed meetings with European Research Group</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/8751307602_12ffa71b4d_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/8751307602_12ffa71b4d_k.jpg" alt="Brexit Minister Steve Baker at an annual 'weighing in' ceremony in High Wycombe" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Brexit Minister Steve Baker at an annual &#39;weighing in&#39; ceremony in High Wycombe, 2013. Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/sjbaker/8751308006/in/photolist-ekdYqe-ekjJH5-ekjJYN-ekjJYL-ekjJRQ-bjV2To-a64JDr-a64K8B-a67A9E-a64JMc-a64JXz-a64Jx2-a67zDU-a67ym1-a64HRi-a64Gen-a67ygq-a67zn3-a64JnF-a67zYS-a67zQ9-a64Gp4-a67z6S-a67zHN-a64JjD-a64HUt-a64Jdn-a64HhZ-a64F8k-a67xyE-a64FHz-a67x1f/" target="_blank">Steve Baker</a> (CC-BY-2.0) </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Cabinet Secretary has been asked to investigate the conduct of Brexit minister, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">Steve Baker</a>, after an openDemocracy investigation revealed that he had undisclosed meetings with the European Research Group, an influential group of Conservative MPs who want a hard, no-deal exit from the European Union.</p><p dir="ltr">Baker, an arch Brexiteer, was chair of the ERG before being promoted last year into David Davis’s Department for Exiting the European Union. But the Tory minister continues to play a leading role in the ERG, attending private meetings of the anti-EU group in Westminster and corresponding regularly with ERG members, including current chairman, Jacob Rees-Mogg.</p><p dir="ltr">In contravention of <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/672633/2018-01-08_MINISTERIAL_CODE_JANUARY_2018__FINAL___3_.pdf">ministerial rules</a>, none of these meetings nor Baker’s correspondence with ERG MPs has been included in transparency records published by DExEU.</p><p dir="ltr">Through a sequence of Freedom of Information requests sent to DExEU, and in discussions held with senior Whitehall sources, openDemocracy has established how Baker avoided publicly disclosing his continuing links with the ERG by claiming his attendance at their private events “were not in his capacity as a minister” and therefore did not need to be listed in quarterly disclosures of relevant meetings.</p><h2>'Reporting Brexit'</h2><p dir="ltr">At one ERG breakfast meeting held on October 17 last year in Terrace Dining Room C in Westminster, Baker was in the audience alongside twenty ERG MPs. The agenda of the meeting was ‘Reporting Brexit’.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 15.05.32.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 15.05.32.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="408" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>A senior political journalist from a pro-Brexit newspaper gave a brief speech about his perceptions of the Brexit process so far. This was followed by a question-and-answer session. Baker did not speak but was described as “quietly attentive” by one attendee.</p><p dir="ltr">Also in attendance was Suella Braverman [<span>née</span>&nbsp;Fernandes] who chaired the ERG before being promoted in January this year to a ministerial role alongside Baker at DExEU. Braverman last year gave an embarrassing <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/conservative-mp-suella-fernandes-warns-theresa-may-not-to-keep-britain-in-single-market">interview</a> to Channel 4 News where she claimed the membership list of the ERG was publicly available, but then refused to give any details, effectively saying the make up of the ERG was known only to its members.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 16.57.51.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 16.57.51.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="340" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suella Fernandes. Image, Channel4, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p>Baker’s appearance at this meeting was not disclosed as part of DExEU’s routine transparency obligations. Although the gathering was titled ‘Reporting Brexit’ and therefore clearly part of Baker’s ministerial territory, his officials nevertheless said he had not been attending “in his capacity as a DExEu minister.”</p><p dir="ltr">Within a few days of the ERG breakfast, there were renewed media <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/24/britain-can-still-cancel-brexit-no-dealers-have-no-friends-brussels/">reports</a> that Theresa May needed to do more planning for a “no deal” Brexit.<br /><br />Of other events hosted by ERG over the last 18 months, DExEU would only confirm Baker had not attended as a “minister”.<br /><br />Officials also confirmed they held correspondence between Baker and MPs known to be members of the ERG. The department said the exchanges were private and did not have be disclosed, but insisted they were committed to transparency “wherever possible.”</p><p dir="ltr">Last year <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">openDemocracy revealed</a> that more than £250,000 of public money was being used to fund the ERG, an 80-strong private caucus of Tory MPs that is widely regarded as a party-within-a-party.</p><p dir="ltr">Baker is acknowledged as the ideologically-driven MP who turned the ERG from being an ignored backbench talking shop into a formidable group demanding a complete break with Europe and an end to what he called “the EU’s despotism”. They have also been described as holding Theresa May hostage over any attempts to water down Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">When Baker became a DExEu minister after the 2017 general election, the chair role was passed to Suella Braverman, an inexperienced MP. When she was promoted, Jacob Rees-Mogg took over. However, Baker is still regarded by many in the ERG as its behind-the-scenes driving force, with Rees-Mogg merely an effective public face.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">“This isn’t just a bend or a twist of the rules of the game. This is ignoring an established code.”</p><p dir="ltr">Ben Bradshaw, the former Culture Secretary in Gordon Brown’s Labour government, who has raised previous concerns about Baker, has written to Cabinet Secretary, Jeremy Heywood, and to the permanent secretary at DExEU, Philip Rycroft, for an explanation.</p><p dir="ltr">Bradshaw told openDemocracy: “I wrote and tabled parliamentary questions for months about undisclosed meetings Mr Baker held with the controversial hard Brexit lobbying organisation, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum</a>, which he failed to answer, only for it to be revealed that he indeed had numerous meetings with this organisation which he had not declared.”</p><p dir="ltr">Some Whitehall officials with knowledge of Baker’s movements and political associations are also “unhappy” about how the ministerial code is being applied inside Davis’s department. One told openDemocracy: “This isn’t just a bend or a twist of the rules of the game. This is ignoring an established code.”</p><p dir="ltr">Ministerial rules forbid membership of parliamentary groups, or the offer of formal support to pressure groups dependent on government funding. If a minister is discussing government business without an official being present, this has to be disclosed by their department.</p><p dir="ltr">The Labour MP Ian Murray, a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign to hold a second referendum on the final Brexit deal between the UK and the EU, told openDemocracy: “Steve Baker’s behaviour raises serious questions about his conduct as a minister and reveals the political chaos and factionalism at the heart of the Government.”</p><p dir="ltr">Murray said that although Baker was taking a ministerial salary, he seemed to be playing factional games using public money. “It is remarkable that the Prime Minister lets this behaviour carry on. She is so politically trapped that she won’t act even when ministers are playing fast and loose with collective responsibility.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Letter to Philip Rycroft.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/original_size/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Letter to Philip Rycroft.jpg" alt="The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw's letter to Philip Rycroft, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union." title="" width="600" height="848" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-original_size" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw's letter to Philip Rycroft, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union.</span></span></span>Last month it emerged that Baker held undisclosed meetings with <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.fvKGKxO7XK#.ch9XJP61YJ">Shankar Singham,</a> the former Washington lobbyist who reinvented himself as a trade economist and until recently ran a trade unit at the Legatum Institute.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham is now director of the international trade and competition unit at the Institute for Economic Affairs. He has said that a UK free of all trade ties with the EU could help boost the world economy by $2 trillion over the next 15 years. Many economists disagree.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite transparency rules intended to reveal who Baker, as a minister, was talking to, <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.xbbbJnZo5#.gjv6x0PKk">Buzzfeed</a> reported that Baker and Singham had a number of meetings at Legatum’s Mayfair offices. DExEU claim Baker and Singham have been friends since the Brexit referendum in 2016 and as such their meetings have been ‘social’ and therefore outside disclosure regulations.</p><p dir="ltr">Baker is the only MP registered as having accepted a donation from the Constitutional Research Council, the shadowy group that gave the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">DUP’s Brexit campaign</a> more than £425,000. In December 2016, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/01/brexit-minister-linked-to-group-that-used-loophole-to-channel-435000-to-dup">CRC gave Baker £6,500</a> to “fund hospitality for ERG members and their staff” at a pre-Christmas event.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">Revealed: The Tory MPs using taxpayers’ cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-demand-full-investigation-of-hard-brexit-backing-tory-party-within-par">MPs demand full investigation of hard-Brexit backing Tory &quot;party within a party&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/tory-ministers-taxpayer-cash-hard-Brexit-erg">MPs demand ‘urgent investigation’ into Cabinet ministers&#039; support for hard-Brexit lobby group</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy James Cusick Fri, 22 Jun 2018 15:55:11 +0000 James Cusick, Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghegan 118549 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Former Legatum trade chief Shanker Singham takes role with commercial lobbying firm – while also advising key Brexit minister Liam Fox.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Liam_Fox_with_Air_Marshal_Stuart_Peach.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Liam_Fox_with_Air_Marshal_Stuart_Peach.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Liam Fox. Image, Tech. Sgt. Michele A. Desrochers, public domain</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Transparency campaigners have accused international trade minister Liam Fox of “having trouble again seeing the line between adviser and privately-backed lobbyist” after openDemocracy learned that one of Fox’s “committee of experts” has become an advisor to one of the UK’s biggest corporate lobbying firms.</p><p>Former <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum</a> trade chief Shanker Singham, described by a former Labour minister as a ‘hard Brexit Svengali’, <a href="http://publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">is now advising</a> PR and lobbying agency Grayling on Brexit and trade. Singham, who has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">unparalleled access</a>” to government ministers, has told openDemocracy that there is “no conflict” between his role as an adviser to trade minister Fox and his new position.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham is a member of trade minister Liam Fox’s ‘committee of experts’, a five-person group advising him on trade deals. Singham, a one-time Washington lobbyist, is also a director of the International Trade and Competition Unit at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), a position he took after he left the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">controversial think tank Legatum</a> earlier this year.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham told openDemocracy that he would be remaining on the Brexit minister’s advisory committee and at the IEA.</p><p dir="ltr">Grayling is one of the UK’s leading PR and lobbying firms. The client it lists most regularly in its entry in the official register of lobbyists is the <a href="https://registerofconsultantlobbyists.force.com/CLR_Public_Profile?id=00124000006byHIAAY">National Casino Forum</a>, and the company also represents a number of major <a href="https://www.appc.org.uk/register/profile/?company=Grayling">sugar manufacturers</a>, and has previously worked for the arms companies <a href="https://www.prweek.com/article/1163654/grayling-appoints-former-uk-ceo-loretta-ahmed-middle-east-head">BAE Systems</a> and <a href="https://www.prweek.com/article/1299327/lockheed-martin-looks-man-bites-dog-integrated-uk-brief">Lockheed Martin</a>. Speaking to openDemocracy, Singham said that he was advising Grayling itself, rather than any of its clients.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33122986_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33122986_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shanker Singham, Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Singham will also assist Grayling’s stablemates Citigate Dewe Rogerson and Quiller, <a href="https://www.publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">reports said</a>. Quiller’s past clients include the <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uae-paid-pr-firm-millions-brief-uk-journalists-qatar-muslim-brotherhood-attacks-1058875159">United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, openDemocracy revealed the extent of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Singham’s access</a> to government ministers since the Brexit vote, showing that he has held dozens of meetings with figures including foreign secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit minister David Davis, as well as Liam Fox. Singham also had<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X"> undeclared meetings with another Brexit minister</a>, Steve Baker.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" width="100%" src="https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1qxJiprTABHrdoQOcIBtXWqFM0o3eXl3L2Ow9iXPcupA&amp;font=Default&amp;lang=en&amp;initial_zoom=2&amp;height=650"></iframe></p><h2>“Glaring conflict of interest”, say campaigners</h2><p dir="ltr">Singham told openDemocracy that he saw no reason that his access to government officials would diminish now that he’s paid by a corporate lobbying firm and that he sees “no conflict” between his various roles. But transparency campaigners warned of “a glaring conflict of interest”.</p><p>Tamasin Cave from Spinwatch, which monitors the lobbying industry, compared Singham’s role to the scandal that led to Liam Fox being forced to resign as Defence Secretary in 2011, when it transpired that one of Fox’s closest advisers – Adam Werritty – was being <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15302045">paid by private businesses</a> for his time advising Fox.</p><p>Cave said: “Singham is simultaneously advising Liam Fox, and has unrivalled access to many other ministers, while at the same time working for a firm that is paid to influence the decisions of ministers. That’s a glaring conflict of interest.</p><p dir="ltr">“Grayling is employing Singham for his insider knowledge and the fact that he has a seat at the table steering the direction of Brexit. Of course their corporate clients are going to benefit from this hire. That's how the commercial lobbying business operates.</p><p dir="ltr">“That this doesn’t strike the Department of International Trade as a clear conflict of interest is worrying. It is reminiscent of another adviser to Liam Fox that was also funded by an opaque web of private money. The resulting scandal surrounding the then defence secretary's adviser, Adam Werritty, led to Fox’s resignation (in 2011). Is Fox having trouble again seeing the line between adviser and privately-backed lobbyist?”</p><p dir="ltr">Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK said: “Whilst this does not appear to break any formal rules, there are ethical considerations a UK government adviser should take into account on how the privileged information and access they enjoy in a public role may unfairly benefit themselves and potential clients in their private role.”</p><p dir="ltr">Scottish National Party MP Neil Gray said that the revelation reflects flaws with the Brexit process more generally: “There has been an effective sub-contracting of the hard thinking normally undertaken by government to a series of 'thinktanks' who refuse to reveal where their funding comes from and whose proposals seem coincidentally to reflect the narrow interests of a small group of private companies. Singham’s appointment is simply the most obvious example of this government’s fox-in-the-henhouse approach.”</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"There has been an effective sub-contracting of the hard thinking normally undertaken by government to a series of 'thinktanks' who refuse to reveal where their funding comes from and whose proposals seem coincidentally to reflect the narrow interests of a small group of private companies"</p><p dir="ltr">In a statement on the Singham signing last week, <a href="https://www.publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">Grayling chairman</a> Richard Jukes said: “Brexit and trade are knotty areas, and there is no one better placed than Shanker to help our clients cut through the noise and articulate a considered position that stands up to scrutiny. He is an outstanding addition to Grayling’s award-winning Brexit and trade offer that extends from London to Brussels and across Europe.”</p><p dir="ltr">Singham also leads the trade team at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA). Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: "The Institute for Economic Affairs has long acted as a paid lobbying agency for the tobacco industry. It's very worrying to see one of their staff playing such a key role in shaping Britain's trade deals as we leave the EU."</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA didn’t respond to a request for comment, and didn’t answer our question about who pays for Singham’s work on trade.</p><p>A spokesperson for the Department of International Trade said:</p><p dir="ltr">“It is only correct that the department engages a variety of stakeholders from across the UK, to discuss opportunities arising from Britain’s departure from the European Union. The department regularly engages think tanks and campaign bodies on all sides of the political spectrum as well as leading thinkers, businesses and civil society groups."</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;“The committee was set up to provide expert advice and challenge to department officials and is not led by ministers. Members are invited to only express their views as individuals and not on behalf of their affiliated organisations.”</p><p dir="ltr">Other than Singham, the trade ministry’s committee of experts comprises prominent Brexit supporting economist Ruth Lea, who is an adviser to the Institute for Economic Affairs; Sunday Telegraph columnist and Brexit supporter Liam Halligan, Xavier Rolet, former CEO of the London Stock Exchange, and the former Tory MP and Brexit supporter Peter Lilley. </p><p>In January, the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/andrew-lansley-peter-lilley-and-andrew-mitchell-ride-brexit-gravy-train-mgh6c2z28">Sunday Times </a>reported that Lilley was “willing to approach key ministers” on behalf of a fake Chinese company offering him cash in exchange for access to government and information about Brexit. The paper reported that Lilley described how he attended two advisory groups with influence over the Brexit ministers” – one of which was the Department for International Trade advisory committee of experts.</p><p dir="ltr">Lilley said he had not been asked and nor did he agree to have private conversations with any ministers on behalf of the Chinese company. He said any suggestion that a private company would get access to privileged information was “wholly misplaced”, and he remains a member of the committee, according to a department spokesperson.</p><p dir="ltr">When the Sunday Times also reported that “sources within Whitehall and the Conservative Party... told this newspaper that Brexit had triggered a lobbying frenzy as businesses attempted to acquire intelligence about the negotiations.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month the Charity Commission ruled that Legatum, Singham’s previous employer, had “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">crossed the line</a>” and failed to meet its charitable objectives in its pro-Brexit coverage.</p><p><em>Additional reporting by Jenna Corderoy.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">Legatum breached charity regulations with Brexit work, Charity Commission finds</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Thu, 21 Jun 2018 09:16:50 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 118529 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Labour’s Liam Byrne says former Legatum trade advisor’s influence over Brexit policymakers ‘beggars belief’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-33122986_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-33122986_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image:&nbsp;</em><span><em>Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment</em></span></p><p dir="ltr">The pace of the British government’s Brexit progress seems to be frustrating even the most enthusiastic supporters of life outside the European Union. At an event in Glasgow last week, Shanker Singham, billed by the organisers as “one of the world’s leading trade lawyers”, complained that the UK’s “lack of clarity” over Brexit was causing “confusion”.</p><p dir="ltr">But what he didn’t talk about was his own role in the middle of this muddle: Singham himself has continued to enjoy unrivalled access to Brexit ministers and officials. The trade advisor, whose work for the Legatum Institute has attracted significant media attention, had repeated private meetings with the highest official in the Department for Exiting the European Union (DexEU) according to new information released to openDemocracy.<br /><br />Singham, a former Washington lobbyist - who has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/18/brexit-british-business-leaders-legatum-eu">unparalleled access</a>” to senior government figures - left Legatum earlier this year to head up a new trade unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs. Earlier this month, the charity regulator ruled that Legatum’s Brexit work had ‘crossed the line’ and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">did not meet its charitable objectives</a>. <br /><br />In March and May this year, just after he left Legatum, Singham met with Philip Rycroft, permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union. Both meetings took place at DExEU’s Whitehall offices.<br /><br />Data compiled by openDemocracy also shows that since the Brexit vote in June 2016, Singham has also had dozens of meetings with British government ministers including Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox. The meetings and events were either unminuted or information relating to them was withheld by government departments. Singham also had<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X"> undeclared meetings with Brexit ministers</a>.<br /><br />Former Labour minister Liam Byrne called for more transparency from government over Singham’s contact with ministers and senior officials.<br /><br />“It beggars belief that ministers and officials are spending hour after hour with Hard Brexit svengali, Shanker Singham. He may have ditched his Legatum badge but I suspect his views are as hard line as ever, and as bad for Britain as ever,” the MP said.<br /><span class="mag-quote-center">“I hope we can meet frequently and monthly is a good objective”&nbsp;</span><br />Singham has also had extensive contact with Brexit trade minister Greg Hands. The pair met at least half a dozen times in the space of a few months at the end of last year. “I hope we can meet frequently and monthly is a good objective,” Hands wrote to Singham in October, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit">according to emails obtained by openDemocracy</a>.<br /><br />In December alone Singham had two meetings with Hands, two meetings with Rycroft from DExEU, and a meeting with Michael Gove and Antonia Romeo, a senior civil servant at Fox’s Department for International Trade.<br /><br />Singham told openDemocracy that “you can find information about my meetings in the transparency register.”<br /><br />Singham is also very close to Brexit minister Steve Baker. An investigation by Buzzfeed found that <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X">Singham had multiple undeclared meetings with Baker</a>, and former Legatum trade advisor Crawford Falconer, who now works at the Department of International Trade. These meetings were not recorded in official government transparency records.</p><p dir="ltr">Documents released following Freedom of Information requests from openDemocracy show Singham had a one-on-one meeting with Philip Rycroft on March 13, just days after it was announced that he would be <a href="https://www.li.com/media/press-releases/shanker-singham-to-leave-the-legatum-institute-for-new-role-at-the-iea">leaving the Legatum Institute</a> to take over the trade unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs. On May 10, Singham met with Rycroft and Eoin Parker, director of market access and budget at DExEU.</p><h2>Unlikely Brexit trade influencer</h2><p>Singham, who argues that Britain needs to leave the single market and customs union to maximise opportunities outside the EU, has emerged as an unlikely trade voice for Brexiters. His name has been <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">cited in Parliament</a> and his trade papers held up as evidence that Britain should leave the customs union and single market.</p><p>The recent proposal that the UK could create a ten-mile wide <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/border-buffer-zone-could-be-solution-to-irish-border-problem/">‘buffer zone’</a> along the Irish border originated from a paper published by Singham and the Legatum Institute.</p><p>Earlier this month, the Charity Commission ruled that Legatum’s work on Brexit “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">failed to meet the required standards of balance and neutrality</a>”. A Legatum reported entitled, Brexit Inflection Point, did not present “balanced, neutral evidence and analysis” and was “not consistent” with the charity’s objectives to promote education, the regulator found.</p><p>Former Charity Commission board member <a href="https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/voices/andrew-purkis-why-the-charity-commission-s-decision-on-legatum-raises-further-questions.html">Andrew Purkis </a>has said that the regulator’s ruling on Legatum also raised questions about the Singham’s new employers, the Institute of Economic Affairs. The IEA, which also has charitable status, also recently appointed <a href="https://order-order.com/people/darren-grimes/">Vote Leave donor</a> Jon Moynihan to its board.</p><p>The IEA has also hired Darren Grimes as its digital manager. Grimes, who had worked for Brexit Central, is subject of an Electoral Commission investigation in relation to a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">£675,000 donation</a> from Vote Leave during the Brexit referendum. A judicial review into the Electoral Commission’s handling of Vote Leave spending is due to be heard on June 19.</p><p>The Legatum Institute announced that it would be <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/09151308-23b9-11e8-ae48-60d3531b7d11">ending</a> its Brexit work following public scrutiny of the think tank’s work and its funding. Christopher Chandler, Legatum’s main funder, has been the subject of <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/143bb08e-4d5d-11e8-97e4-13afc22d86d4">extensive coverage </a>with MPs alleging that the billionaire had links to Russian interests. Chandler, a former major shareholder in Gazprom, has strenuously denied all allegations.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">Legatum breached charity regulations with Brexit work, Charity Commission finds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit">Revealed: Legatum’s “extraordinary” secretive monthly meetings with Brexit minister</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Thu, 14 Jun 2018 07:00:17 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 118382 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What we learned about Arron Banks at the fake news inquiry https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/what-we-learned-about-arron-banks-at-fake-news-inquiry <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>And what we didn’t</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 13.54.14.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 13.54.14.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks at the Fake News Inquiry. Image, Parliament.tv, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In many ways, Arron Banks’s appearance today to answer MPs’ questions was in keeping with character. By turns the biggest donor in British political history was garrulous, boastful and contemptuous. And, after three hours – when he and his wingman Andy Wigmore walked out, ostensibly to keep “a luncheon appointment” with <a href="https://twitter.com/andywigmore/status/1006541298281611264">two DUP MPs</a> – Banks had generated far more heat than light.</p><h2>What we found out </h2><p dir="ltr">The Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s questions covered everything from Leave.EU’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica to Banks’s own dealings with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/10/arron-banks-mps-call-for-police-investigate-russia-links">Russia</a>. But there was one area that Banks seemed particularly keen not to talk about.</p><p dir="ltr">Just before he spent more than £8m on Brexit, his Southern Rock insurance firm was in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">financial trouble</a>, and got a £77m <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373714177/Southern-Rock-Insurance-Company-Ltd-2015-accounts">bail-out</a> from the Isle of Man-based <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373714177/Southern-Rock-Insurance-Company-Ltd-2015-accounts">ICS Risk Solutions</a>. When MP Rebecca Pow asked about this cash injection, Banks implied that this was simply him shuffling money between two companies he owns, and accused them of trying “to create some shadiness around my businesses".</p><p dir="ltr">However, our friends at <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">SourceMaterial</a> have pointed out that Banks doesn’t actually own all of ICS Risk Solutions, but only somewhere between 50% &amp; 75%, according to filings of <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/06334001/persons-with-significant-control">one of its subsidiaries</a> at Companies House. Who owns the rest of the company? We don’t know. </p><p dir="ltr">But around the time ICS was bailing out Southern Rock, the wife of one of Banks’s associates <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717866/ICS-directors-2015">joined the ICS board</a>. This associate has been accused of breaching money laundering rules in Jersey, Malta and Gibraltar. The following year, the day after the Brexit vote, he joined the ICS board <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717784/ICS-directors-2016">himself</a>, along with two of his close business partners. </p><p dir="ltr">However this associate was involved, Banks wasn’t just shuffling around his own money. ICS has at least one unknown owner, who helped prop-up Banks’s ailing insurance empire just as he was pouring cash into Brexit.</p><h2>‘Insurance Millionaire?’ What we missed</h2><p dir="ltr">The key question hanging over the Commons committee today but never directly asked: what is Arron Banks actually worth? &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Figuring out the value of Banks’s wealth is tricky. In media reports the Leave.EU backer is frequently referred to as a <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6500163/arron-banks-net-worth-russia-links-brexit-ukip-nigel-farage/">‘millionaire businessman’</a>. Published estimates of his worth vary from <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8cddfeea-5c02-11e7-b553-e2df1b0c3220">£100m</a> to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/mp-calls-for-inquiry-into-arron-banks-and-dark-money-in-eu-referendum">£250m</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">But a major openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">investigation</a> last year raised serious questions about the true extent of Banks’s wealth, particularly in the insurance businesses that are frequently held up as the main source of his fortune.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks became a major political donor overnight, in November 2014. Previously he had been a virtual unknown – a one-time estate agent who had moved into insurance, and had failed to be selected as a Conservative local election candidate. Then he promised £1m to Ukip apparently after <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/01/tory-donor-arron-banks-increases-ukip-donation-william-hague">William Hague</a> described him as ‘a Mr Nobody’. </p><p dir="ltr">The million pounds to Ukip never fully materialised – Banks drip fed the party around £400,000 in cash installments over six months, mostly in the name of his companies – but the self-styled ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ was in the game. Then he plunged an eye-watering £8m into campaigning to leave the European Union.</p><p dir="ltr">But at the very moment Banks was pouring millions into Brexit, his insurance companies were in fact in real <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">financial difficulty</a>. Authorities in London and Gibraltar found that Banks’s insurance underwriter, Gibraltar-based Southern Rock, had been trading without sufficient reserves.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has maintained that his insurance business is in rude health. Last October <a href="https://www.insuranceage.co.uk/insurer/3156951/eldon-insurance-set-for-ps250m-float-reports-say">he boasted</a> that he was in line to make millions of pounds from floating Eldon Insurance - which uses the brand Go Skippy – on the London Stock Exchange in early 2018. So far this has not happened.</p><h2>Gold digger</h2><p dir="ltr">Insurance isn’t Banks’s only business interest. In his book, <a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/arron-banks-brexit-diaries">The Bad Boys of Brexit</a> – ghost written by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott – Banks says that in 2015 he decided to spend millions of pounds on influencing British politics because “my businesses in this country and overseas, where I own a number of diamond mines, were doing really well.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Reports over the weekend suggested that Banks had conversations with Russian officials about potential investments in gold mines. (The ‘Bad Boys of Brexit’ is peppered with references from Banks to wanting to invest in gold.) So maybe all the money came from minerals?</p><p dir="ltr">We know that by February 2015, Banks was the owner of four diamond mines in South Africa. But there is little sign that any of these holdings are lucrative. There has been no report of major finds in Banks’s South African mines.</p><p dir="ltr">Not so for Banks’s Lesotho holdings. In September 2017, the Ukip backer announced a “<a href="https://www.economicvoice.com/brexit-businessman-arron-banks-in-major-lesotho-diamond-find/">significant find</a>” in this mountainous Southern African kingdom. Newspaper reports at the time suggested that he was poised to use the windfall to <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nigel-farage-poised-to-form-ukip-splinter-party-v5dvxq7sr">bankroll a new political party</a> for his friend Nigel Farage.</p><p dir="ltr">But another recent openDemocracy investigation <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">cast major doubt on these claims</a>. We found that the area of the “significant find” in Lesotho had produced only a few hundred pounds’ worth of diamonds in the two decades before Banks bought it. A leading expert on Lesotho diamonds told us that it was “geologically impossible” to find commercial quantities of diamonds in the mine.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s not all. When we looked into Banks’s business dealings in Lesotho we found even more surprising things. We found that a political consultancy owned by Banks – Chartwell – had been advising a local political party called the Basotho National Party (BNP) that Banks had business links to.</p><p dir="ltr">Rather than the Lesotho party paying Chartwell for its advice, we discovered that Banks was actually transferring money to the BNP: at least £65,000, a significant sum in one of the poorest and smallest countries in Southern Africa. Chartwell has never recorded a profit. </p><h2>Russia connections</h2><p dir="ltr">Much has been made of Banks’s links to Russia. His wife is Russian. On social media, he often speaks positively of Vladimir Putin and his post-Brexit news site Westmonster often carries coverage that chimes with dominant Russian worldviews.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has <a href="https://www.neweurope.eu/article/leave-campaign-donor-aaron-banks-denies-new-allegations-russian-collusion/">denied</a> receiving any funding from Russia, accusing the Remain campaign of trying to discredit everyone involved in Brexit. He previously claimed that he’d just had one lunch with the Russian ambassador, but reports this weekend showed that he had at least “two boozy lunches” and another cup of tea.</p><p dir="ltr">But we have found some other links between Banks and Russia. Just two months after the referendum, another Banks associate <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">James Pryor</a>— a Brexit ‘bad boy’ and former campaign manager to Ukip — was in Moscow, a Red Square selfie from his Facebook feed shows. During the hearing, Wigmore said that it was Pryor, “the happy hippy” who had introduced him to Banks. </p><p dir="ltr">Yesterday, Pryor told openDemocracy that his trip wasn’t connected to Banks’ activities: “I have other clients”, he said, and denied any wrongdoing.</p><p dir="ltr">For almost a year, openDemocracy has been looking into where Arron Banks – the biggest political donor in British history – got his money from. This morning, we pointed out that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">£11m of donations</a> to the two main Brexit campaigns he’s associated with are unaccounted for: we don’t know how it was spent.</p><p dir="ltr">After nearly three hours of watching Banks and Wigmore in front of a parliamentary committee today, we still have more questions than answers about the ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">Arron Banks and the missing £11m for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 12 Jun 2018 18:17:09 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 118365 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Legatum breached charity regulations with Brexit work, Charity Commission finds https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Controversial think tank influential amongst pro-Brexit ministers did not provide “balanced, neutral evidence and analysis” and was “not consistent” with the charity’s&nbsp;objectives.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/legatum.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/legatum.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="398" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Afromusing/Flickr, CC 2.0</em></p><p>Controversial think tank the Legatum Institute has been strongly criticised following an investigation by charity regulators. A report from the Charity Commission released today found that <span class="mag-quote-right">Legatum’s work on Brexit “crossed a clear line”</span>Legatum’s work on Brexit “crossed a clear line”&nbsp;and “failed to meet the required standards of balance and neutrality”.</p> <p>Legatum, which is a registered charity, has emerged as one of the most influential think tanks in Westminster. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Ministers have often cited Legatum’s work to support Brexit policies</a> on everything from tariffs to the Irish border. </p> <p>An investigation by the Charity Commission found that a Legatum report, <em><a href="https://lif.blob.core.windows.net/lif/docs/default-source/default-library/brexitinflectionvweb.pdf?sfvrsn=0">Brexit Inflection Point</a>, </em>did not present “balanced, neutral evidence and analysis” and was “not consistent” with the charity’s objectives to promote education. </p> <p>The report, which called for the UK to leave the single market and the customs union as soon as possible, “may be seen as promoting a political view...for the aim of a particular final outcome, and recommending specific government action that reflects this,” the regulator found.</p> <p>The Charity Commission has ordered Legatum to remove the report from its website and given formal regulatory advice to its trustees about maintaining independence and neutrality.</p> <p>Separately, documents seen by openDemocracy show that the regulator expressed concern about whether Legatum was “capable of becoming a charity” when the charity was registered in 2011.</p> <p>Commenting on the Charity Commission findings, David Holdsworth, the regulator’s chief operating officer, said: “Our case found that the Legatum Institute Foundation breached regulation with the publication of its Brexit Inflection Point report.</p><p><span>“On such a highly political issue it is especially important that trustees can clearly demonstrate they are operating in line with our guidance to inform the public in a balanced and evidence-based way.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>“With this report, the trustees failed to meet the required standards of balance and neutrality.” </p> <p>The Charity Commission <a href="https://theferret.scot/doubts-raised-legatum-charity-work/">opened a compliance case into Legatum in November 2017</a> following reports that the charity was “promoting the views of pro-Brexiteers”. After the European Union referendum former Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott joined the think tank, along with a number of leading Eurosceptics.</p> <p>A recent openDemocracy investigation found that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit">Brexit minister Greg Hands had arranged monthly meetings with Shanker Singham</a>, Legatum’s chief trade advisor. Singham, who has since joined the Institute of Economic Affairs, was implicated in a letter sent by Michael Gove and Boris Johnson urging Theresa May to take a <span><a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-thinktank-russia-legatum-institute-boris-johnson-michael-gove-christopher-chandler-a8076436.htm">harder stance</a></span> on Brexit.</p> <p><a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X">Singham had multiple undeclared meetings with another Brexit minister, Steve Baker</a>, according to reporting by Buzzfeed. On his website, Baker describes the Legatum Institute as <span><a href="http://www.stevebaker.info/tag/legatum/">“remarkable”</a></span>. A former Legatum trade advisor, Crawford Falconer, now works at Liam Fox’s Department of International Trade, where the New Zealander holds the post of first British Chief Trade Negotiation Advisor.</p> <p>Legatum’s links to Russia has also been the subject of intense media scrutiny. The charity was set up by Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born tycoon who was once a major shareholder in the Russian state energy firm Gazprom. In May, a Conservative MP used parliamentary privilege to name Chandler as “an object of interest” to French intelligence services in 2002, suspected of working for the <span><a href="https://news.sky.com/story/mp-accuses-founder-of-pro-brexit-legatum-institute-of-russia-links-11355202">Russian secret service</a></span>.</p> <p>Former Labour minister Liam Byrne said the “incredibly damning” Charity Commission report “lays bare Legatum’s abuse of charity rules to pursue a Hard Brexit agenda which its founder Mr Chandler tried to deny”.</p> <p>“Here we have a New Zealander with acquired Maltese citizenship and a fortune made in Russia, creating a Mayfair think-tank that abused charity rules to help win an argument for Hard Brexit. <span class="mag-quote-left">We have got to now debate how we stop this ugly new elite soft-power driving Britain over a cliff</span>We have got to now debate how we stop this ugly new elite soft-power driving Britain over a cliff", Byrne said. </p> <p>SNP MP Martin Doherty-Hughes, vice chair of the all-party parliamentary working group on charities and volunteering at Westminster, said: </p> <p>“This is a clear infringement of well know charitable legislative framework and highlights the insidious nature of this so-called think tanks approach to the Brexit. The Charity Commission for England is well within its rights to throw the book at Legatum - I hope they do.”</p> <p>Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project called for the Charity Commission to look into other charities campaigning around Brexit.</p> <p>“Charities are supported by public funds. And the quid pro quo is an obligation to deliver the public good - not the ideological agenda of wealthy private donors. The Legatum case, I am afraid, is endemic of a much bigger problem. </p> <p>“The Charity Commission must now turn to look at whether it is right that taxpayers are obliged to fund the activities of other pamphleteers like the Institute for Economic Affairs, the so-called Taxpayers' Alliance, and the Adam Smith Institute.”</p> <p>The Charity Commission investigation is not the first time that the regulator has raised concerns about Legatum’s charitable status. Back in 2011, when Legatum was registering as a charity, the regulator wrote that it was “not clear” whether Legatum was “capable of becoming a charity”, according to emails released following Freedom of Information requests.</p> <p>In an email response Legatum told the Charity Commission that its research would be “be based on neutral evidence and statistics and any conclusions made will be based on such evidence”. The regulator subsequently granted Legatum charitable status.</p> <p>The Legatum Institute’s Chair of Trustees, Alan McCormick said he was “pleased” that the Charity Commission had concluded its review but “concerned” by the request to remove the Brexit report from the think tank’s website.</p> <p>“Whilst we understand and will fulfil the Commission’s request to remove the Brexit Inflection Report from our website, the Legatum Institute stands by its view that free trade and free enterprise have done more to lift people out of poverty than any other system. This is not a ‘political’ position but a position informed by empirical evidence and the experience of nations over the centuries – it is supported by a huge body of evidence and research.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit">Revealed: Legatum’s “extraordinary” secretive monthly meetings with Brexit minister</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Peter Geoghegan Thu, 31 May 2018 23:00:01 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 118182 at https://www.opendemocracy.net MPs criticise Facebook’s “not fit for purpose” foreign ad ban as Ireland votes on abortion https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/facebook-foreign-ad-ban-Irish-referendum-abortion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>British and Irish parliamentarians call for major changes to unregulated social media campaigning following openDemocracy revelations – but too late for Friday’s historic vote.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/Facebook stock image PA-24636674.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/Facebook stock image PA-24636674.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Facebook’s logo. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>MPs and data rights advocates have raised serious concerns about the effectiveness of Facebook’s ban on foreign advertising ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum, after an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence">openDemocracy investigation</a> found that campaigners outside Ireland could still pay for social media ads targeting Irish accounts with anti-abortion messages.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/08/facebook-to-block-foreign-spending-on-irish-abortion-vote-ads-referendum">Facebook announced</a> a ban on ads relating to Friday’s vote that do not originate from advertisers inside Ireland. The move followed <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/world/europe/ireland-us-abortion-referendum.html">growing fears</a> over foreign influence in the referendum and revelations about numerous online ads posted by groups in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">international and unknown locations</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">But openDemocracy was still able to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence">buys ads targeting Irish accounts</a> with referendum-related propaganda from UK after the ban came in. From London, we set up a fake page called ‘Save Irish Babies’, and were soon prompted by Facebook to ‘boost’ our posts. We successfully paid to target Irish accounts in Dublin, Sligo and Wicklow. No VPN or sophisticated IP-masking software were used and we used a non-Irish address and bank card.</p><p dir="ltr">“This investigation demonstrates that the changes that Facebook has made regarding political and issues based adverts on its platform are not fit for purpose,” said Damian Collins MP, chair of the Westminster committee that is currently holding an inquiry into fake news.</p><p dir="ltr">“Buzzwords like AI and machine learning are all well and good, but it is clear that foreign individuals and organisations are still easily able to post adverts, demonstrating that a lot more needs to be done to protect the integrity of referendums and elections around the world,” Collins told openDemocracy.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“This investigation demonstrates that the changes that Facebook has made are not fit for purpose.”</p><p dir="ltr">James Lawless, a member of Irish Parliament, said openDemocracy’s investigation raised "massive concern” about whether Facebook’s ban on foreign ads had actually prevented campaigners outside Ireland from influencing the vote. The referendum result is expected to be very close.</p><p dir="ltr">“The moves by Facebook (to block ads) came so late in the day that even if the platforms had a genuine intent to tackle the problem the processes were not in place,” Lawless said. “As your investigation has highlighted it was by no means robust, it might not even have worked. That is a massive concern.”</p><p dir="ltr">Lawless has brought forward <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/new-bill-proposes-action-against-fake-social-media-accounts-1.3316254">a bill</a> in the Irish parliament calling for greater transparency in online advertising and social media.</p><p dir="ltr">Such legislation is needed, he said, “to prevent the underhanded tactics we have seen on occasion during the campaigns in recent weeks, the Brexit referendum campaign in the UK, the presidential elections in the US and other less known elections across the globe.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Our laws related to electioneering must be updated to reflect the new spaces in which people campaign,” he added.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Our laws related to electioneering must be updated to reflect the new spaces in which people campaign.”</p><p dir="ltr">Gavin Sheridan, of the Irish transparency campaign Right to Know, echoed this call for government regulation of online political campaigning.</p><p dir="ltr">"We can no longer allow companies to set the terms and self-regulate how ads are seen in the context of elections and referenda,” he told openDemocracy. </p><p dir="ltr">“It is not up to Facebook, Google or any other company to choose what information to release or not release about what is going on. We need new, modern legislation to address how campaigns are run in the modern era. Self-regulation will simply not work.”</p><p dir="ltr">Social media played a significant role in the Irish referendum campaigns, with anti-abortion and pro-choice ads also appearing on YouTube, Instagram, Twittter and other channels. <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1twQxgARiZWLXzO69UXadFdHPiVAlfKpTRsHXYSCUEU4/edit?ts=5a9dce77#gid=0">Transparent Referendum Initiative</a> researchers captured some <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1twQxgARiZWLXzO69UXadFdHPiVAlfKpTRsHXYSCUEU4/edit?ts=5a9dce77#gid=0">1145 Facebook ads</a>, including from groups in foreign and unknown locations.</p><p dir="ltr">Google also announced its own <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/09/google-bans-irish-abortion-referendum-adverts">ban, on all ads related to the referendum</a>. But <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/24/irish-anti-abortion-campaigners-dodge-google-ad-ban">reports suggest</a> that anti-abortion campaigners have been able to sidestep this measure and continue to target Irish voters online by buying space on other platforms including news sites such as the Washington Post and the Guardian. </p><p dir="ltr">Guardian News and Media <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/24/irish-anti-abortion-campaigners-dodge-google-ad-ban">said</a> it was “continuing to investigate with our ad tech providers” how this was happening and a spokesperson for the women’s site Bustle.com said it was “reviewing preventative options.”</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for Facebook Ireland <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence">told openDemocracy</a>: “Since introducing the policy, we have rejected and removed many ads which were in violation of our foreign ads policy. We use both machine learning and human review to identify ads that should no longer be running.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence">Six ways Ireland’s abortion referendum could be hacked this week</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">Foreign and &#039;alt-right&#039; activists target Irish voters on Facebook ahead of abortion referendum</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk Ireland Democracy and government Equality International politics Internet Women's rights and the media Tracking the backlash women's human rights women's health bodily autonomy Peter Geoghegan Fri, 25 May 2018 11:45:35 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 118057 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: Brexit campaigner obtained millions of voters' data https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-brexit-campaigner-obtained-data-for-millions-of <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Vote Leave's former chief technology officer claims he needed this data to check that donations to his company were legal – despite receiving no donations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-29905550.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-29905550.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="358" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Brexit supporter wears an Union Jack suit and a Vote Leave badge during a rally seven months after the referendum day in June 23rd outside Downing Street, Westminster, London – Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A prominent Brexit campaigner obtained personal information about millions of British voters, an investigation by openDemocracy has discovered.</p><p dir="ltr">A data analytics company owned by ex-Vote Leave staffer Thomas Borwick, who is also linked to <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/cambridge-analytica-ireland-abortion-referendum_uk_5ab289f1e4b008c9e5f388e3">Cambridge Analytica</a>, requested and obtained the electoral roll from more than 200 local authorities across Britain. The spreadsheets include names, addresses and other details for every registered voter. In at least one area, Borwick also requested the location of polling stations ahead of the 2015 general election.</p><p dir="ltr">Under UK election law, registered ‘third party’ or ‘non party’ campaigners can legally ask for copies of local electoral rolls. Thomas Borwick’s company, Voter Consultancy Ltd (VCL), made by far the most requests for the electoral roll in 2016 and 2017, according to new data released to openDemocracy following a series of Freedom of Information requests. VCL also made requests for the electoral roll in 2014 and 2015, openDemocracy discovered. </p><p dir="ltr">Voter Consultancy is one of around 30 organisations included in the UK Information Commissioner’s ongoing <a href="https://theferret.scot/data-targeting-anti-brexit-tories-regulator-probe/">investigation</a> into the use of data during the Brexit campaign. Another data analytics company run by Borwick, Kanto, produced an <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/cambridge-analytica-ireland-abortion-referendum_uk_5ab289f1e4b008c9e5f388e3">election app</a> that was used by Cambridge Analytica.</p><p dir="ltr">Kanto is currently working with <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anti-abortion-group-hires-kanto-agency-that-pushed-brexit-hfnklf3kk">anti-abortion activists</a> in Ireland ahead of Friday’s referendum. A separate openDemocracy investigation published today has found that other Irish anti-abortion campaigners<a href="http://www.thejournal.ie/electoral-register-campaign-4028570-May2018/"> acquired the electoral roll</a> in a number of Irish counties.</p><p dir="ltr">Data experts and voting reform campaigners have questioned why British political groups should have access to so much personal information about individual voters, warning that these details could potentially be used alongside data from social media and other sources for targeted online political advertising. </p><p dir="ltr">Gavin Sheridan director of transparency advocacy group Right to Know said: "You would wonder what the purpose is, from a data standpoint. One could presume there would be attempts to match voter roll data – names and addresses of registered voters – to their respective social media profiles. This may assist a campaign in further targeting messages to distinct geographies, physical addresses, and digital personas.”</p><p dir="ltr">Thomas Borwick told openDemocracy that Voter Consultancy obtained the electoral roll for hundreds of councils solely for the purpose of checking the legitimacy of donations. “Voter Consultancy Limited was using the data which it is entitled to and legally required to do which is to ensure that all donations were permissible under electoral law,” he said.<br class="kix-line-break" /> </p><p dir="ltr">However, Borwick refused to confirm whether Voter Consultancy Limited had ever received any donations and data from the Electoral Commission shows no records of the company declaring any donations or spending. &nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘We do not discuss our clients’ </h2><p dir="ltr">Thomas Borwick, 30, has a lengthy political CV. He is the director of several data analytics firms and was chief technology officer for Vote Leave. His mother, Victoria, was Conservative MP for Kensington before losing her seat in the 2017 general election.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, Borwick established Voter Consultancy. The company’s<a href="https://www.vc-l.co.uk/privacy"> website</a> states that it may collect, store and use personal data, which it defined as “information you provide or your council provides that enables you to partake in the campaign and includes your name, address, email address and postcode... This includes where you might “follow”, “like” or otherwise link your social media accounts to a campaign via a third-party website.”</p><p dir="ltr">During the Brexit referendum, Voter Consultancy was registered as a third party. &nbsp;Third party – or ‘non-party campaigners’ – are individuals or organisations that campaign in the run-up to elections, but are not standing as political parties or candidates. Third party campaigners can raise funds and spend money and, like all British political campaigns, they must ensure all donors are on the electoral roll. While political parties have access to the electoral roll, third parties have to request local rolls to check if a donation is permissible, according to the Electoral Commission. </p><p dir="ltr">Between 2015 and 2017, Voter Consultancy asked for electoral data from more than half of the 353 councils in England as well as from local authorities in Scotland and Wales. The councils were spread across the country, from <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1K3agNyWmJau8coKx07zP_03oz9h44Ihf/view?usp=sharing">Aberdeen</a> to <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UXC9-bQIevb2gZZBld9FDdUcYVrzHbJH/view?usp=sharing">Bradford</a>, <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/11reSVBcnyCjLDeHJCaEWPS6VG8XdM5N2/view?usp=sharing">Caerphilly</a> to <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1oQIL53_yFF1H2a1J0Is85vRpcUWfjLrx/view?usp=sharing">Hull</a>, and <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sJwc_YqfU1Y091lgKGm5_9ROEGOgSbqf/view?usp=sharing">Gloucester</a> to <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1uV3ZdjwT8OauH8h7dDeFvS67TCSNyMiu/view?usp=sharing">Windsor</a>. The data would have included information about millions of voters.</p><p dir="ltr">On 15 June 2016, a week before the EU referendum, Voter Consultancy sent requests for the electoral roll to at least 25 English councils. The company asked <a href="https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1aOHXwpCoHK7t-ho9vXPzKxJHtZqAXJWB?usp=sharing">Ealing</a> Council for a “full register of electors and absent voters list following the final verification of the voters’ roll in advance of the EU Referendum.” According to the email, Voter Consultancy required up to date data as “accurate as practically possible.”</p><p dir="ltr">Emails obtained by openDemocracy also show that Voter Consultancy had been requesting electoral information from London councils as early as 2014. In December 2014, <a href="https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/14rt98_qr4C7wts2Vr_JnAXXDQekYWi4K?usp=sharing">Lewisham</a> Council’s electoral services received an email from Voter Consultancy requesting the 2015 electoral register, as well as the overseas voter list, the postal voter list, a street list, and “where available we would also like a list of where you will have polling stations for May 2015”.</p><p dir="ltr">Voter Consultancy also asked for “the data to be presented in the following way: Roll number, Roll number suffix, Electoral Status, First name, Last Name, Middle initial, Address Lines 1-8 Postcode, and UPRN (unique property identifier if available) and person ID’s (if available).” </p><p dir="ltr">Borwick told openDemocracy that Voter Consultancy collected this voter information solely for the purpose of checking the legitimacy of donations. “It is used for the purpose of donations and that is all”, he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Borwick refused to confirm whether Voter Consultancy had actually received any donations. “We do not discuss our clients,” he said. Electoral Commission records show that the organisation has never declared receipt of any donations, nor the spending of any money, during an election or referendum campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Non-party campaigners are only required to ensure donors are on the electoral register during the controlled periods immediately before elections and referendums. Voter Consultancy repeatedly accessed the data outside these periods. </p><p dir="ltr">Voter Consultancy filed dormant accounts in 2015 and 2016, according to records at Companies House. The company’s third party registration lapsed last year. “There are a lot of projects that I have started that haven’t got off the ground,” Borwick told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">While checking donor permissibility is “a legitimate reason” for holding electoral rolls, Alistair Clark, senior lecturer in politics at Newcastle University, said that he “would have expected more of a justification than simply checking donors. You don't need the electoral register for hundreds of local authorities to do that when you are unlikely to receive many donations.”</p><p dir="ltr">Borwick did not respond to queries about why the electoral roll was requested in a CSV file format but said that the data from electoral rolls was stored electronically and destroyed after a year. “We keep all our data entirely separated and segregated,” he said.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Brexit controversy, Cambridge Analytica – and Ireland’s abortion referendum</h2><p dir="ltr">Borwick told openDemocracy that the company sent dozens of requests for electoral data in the weeks leading up to the Brexit vote because he wanted to ensure that the company had a record of new voters who might have registered in advance of the EU referendum. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Voter Consultancy made the headlines last November, when a series of Facebook adverts paid for by the company accused several MPs of “trying to sabotage Brexit” and urged voters to contact them directly to complain. At the time, pro-EU MP Anna Soubry said Borwick, who owns the company, “hasn’t issued death threats, but by calling us anti-democratic, he is stoking and fuelling the fire.” </p><p dir="ltr">Before he began working for Vote Leave, another Borwick company, Kanto, had a service agreement to provide election software <a href="https://twitter.com/fascinatorfun/status/979434173659320321">to SCL Elections</a>,<a href="https://twitter.com/fascinatorfun/status/979434173659320321"> </a>the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, which was shut down earlier this month following revelations about its exploitation of Facebook data during the Trump election and involvement in disputed elections in Kenya, Nigeria and elsewhere. </p><p dir="ltr">According to a 2015 New Scientist<a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22630195-000-could-smart-search-for-votes-swing-the-uk-general-election/"> article</a>, Kanto developed an app to help canvassers record voters’ interests. Borwick told the magazine how “In a perfect system you have the right person knock on the right door, who has something in common with the voter, can engage them in a conversation and make sure they go to the polling station.”</p><p dir="ltr">In October 2017, Borwick established Disruptive Communications Ltd with former Conservative and UKIP MP Douglas Carswell. According to its website, “Disruptive offers companies and brands the data analytics, predictive marketing and micro-targeting techniques we learned from political campaigning. We are good at running precision-targeted campaigns that resonate and grow at a grassroots level.”</p><p dir="ltr">Kanto is <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/data-analytics-staff-not-obliged-to-work-on-abortion-campaign-1.3368783">currently working</a> with the anti-abortion group Save the 8th in Ireland. According to Save The 8th spokesperson John McGuirk, the British analytics firm was hired to build the campaign's website and perform some data analytics.</p><p dir="ltr">A separate openDemocracy <a href="http://www.thejournal.ie/electoral-register-campaign-4028570-May2018/">investigation</a> in tandem with Irish new outlet theJournal.ie found that Irish pro-life groups have been acquiring the electoral register across Ireland. &nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Who’s to know where this data goes?’</h2><p dir="ltr">Campaigners and experts in data protection and election law have queried the need for third parties to hold large amounts of personal data from the electoral roll and called for regulators to ensure that data is held responsibly.</p><p dir="ltr">“Who's to know where this data goes once it's given to these organisations and how it's used? It's not inconceivable that it could be used to create lookalike audiences and target people much more broadly using data models and social media networks like Facebook,” said Kyle Taylor, founder of advocacy group Fair Vote.</p><p dir="ltr">Taylor called for tighter restrictions on access to the electoral roll amid rising concerns about the use of data in political campaigning. </p><p dir="ltr">“We need much bigger structural changes like creating a national electoral roll register and giving greater resource to the Electoral Commission to track and manage distribution and use of the electoral roll as well as proper prosecutorial power to punish those who misuse this data.”</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner's Office said: “Even though an organisation may be entitled to receive a copy of the electoral roll, this does not provide an exemption to data protection laws. They have to make sure they are processing personal data fairly and in line with the law and ensure it is not kept for longer than is necessary.</p><p dir="ltr">An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: "Electoral registration officers are responsible for supplying the register and outlining the conditions under which it can be used, we advise them to make the penalties for improper use clear. Anyone using the data incorrectly should be referred to the ICO or the police, who will determine if an offence has been committed."</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence">Six ways Ireland’s abortion referendum could be hacked this week</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Wed, 23 May 2018 18:00:00 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 118031 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: Legatum’s “extraordinary” secretive monthly meetings with Brexit minister https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A controversial think tank that argued for a hard Brexit and has been linked with Russian intelligence had monthly meetings with a leading Brexit minister.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/greg hands cropped.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/greg hands cropped.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="366" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: International Trade Minister Greg Hands. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>Department for International Trade minister Greg Hands MP arranged monthly meetings with Shanker Singham, then head of the Legatum Institute’s trade commission. The meetings were scheduled for months in advance, an investigation by openDemocracy has found.</p> <p>The Brexit department refused to confirm if any notes were taken of these meetings but our investigation found that no minutes were taken at previous “coffee catch-ups” and other meetings between Legatum and cabinet ministers and officials.</p> <p>A former Labour minister told openDemocracy that these “extraordinary” revelations suggest the existence of “a secret kitchen cabinet charting the course of a hard Brexit”.</p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum</a> emerged as one of the most influential voices in Westminster in the wake of the Brexit vote with senior Leave figures including Matthew Elliott joining the think tank. Legatum, which is a <a href="https://theferret.scot/doubts-raised-legatum-charity-work/">registered charity</a>, raised eyebrows with its “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/18/brexit-british-business-leaders-legatum-eu">unparalleled access</a>” to Brexit minister David Davis and other senior government figures. </p> <p>In just six weeks from the end of October, Legatum had more than half a dozen <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/government-refuse-to-reveal-details-of-meetings-with-man">meetings</a> with Brexit ministers and officials. Around the same time, Shanker Singham, Legatum’s chief trade advisor, was implicated in a letter sent by Michael Gove and Boris Johnson urging Theresa May to take a <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-thinktank-russia-legatum-institute-boris-johnson-michael-gove-christopher-chandler-a8076436.htm">harder stance</a> on Brexit. Singham has since left Legatum. </p> <p>Legatum was set up by Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born tycoon who was once a major shareholder in the Russian state energy firm Gazprom. Earlier this week, a Conservative MP used parliamentary privilege to name Chandler as ‘on object of interest’ to French intelligence services in 2002. Isle of Wight MP Bob Seeley claimed Chandler was suspected of working for the <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/mp-accuses-founder-of-pro-brexit-legatum-institute-of-russia-links-11355202">Russian secret service</a>.</p> <p>The extent of Legatum’s access to the key Brexit trade department was revealed in a series of emails released under Freedom of Information legislation. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/DIT Singham emails Sept-Dec.pdf">The emails detail correspondence between Hands and Singham</a>, with the British minister suggesting last October that the two “meet frequently and monthly is a good objective." </p> <p>A meeting between Hands and Singham on October 31 was moved to the Commons “due to a three line whip” on a vote in the House. When Hands could not attend a meeting slated for November 21 his secretary suggested re-arranging for December 6. Singham wrote that this was “going to be difficult as we have to be in a meeting at 10DS [10 Downing Street] then”. The pair eventually met the following day, at Legatum’s upmarket Mayfair offices. </p> <p>The emails also include discussions about re-arranging dates for the meetings in January and March of this year. </p> <p>The emails suggest that Singham had a good relationship with trade secretary Liam Fox and even acted as an intermediary between the Turkish embassy in London and Department of International Trade. In one email, Singham suggested the Turkish ambassador meet with DIT trade advisor <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/no10s-man-closes-door-on-opinionated-trade-negotiator-crawford-falconer-t0ncnt7kg">Crawford Falconer</a>, who left Legatum last year to join Fox’s department. </p> <p>The Brexit trade department was sent drafts of <a href="https://www.li.com/related?tag=Brexit">Legatum reports</a> that called for UK to leave the customs union and single market. Permanent secretary Antonia Romeo was briefed specially by Legatum on their trade policy recommendations, according to the emails.</p> <p>Legatum’s access to the Brexit trade department stands in contrast to some British businesses who have complained about lack of access to trade ministers. Last year, the North East Chamber of Commerce only got a meeting with ministers after <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/03/25/businesses-want-meeting-liam-fox-hammer-export-strategy/">publicly complaining</a> to local MPs. </p> <p>Responding to openDemocracy’s revelations, former cabinet office minister Liam Byrne said that the “extraordinary emails lay bare a secret kitchen cabinet charting the course for a hard Brexit, off the books, behind closed doors.” </p> <p>He added, “It's frankly alarming given what's now emerged about the Russia links of the Legatum founders that their former staff are organising secretive meetings with profound consequences for Britain's future. We now need ministers to tell us immediately just what was discussed - and what was agreed,” the Labour MP said. </p> <p>As openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/government-refuse-to-reveal-details-of-meetings-with-man">reported</a> in March, the Department for Exiting the European Union refused to reveal details of a series of meetings between DExEU officials and Legatum. But responses to a FOI request sent by openDemocracy show that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/DIT Legatum meetings.pdf">no minutes or notes were taken at a lunch meeting between Hands and Legatum in March 2017</a>. </p> <p>We also learned that no notes, minutes or list of guests were recorded at a dinner that senior Brexit trade official John Alty had with Legatum Institute Commissioners at the Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair. Similarly there are no records from a “coffee catch up” that special advisor Amy Tinley and two other DIT officials had with Singham in September 2017.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the Department of International refused to confirm or deny whether any notes had been taken during Hands’ monthly meetings with Singham, or whether these regular meetings were still taking place. </p> <p>A Department for International Trade spokesperson said: </p> <p>“Trade ministers and officials meet a wide variety of stakeholders from across the UK, including businesses and civil society groups, to seek a broad range of views and support the government’s trade policy development The department also regularly engages think tanks and campaign bodies on all sides of the political spectrum.”</p> <p>The spokesperson added that Crawford Falconer had not met the Turkish ambassador.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Legatum Institute said that the charity was no longer conducting research into Brexit and was not aware of the monthly meeting between Singham and Hands. Singham, who is a cleared trade advisor to the US government, left Legatum in March. He now heads the International Trade and Competition Unit at the think tank the Institute for Economic Affairs. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Fri, 04 May 2018 06:30:00 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 117678 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scotland in Union held talks with Cambridge Analytica https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/scotland-in-union-held-talks-with-cambridge-analytica <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The vice-chair of the campaign against Scottish independence met with the controversial data firm months after revelations about their involvement in Trump’s campaign came out.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytica/SCL's Alexander Nix. Image, Sam Barnes. CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A prominent campaign against Scottish independence, Scotland in Union, had talks with the controversial data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, openDemocracy can reveal.</p><p dir="ltr">William Ramsay, deputy chair of Scotland in Union, boasted to diners at an exclusive fundraising dinner in London last year that the pro-union group had been in talks with Cambridge Analytica. </p><p dir="ltr">Ramsay also said that Cambridge Analytica had told him about the Scottish National Party’s “army of supporters” and “sophisticated database” and joked about hacking SNP data.</p><p dir="ltr">Ramsay made the comments last November during a Scotland in Union fundraising dinner in the Caledonian club in London’s upmarket Belgravia. The £150 a head event was attended by a number of key Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat figures, including former Scottish deputy first minister Jim Wallace, Labour peer George Foulkes, and Jacob Rees Mogg’s wife, Helena. </p><p dir="ltr">During a speech after the dinner, Ramsay said: "The SNP have an army of supporters, and a sophisticated database - I know that from speaking to Cambridge Analytica the other day, who are not working for them, thank goodness.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica has been accused of illegally accessing data of 87m Facebook accounts during president Trump’s election campaign and of engaging in ‘dirty tricks’ in elections around the world. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to an undercover openDemocracy reporter after his speech at the Scotland in Union fundraising dinner, Ramsay confirmed that Scotland in Union was in talks with the group, but was unsure whether they would be able to afford to employ the firm. However, he later said in a phone call that his organisation had decided not to use Cambridge Analytica because of the controversy around the firm’s use of data in both the US and the UK.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time of SiU’s announcement, the firm was best known for running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, for which it has been accused of stirring racism and Islamophobia.</p><p dir="ltr">But Ramsay said that Scotland in Union was interested in data analytics and even joked about hiring “a hacker to get into the SNP’s data.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica has dominated headlines in Scotland in recent weeks. Last week Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted the SNP had met the company in 2016 but decided not to use them. In <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-43822311">a testy debate</a> in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused the SNP leader of looking “pretty shifty” in her party’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica. </p><p dir="ltr">Davidson has lent her support to Scotland in Union, and was one of dozens of MSPs that <a href="https://www.scotlandinunion.co.uk/manifesto_pledges">signed the pro-union groups ‘charter’</a> ahead of the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. </p><p dir="ltr">Shortly after the London dinner, Scotland in Union was plunged into <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pro-union-donors-named-in-data-leak-xbc2sh25h">crisis</a>, as someone <a href="http://www.thenational.scot/news/15811372.Scotland_in_Union_face_questions_as_we_reveal_foreign_billionaire_s_donation/">leaked</a> their whole database to a group of pro-independence news outlets, revealing among other things that they had received £15,000 from a foreign national. </p><p dir="ltr">As a result of the leak, the organisation was investigated by the <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15920822.Unionist_campaign_accused_of_trying_to__intimidate__watchdog/">Electoral Commission</a> for a potential breach of election law – though it claimed the money wasn’t included in the £100,000 they have spent on Scottish elections in recent years.</p><p dir="ltr">It is understood that Scotland in Union’s Will Ramsay was introduced to a representative from Cambridge Analytica at a business mentoring event in London but the pro-union outfit says it rebuffed later requests for a meeting with chief executive Pamela Nash because of concerns about Cambridge Analytica and their work.</p><p dir="ltr">“We have never worked with Cambridge Analytica or any other organisation of its kind,” a spokesperson for Scotland in Union said. </p><p dir="ltr">An SNP spokesperson said that the revelations about Scotland in Union having talks with Cambridge Analytica were “serious”, adding,</p><p dir="ltr">“CA have also spoken about meetings they have had in Scotland. These weren’t with the SNP, so who were they meeting and did anyone hire them? Pro-Brexit campaigners in Scotland need to say whether they were involved, as this comes on top of the murky donations funnelled to the Leave campaign through the DUP by the Scottish Tory-lined Constitutional Research Council.”</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives said: “The Scottish Conservatives have never had any contact with Cambridge Analytica, and don’t work with Scotland in Union.”</p><p dir="ltr">Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said:</p><p dir="ltr">"The hypocrisy here is really quite galling. The same politicians who have spent a week attacking another party for meeting Cambridge Analytica before deciding not to work with them are themselves closely associated with another organisation which has done exactly the same thing. </p><p dir="ltr">“Given the strong links between Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians and Scotland in Union, I am sure they will now make the same demands of 'disclosure' from SiU that they have of others. And I'm sure we'd all appreciate some clarity from Labour and the Conservatives as to their links while they're at it, given that they are the only parties who have failed to clarify whether or not they have ever used Cambridge Analytica's services."</p><p dir="ltr">At a separate press conference in London yesterday, Cambridge Analytica spokesperson Clarence Mitchell said that “the SNP were very keen to work with Cambridge Analytica” but the Brexit referendum got in the way.</p><p dir="ltr">“There were a series of contacts,” Mitchell said. “The SNP were happy to have those discussions.”</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nathan-oxle/cambridge-analytica-hacked-our-social-lives-to-win-elections-but-more-is-at-stake-than-v">Cambridge Analytica hacked our social lives to win elections - but more is at stake than votes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/marcus-gilroy-ware/cambridge-analytica-outrage-is-real-story">Cambridge Analytica: the outrage is the real story</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Tue, 24 Apr 2018 17:30:15 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 117470 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy investigations raise fresh questions about Arron Banks's wealth and the real source of the Brexit campaign's largest donations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33531217.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Arron Banks."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33531217.jpg" alt="Arron Banks." title="Arron Banks." width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Brexit donor Arron Banks likes to boast about his money. Reported estimates of his fortune vary from <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8cddfeea-5c02-11e7-b553-e2df1b0c3220">£100m</a> to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/mp-calls-for-inquiry-into-arron-banks-and-dark-money-in-eu-referendum">£250m</a>. In his book, <a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/arron-banks-brexit-diaries">The Bad Boys of Brexit</a>, Banks says that in 2015 he decided to spend millions of pounds on influencing British politics because “my businesses in this country and overseas, where I own a number of diamond mines, were doing really well.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Banks was the biggest backer of the Brexit campaign, donating more than <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/mp-calls-for-inquiry-into-arron-banks-and-dark-money-in-eu-referendum">£8m</a>. In spring 2016, the one-time Ukip donor gave<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-leave-eu-campaign-arron-banks-jeremy-hosking-five-uk-richest-businessmen-peter-hargreaves-a7699046.html"> £6m in loans</a> to Leave.EU. These loans - a huge sum for a British political campaign - were due to be repaid by the end of 2017. But Banks has not called in these debts, openDemocracy has learned.</p><p dir="ltr">You might imagine that a man who could afford to just write off £6m in loans to Leave.EU must have significant disposable income? Perhaps. After a major openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">investigation</a> last year found serious questions about the extent of Banks’s wealth, the Electoral Commission announced that it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/01/electoral-commission-to-investigate-arron-banks-brexit-donations-eu-referendum">investigating</a> whether, in the run-up to the Brexit vote, Banks and one of his companies broke campaign finance rules requiring transparent sources of funds, and prohibiting donors from outside the UK. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Over the weekend, it emerged that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is also <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/14/leave-eu-arron-banks-new-question-referendum-funded-brexit-cambridge-analytica">investigating</a> Banks and Leave.EU over possible breaches of the Data Protection Act. The ICO is further investigating the relationship between Leave.EU and other companies controlled by Banks. Questions have been raised about Leave.EU's links with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/17/cambridge-analytica-brittany-kaiser-leave-eu-brexit">Cambridge Analytica</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Recent investigations by openDemocracy and our partner journalists at SourceMaterial have raised fresh questions about the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">value of Banks’s business empire</a>, his <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">business associates</a>, and the real source of the Brexit campaign’s largest donations.</p><p dir="ltr">The true value of Banks’s claimed “significant” diamond discoveries in Lesotho is questionable, while his insurance business has been propped up by a £77m cash injection from an unknown source, and people <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">who specialise</a> in using tax havens to protect the secrecy of wealthy clients were taking up seats on the board of one of his companies. </p><p dir="ltr">Public and political demands for clarity over the origins of Banks’s money are mounting.</p><p dir="ltr">Responding to our latest revelations about Banks’s mining and insurance businesses, Ben Bradshaw called on Banks to “be clear about the full facts” of his business interests. </p><p dir="ltr">“These latest revelations about Mr Banks makes it all the more important that he is completely transparent about the sources of his wealth and his funding of the Brexit campaign,” the Labour MP told openDemocracy.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Geologically impossible’</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks has spoken often of his mining interests. He <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=hkVMDQAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT41&amp;lpg=PT41&amp;dq=arron+banks+%E2%80%9Cseveral+old+De+Beers+mines%E2%80%9D&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=Y7aP40qJkp&amp;sig=C46X4M6hIZx-CgTbf7lWuJKL2hs&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjyyfzb9cDaAhWECcAKHXa-APQQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&amp;q=arron%20banks%20%E2%80%9Cseveral%20old%20De%20Beers%20mines%E2%80%9D&amp;f=false">has said</a> that he owns “several old De Beers mines” in southern Africa. In September 2017, he announced a “<a href="https://www.economicvoice.com/brexit-businessman-arron-banks-in-major-lesotho-diamond-find/">significant find</a>” in Lesotho. Newspaper reports at the time suggested that he was poised to use the windfall to <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nigel-farage-poised-to-form-ukip-splinter-party-v5dvxq7sr">bankroll</a> a new political party for his friend Nigel Farage.</p><p dir="ltr">“The area around the latest find has already produced some of the world’s most beautiful and clear stones,” Banks told an <a href="https://www.economicvoice.com/brexit-businessman-arron-banks-in-major-lesotho-diamond-find/">obscure website</a> that, we discovered, happens to be run by a former Ukip candidate. “Judging by our initial exploration I am confident it won’t be long before we find similar large diamonds.” </p><p dir="ltr">So Banks’s Lesotho diamond business is thriving? Well, our investigations cast some doubt on that. </p><p dir="ltr">We found that the area of the “significant find” in Lesotho had produced only a few hundred pounds’ worth of diamonds in the two decades before Banks bought it. Keith Whitelock, a geologist and expert on Lesotho diamonds, told us that it was “geologically impossible” to find commercial quantities of diamonds in the mine.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s not all. When we looked into Banks’s business dealings in Lesotho we found even more surprising things. </p><p dir="ltr">Back in 2015, Banks <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-times-diary-tms-arron-banks-on-the-bnp-bercow-keeps-digging-god-and-mrs-thatcher-john-gets-the-hump-svfkpxv7gm6">boasted</a> to the Times that his political consultancy, Chartwell, was advising the Basotho National Party (BNP) ahead of the then upcoming Lesotho general election. Sure enough, we found photos on social media of a smiling Banks, arms raised aloft, being paraded at a BNP rally in the capital Maseru.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Banks and Pryor waving BNP rally Lesotho_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Banks and Pryor waving BNP rally Lesotho_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Banks and Pryor waving to a BNP stadium rally in Lesotho. Photo: Facebook. Fair use.</span></span></span>But when we dug into the relationship between Chartwell and the BNP, it turned out that it was rather different to most political consultancy gigs. Rather than the party paying Chartwell for its advice, we discovered that Banks was transferring money to the BNP: at least £65,000, a significant sum in one of the poorest and smallest countries in southern Africa, which has <a href="https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD">a GDP per capita</a> of just $1,040 (£730).</p><p dir="ltr">Some of the cash was deposited into a private account linked to BNP leader John Thesele Maseribane rather than the official party account. </p><p dir="ltr">“I was trying to protect the sponsor,” Maseribane told a local newspaper in Lesotho. “If a sponsor requests a very confidential transaction devoid of noises, then that’s the route we’ll take. If the sponsor says please protect me, that’s what we’ll do.” &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The BNP is a useful ally for Banks in Lesotho: while <a href="http://archive.ipu.org/parline/reports/2181_E.htm">the party</a> has just five seats in the country’s parliament, it is part of the current ruling coalition. </p><p dir="ltr">Directors of Banks’s local mining company in Lesotho are also close to business associates of the family of BNP leader Maseribane. </p><p dir="ltr">Banks said our reports about his Lesotho investments and political ties were a “political attack,” without commenting further.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Insurance mogul</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks has never said that diamonds are the main source of his wealth. That’s his <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/revenue-ukip-donor-arron-banks-insurance-business-eldon-2017-10">insurance</a> business. Banks has routinely been described as an “<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/59c74846-a2e0-11e4-ac1c-00144feab7de">insurance tycoon.</a>” He’s boasted as recently as October 2017 that he was in line to make millions of pounds from floating his company Eldon Insurance - which uses the brand Go Skippy - on the London Stock Exchange. (Banks <a href="http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-4958846/Brexit-bad-boy-net-millions-insurance-float.html">told journalists</a> at the time that Eldon used the same artificial intelligence experts that Leave.EU had deployed to target swing voters during the Brexit vote).</p><p dir="ltr">Banks said he would float Eldon in early 2018. So far this has not happened. </p><p dir="ltr">There is nothing particularly unusual about a private company deciding not to list on the stock exchange but, at the same time as Banks was telling journalists he would float Eldon, a businessman closely involved in Banks’ insurance empire was embroiled in a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">money laundering probe</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">On 19 October 2017, Alan Kentish, chief executive officer of STM Group - <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">which specialises in offshore “wealth preservation”</a> - <a href="https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2017/10/30/sipp-provider-chief-arrested-in-gibraltar/">was arrested</a> by the Royal Gibraltar Police under their Proceeds of Crime Act. They are investigating whether he had failed to notify authorities of potential money laundering by one of STM’s clients. Following his arrest, Kentish resigned his directorships of two companies linked to Banks.</p><p dir="ltr">Kentish is a long time business associate of Banks. Both were founder-directors of a company called Southern Rock in 2004. Southern Rock is a key part of Banks’s business empire - it underwrites his insurance policies. A sister company, Rock Services, was one of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/04/ukip-donor-arron-banks-shows-tax-cheque-sent-hmrc">Ukip’s biggest donors</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">But just before Banks started giving money to Ukip, Southern Rock was in real trouble. Financial regulators in the tax haven Gibraltar investigated the firm, and found that it was keeping its reserves far below what was needed. Banks, the regulator said, had to find an extra £60m in financing. As far back as 2011 Southern Rock’s accounts had warned that it was “<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373954159/accounts-2011-technically-insolvent-pdf">technically insolvent</a>.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Gibraltar._El_Peñón.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Gibraltar._El_Peñón.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="231" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gibraltar. Photo: Luis lopez de Ayala.</span></span></span>Southern Rock was saved in 2015 by selling various rights to future income for £77m to another of Banks’s businesses, the tax haven Isle of Man-based company ICS Risk Solutions. ICS was at the time the parent company of Eldon. Around the same time, Banks started making huge donations to Brexit campaigns. </p><p dir="ltr">An investigation <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">by SourceMaterial</a>, publised on openDemocracy, has found that Kentish and other STM-linked directors were key figures in this bailout. </p><p dir="ltr">Corporate records show that on 29 April 2015, the day before this rescue deal, Louise Kentish, the wife of STM’s boss, <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717866/ICS-directors-2015">joined the ICS board</a>. On 24 June 2016, the day after the Brexit referendum, Kentish <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717784/ICS-directors-2016">also joined the board</a>, along with two other new directors - the former and current chairmen of STM. </p><p dir="ltr">Banks has stated that he owns 90% of Eldon and ICS, but Companies House records say that he actually owns less than 75% of the companies, raising the possibility of an unknown investor.</p><p dir="ltr">STM also played a cameo role in another of Banks's Brexit vehicles. Better for the Country Ltd, one of the main firms Banks used to donate to the Brexit campaign, was set up by an STM Group company. </p><p dir="ltr">Better for the Country - and whether it was the true source of this cash - is now part of the Electoral Commission investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">Kentish and his fellow ICS directors hold the key to the origins of the funds that saved Southern Rock. Without that £77m cash injection, it is hard to see how Banks could have funded his political donations while keeping his insurance business afloat. </p><p dir="ltr">Then, just months after the rescue, Banks started making huge donations to political causes, including the more than £8m he funnelled to pro-Brexit campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">Bradshaw told openDemocracy that Banks “should cooperate fully with the investigation being conducted by the Electoral Commission, including being clear about the full facts behind the bailout of Southern Rock.” </p><p dir="ltr">Kentish, like Banks’s Southern Rock, is based in Gibraltar. While Banks was splurging money on the referendum campaign, his insurance business was being propped up by a cash injection from an unknown source, while people who specialise in using tax havens to protect the secrecy of wealthy clients were taking up seats on his board.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://investegate.co.uk/stm-group-plc--stm-/rns/director-declaration/201711141146274660W/">STM has said</a> that the Gibraltar investigation, under which Banks’s associate Kentish was arrested in October 2017, relates to a client company of STM and that it expects Kentish to be exonerated. </p><p dir="ltr">Andrew Wigmore, a spokesman for Banks, said our questions were “baseless” and evidence of a “biased hatchet job”.</p><p dir="ltr">Separately, the ICO&nbsp;is also investigating the relationship between Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance. </p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/shameless-millionaire-behind-brexit-campaign-10696703">Leave.EU Twitter</a> account has often featured the logos of Banks’s insurance businesses. Last year, when asked about the use of Leave.EU’s database to send advertisements for his companies, Banks told the Observer: “Why shouldn’t I? It’s my data.” </p><p dir="ltr">Last week, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/14/leave-eu-arron-banks-new-question-referendum-funded-brexit-cambridge-analytica">Banks said</a> that “Eldon has never given or used any data to Leave.EU. They are separate entities with strong data control rules. And vice versa.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">More questions</h2><p dir="ltr">This isn’t the first time that openDemocracy has raised questions about Banks’s wealth. </p><p dir="ltr">In October 2017, reporters Alastair Sloan and Iain Campbell <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">asked a simple question</a>: how did Banks afford Brexit? They’d spent much of the past summer appraising the publicly available information about his wealth. </p><p dir="ltr">After that story was published, Bradshaw, the Labour MP, called on the government to investigate the possible role played by “dark money” in the EU referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Since then, the Electoral Commission has launched its <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-is-it-electoral-commission-is-investigating-banks-for">investigation</a> into whether all the cash donated by Banks actually came from him, and whether the various campaigns he was involved with broke election spending rules. </p><p dir="ltr">Now the ICO is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/14/leave-eu-arron-banks-new-question-referendum-funded-brexit-cambridge-analytica">investigating</a> Leave.EU and Banks over possible breaches of the Data Protection Act.</p><p dir="ltr">Until we know where Banks’s money has come from, we won’t know who ‘bought’ Brexit. But we’re getting closer. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/following-banks-money-who-provided-payment-in-paraphernalia">Following Arron Banks&#039; money: who delivered the payment in paraphernalia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-is-it-electoral-commission-is-investigating-banks-for">What (precisely) is the Electoral Commission investigating Banks for?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 17 Apr 2018 10:20:16 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 117339 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Good Friday Agreement is 20 years old today - but will it last another 20? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/good-friday-agreement-is-20-years-old-today-but-will-it-last-another-20 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Good Friday Agreement transformed Northern Ireland. But sectarian divides still run deep, worsened by austerity – and now there’s Brexit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/blair ahern.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/blair ahern.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: British and Irish premiers Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair, who signed the Good Friday Agreement.</em></p><p>As former Ulster Unionist party leader David Trimble liked to say, “fine words butter no parsnips”. But, on April 10 1998, Trimble signed up to a text that positively fizzes with elegant phrases and noble sentiments. Reading the Good Friday Agreement’s irenic first page today feels like peering into another political age, one peppered with hopeful talk of “reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust” and “the vindication of the human rights of all”.</p> <p>In many crucial respects, the optimism of the signatories in Belfast that cold April day has been borne out. During the three decades of the Troubles, more than 3,000 people were killed. In the years since the Good Friday Agreement, political violence has become the exception not the norm.</p> <p>And yet the Agreement celebrates its china anniversary in an uncertain place. Power-sharing in Belfast has collapsed, with no prospect of a swift return. Rather than trumpet a peace deal that has become a model for others around the world, senior members of the UK government blithely declare that the 1998 accord has “<a href="https://twitter.com/owenpaterson/status/964531995421368321?lang=en">outlived its use</a>”. A Labour shadow cabinet member recently called the Agreement a “shibboleth” that was being “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/09/barry-gardiner-good-friday-deal-played-up-for-economic-reasons-labour-brexit-hard-border-paramilitary">played up</a>” during Brexit negotiations. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Such views are not universal in Westminster but they reflect a general disengagement in Northern Irish affairs by London – and Dublin – since 1998. With no more videos of exploding bombs on the ten o’clock news there was no need to speak of ‘the province’ again in anything but the most superficial of tones. When, in 2012, riots over the flying (or not) of the Union flag from public buildings crippled Northern Ireland, then prime minister David Cameron did not deign to visit. Nobody was dying.</p> <p>Brexit has returned Northern Ireland to British political debate, albeit frequently in a nakedly instrumental fashion. Brexiters dismiss the Irish border as a mere bagatelle soluble by wit, creativity and a dash of technology. A <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/why-brexit-at-all-costs-really-is-dispiriting-5rnfd6rff">frankly shocking</a> 81 per cent of English Leave voters tell pollsters that destabilishing the Northern Irish peace process is a price worth paying for Brexit. Meanwhile, some remainers cling to Good Friday as a political deus ex machina - “The Agreement will stop Brexit!” – but often show little appreciation for the complexities of Irish politics.</p> <p>Northern Ireland’s difficulties cannot be blamed solely on the vote to leave the European Union. The gulf in trust between nationalism and unionism is arguably as wide as during the Troubles. “At the time the Agreement was signed there was a lot of euphoria. There was a generosity of spirit but within the last five years a lot of that has disappeared. There is a different mind-set in the two communities now,” a former loyalist prisoner told me in Belfast recently.</p> <p>My first ever ‘adult’ job was in what was disparagingly called ‘Northern Ireland’s peace and reconciliation industry’. It was spring 2008 - a few weeks before the tenth anniversary of the Agreement. I was to assist republican and loyalist communities on either side of a sectarian interface in Derry to ‘reimagine’ a future without the ten foot high wall that separated them. The project was funded by the European Union. At the end of six months, I wrote a report. The wall is still there, as are dozens across Northern Ireland.</p> <p>This was not the plan. The Agreement is based on a remarkably open vision of identity. Everyone in Northern Ireland can chose to be British, Irish or both. The Manichean dichotomy of green and orange would, over time, be replaced by a genuine pluralism.</p> <p>But, as some <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/robin-wilson/left-should-think-more-carefully-before-defending-good-friday-agreement">warned back in 1998</a> and since, a peace deal predicated on giving power to ethno-national blocs produced a politics dominated by the most hard-line parties. Trimble’s Ulster Unionists and John Hume’s SDLP – key architects of the agreement – are now marginal figures often written out of a politics dominated by Sinn Fein and the DUP (the only major Northern Irish party to oppose the agreement).</p> <p>Far from drawing a line under the past, post-Agreement Northern Ireland can feel almost engulfed by what happened during the conflict. There is no agreed narrative of the past – an impossibility, surely – but there is no agreement to disagree either. Radio phone in shows and TV debates remain dominated by who did what to whom.</p> <p>“After the peace agreement it should have been about looking after those most affected and moving on. But the politics has been driven by the argument over the morality of the Troubles,” says victims campaigner Paul Gallagher.</p> <p>Gallagher was just twenty-one when loyalist gunmen called at his family home in nationalist West Belfast. He was shot six times. “I was told ‘you’ll never walk again.’ That was possibly harder than being shot”, he said.</p> <p>Gallagher has spent years campaigning for pensions for those permanently disabled during the Troubles. Legislation was passed to grant victims pensions but has been blocked by the DUP and others in a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-25358825">row</a> over the definition of victims that includes a tiny number of former paramilitaries. As a consequence, around 500 victims are still without a pension.</p> <p>The Good Friday Agreement set out rules for how Northern Ireland was to be governed. But the 35-page text was largely silent on how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles. There were fine words about reconciliation, but there was no action.</p> <p>Successive Sinn Fein-DUP administrations deracinated what was intended to be the framework policy for addressing community divisions and sectarianism. The most recent talks broke down in part over so-called legacy issues. Twenty years on from the Agreement, Northern Ireland has no effective plans for how to improve communal relations or increase integrated education. &nbsp;</p> <p>It is not just victims of violence that have struggled to move on. Under the terms of Agreement, thousands of convicted terrorists were released early. Some went on to become elected representatives and even government ministers — most notably former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who died last year. But ex-prisoners still face many barriers: they cannot get public sector jobs, insurance or even travel to many foreign countries</p> <p>“We are not legally entitled to the same rights to goods and services as other citizens,” said Michael Culbert, a former IRA prisoner and co-ordinator of Coiste, an association for former republican prisoners in West Belfast. “We are in the exact same position as we were when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Nothing has changed.”</p> <p>There is little sign of a return to widespread violence in Northern Ireland but some former combatants are frustrated by the reality of life after the Troubles. “Violence is still happening but it’s the violence of poverty,” says former IRA prisoner Robert Henry.</p> <p>Austerity hit Northern Ireland particularly hard. Even though the Agreement’s first decade was marked by seemingly constant political crises – the devolved government only sat for a couple of years all told – there was a significant increase in public spending, and a general air of optimism. Cranes littered the Belfast skyline.</p> <p>Now, Northern Ireland feels as if it is struggling to stand still. With the lowest levels of disposable incomes in the UK, there is no more talk of a ‘peace dividend’. Suicide rates are higher than in England, Scotland or Wales, and more people have killed themselves since the Troubles than died violent deaths during them.</p> <p>The Executive has often been beset by the worst pork barrel politics. It collapsed following a scandal over a botched renewable heating scheme that saw businesses paid hundreds of millions to burn wood pellets.</p> <p>The Agreement scarcely altered Belfast’s sectarian geography. Kerbstones are still painted in national colours. Some of the tattered flags that fly from lampposts look as if they have not been replaced since 1998. The same neighbourhoods that produced many of the combatants in the conflict are among the UK’s most deprived. A few weeks ago, I took a walk through West Belfast, from the republican Falls to the loyalist Shankill. Both sides of the ‘peaceline’ were blighted by urban decay and empty units. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Northern Ireland Executive has said that all interface barriers will be removed in the next five years, a fatuous promise that nobody believes will be realised. “There’s no plan. Nothing,” an architect friend in Belfast told me. His firm has spent 18 months attempting to broker the opening of a single gate at one of Belfast’s less controversial interfaces. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Good Friday Agreement remains a remarkable document worthy of celebration. The British constitution was fundamentally changed – Northern Ireland, effectively, has the right to secede - and without most of Britain realising it. The European Union was a vital underpinning: an entire section of the text, Strand Two, is dedicated to north-south institutions and co-operation only made possible by the absence of a border.</p> <p>But reading the Agreement again today it is hard to feel that the spirit of inclusiveness has survived the intervening decades. The same David Trimble that bravely led Ulster Unionism into accommodation with Irish nationalism now issues wild <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/06/david-trimble-ireland-risks-provoking-paramilitaries-over-post-brexit-border">warnings</a> about loyalist violence if Northern Ireland remains in the customs union after Brexit.</p> <p>Such talk brings back the ‘us’ and ‘them’ that the Agreement’s complex architecture was designed to ameliorate. Brexit begs questions about a united Ireland, too. The next census will confirm that Northern Ireland is a minority-minority society.</p> <p>The Northern Irish peace process would probably never have happened without two factors: international interest and domestic political bravery. The former is strikingly absent, especially from London. And with the DUP propping up the Conservative government and Sinn Fein polling record numbers after collapsing the Assembly, there seems little political impetus for the thing that made the Agreement possible -- compromise.</p> <p><em>Peter Geoghegan will be appearing as part on a </em><em>discussion entitled </em><a href="http://events.glasgowlife.org.uk/event/1/crossways-festival-day-2"><em>On Brexit and The Belfast Agreement </em></a><em>with journalist Lesley Riddoch and poet Robert Crawford in conversation with poet and essayist Chris Agee at City Halls, Glasgow at 8pm on April 10 as part of the Crossways Festival.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Northern Ireland Peter Geoghegan Tue, 10 Apr 2018 07:33:05 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 117146 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The ‘bad boy’ who bankrolled Brexit says he’s struck it lucky in Africa. But do his claims of a ‘significant find’ stand up? And who’s he been doing business with there?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Arron Banks Nigel Farage.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Arron Banks Nigel Farage.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks with Nigel Farage: two of "the bad boys of Brexit". Image, Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images</span></span></span></strong>Arron Banks, the insurance mogul whose millions helped nudge the United Kingdom out of the European Union, appears to have backed another winner—this time in Africa. </p> <p>In September 2017, the former UK Independence Party backer and close friend of its ex-leader Nigel Farage announced a “significant find” at his diamond prospecting concessions in the tiny kingdom of Lesotho.</p> <p>“The area around the latest find has already produced some of the world’s most beautiful and clear stones,” Banks told the<a href="https://www.economicvoice.com/brexit-businessman-arron-banks-in-major-lesotho-diamond-find/"> Economic Voice</a>, a website run by a one-time Ukip candidate. “Judging by our initial exploration I am confident it won’t be too long before we find similar large diamonds.”</p> <p>Banks says his Lesotho find is “spearheading the revival of the kingdom's diamond industry”. But an investigation by SourceMaterial and openDemocracy suggests this claim may be considerably overstated.</p> <p>Our investigation also found blurred lines between Banks’s Lesotho diamond business and his election campaigning. Directors of his mining company are linked to the politicians he is advising, while their party accepted a generous donation from Banks when it was ostensibly paying him for his advice.</p> <p>Last year, openDemocracy’s<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit"> reporting on Banks’s finances</a> prompted Labour MP<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/mary-fitzgerald/brexit-dark-money-expose-triggers-mps-question-on-foreign-interference"> Ben Bradshaw to ask</a> in parliament about “the role of dark money in the EU referendum” and the Electoral Commission is inquiring into the<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit"> ultimate source</a> of the £8.4 million Banks ploughed into his Leave.EU campaign.</p> <p>His diamond claims come amid suggestions by Banks that he will fund a<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jan/21/nigel-farage-and-ex-ukip-donor-in-talks-over-new-political-project"> new Farage-fronted political movement</a>, described as “<a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/14/ukip-suspends-donor-aaron-banks-party/">Ukip 2.0</a>, the Force Awakens”. A return by the pair to frontline British politics, particularly in the wake of recent<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/carolecadwalladr"> allegations about other pro-Brexit groups</a>, is likely to renew focus on the sources of Banks’s wealth.</p> <p>Banks declined to answer our detailed questions about his investments and political ties in Lesotho, calling our reporting a “political attack” without commenting further.</p> <h2><strong>Disputed value</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Mokhotlong-Centre-and-Airport-2009.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Mokhotlong-Centre-and-Airport-2009.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mokhotlong, home of the Letseng diamond mine. By Bjørn Christian Tørrissen - Own work by uploader, http://bjornfree.com/galleries.html, CC BY-SA 3.0.</span></span></span></p><p>Lesotho is home to some of the world’s richest diamond deposits. In January one of the biggest diamonds in history, a<a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lesotho-mine-diamond-20180115-story.html"> 900 carat monster</a> the size of a couple of golf balls, was unearthed at Letseng, the country’s flagship mine. </p> <p>Letseng is high in Lesotho’s mountains, home to diamond-bearing rock known as kimberlite. But there is no kimberlite where Banks is digging. Instead, he is exploring Lesotho’s rivers for alluvial diamonds—gems washed downstream from the big mine sites over millions of years of erosion. He is not the first to try this and historical data suggests his chances may be slim.</p> <p>A document seen by SourceMaterial and openDemocracy shows that between 1960 and 1979, at a site near to where Banks is exploring, just three tiny stones were found after more than 1,000 cubic metres of earth were moved. Their total weight was 0.7 carats, giving them a value of only a few hundred dollars.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Anyone who thinks they can find diamonds there is delusional</p> <p>It is geologically impossible for Banks to find gems in commercial quantities, says Keith Whitelock, a geologist and expert on Lesotho diamonds who developed the Letseng mine.</p> <p>Lesotho’s unique geology means alluvial diamonds are only usually found within two or three kilometres of the diamond-bearing rock, according to Whitelock. But Banks is prospecting near Lesotho’s South African border, around 200 kilometres downstream.</p> <p>“Anyone who thinks they can find diamonds there is delusional,” Whitelock said.</p> <p>Banks has hired his own geologist, who disputes this view.</p> <p>“Whitelock is the authority on diamonds in Lesotho so everything he says is pretty much gospel but what can I tell you, we’ve recovered diamonds there,” said Hunter Kennedy, the expert employed by Banks. “In my mind it’s very logical.”</p> <p>Stones found at Banks’s prospecting sites have been taken to the capital, Maseru, for valuation, Kennedy said. So far, there are not enough diamonds to determine whether the venture can make money and it is not yet clear if the find is a freak occurrence or the start of something bigger.</p> <p>”He may find the odd one just by chance,” said Whitelock. “But he’s going to have to mine thousands of tonnes to find one diamond and unless you can count your diamonds per tonne or per hundred tonnes you’ve got nothing.”</p> <p>“I think they should keep digging,” Kennedy said.</p> <h2><strong>‘Protect the sponsor’</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Banks and Pryor waving BNP rally Lesotho.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Banks and Pryor waving BNP rally Lesotho.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Banks and Pryor waving to a BNP stadium rally in Lesotho. Image, Facebook, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p>There is more to Banks’s Lesotho interests than precious stones. He has emerged as a funder of the Basotho National Party: the BNP is a key ally of the prime minister of Lesotho and part of the ruling coalition.&nbsp; </p><p>In 2015, Banks’s election strategy firm Chartwell Political said it was advising the centre-right BNP on its election strategy. Tweets and Facebook posts from the time show Banks “burning the midnight oil” on the campaign trail and posing for selfies with his business partner James Pryor at a stadium rally.</p> <p>openDemocracy and SourceMaterial’s investigation has found that Banks’s relationship with the BNP went deeper that just attending campaign events. Directors of his local mining company are close business associates of the family of John Thesele Maseribane, the leader of the BNP.</p> <p>At the same time, Banks was bankrolling the BNP, donating more around £65,000 to its election fund, according to emails leaked to Public Eye, a local news outlet in Lesotho. Banks’ associates had specifically asked for the money to be deposited in an account not linked to the party, Maseribane told Public Eye.</p> <p>“I was trying to protect the sponsor,” Maseribane was quoted as saying. “If a sponsor requests a very confidential transaction devoid of noises, then that’s the route we’ll take. If the sponsor says please protect me, that’s what we’ll do.” Maseribane did not respond to telephone calls and messages left with his office.</p> <p>Pryor, who runs Chartwell and helped establish Banks’s African operations, confirmed that Banks was a donor. The emails were leaked “selectively”, probably by “someone with an agenda to discredit either the BNP or John Maseribane”, Pryor said.</p> <p>In reply to later questions, Pryor said he was no longer working with Banks in Africa. He had helped Banks get set up in Lesotho and their business relationship had come to a “natural end”, though they were still in touch, he said.</p> <h2><strong>Bad Boys in Africa</strong></h2> <p>Pryor, a key associate of Banks and one of five original “Bad Boys of Brexit” described in Banks’ book about the campaign, has a long history of mixing mining and politics in Africa. </p> <p>He has been advising political parties there since the late 1980s, first working for South Africa’s last apartheid leader, F.W. de Klerk, and later for the Inkatha Freedom Party. A 2012 photo shows him posing with an AK-47 on the campaign trail in Libya, while other trips have taken him to Zimbabwe, Ghana and Nigeria.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/James Pryor with AK 47 in Libya.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/James Pryor with AK 47 in Libya.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>James Pryor with an AK47 in Libya. Image, Facebook, fair use.</span></span></span> In the UK, he worked on campaigns for Margaret Thatcher and the Referendum party (a precursor to the Brexit movement), as well as running Ukip’s 2010 general election campaign. Later he struck a partnership with Matthew Gunther-Bushell, who represented Bell Pottinger in 2009 as the PR firm attempted to protect the Bahrain government’s image during a crackdown on human rights. </p> <p>When Banks launched his self-proclaimed “guerrilla war” for Brexit, it was Pryor who connected Leave.EU with Goddard Gunster, the American PR firm that embedded workers at Leave.EU campaign headquarters to help with polling and social media strategy. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Electoral Commission is investigating potential “impermissible donations” from Goddard Gunster to Banks’s campaign, according to a March 19<a href="https://gallery.mailchimp.com/8d465e9ef1a8030aadf046685/files/eb2a22b5-c397-4741-8869-0794243c8244/Letter_to_The_EC_19th_March_2018.pdf?mc_cid=291bbbe6b0&amp;mc_eid=f16214f05d"> letter</a> to the commission from Elizabeth Bilney, Leave.EU’s chief executive.</p> <p>Nicknamed the Happy Hippy, Pryor also played the unlikely role of grown-up when the Bad Boys’ high jinks got out of hand.</p> <p>“You can’t fuck this guy off. He’s a real big shot in the United States,” Pryor wrote to Banks when the hungover tycoon almost stood up a Goddard Gunster founder who had flown to meet him in the Bahamas, according to Banks’s book. “I’ve worked my arse off to persuade this guy to see you. For Christ’s sake, sober up!”</p> <p>And it was Pryor who developed the business model that Banks is now deploying in Lesotho, beginning two decades earlier in Sierra Leone.</p> <h2><strong>High-level contact</strong></h2> <p>Pryor arrived in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, in 2000, just as a decade of civil war was drawing to a close. With him was Nick Karras, a notorious Greek-American gem merchant who had few qualms about blood diamonds because “the blood washes off”.</p> <p>A brash, hard-drinking extrovert, Karras hired a private jet to fly him and Pryor into the war zone. At home in America he drove Bentleys and Aston Martins<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/374941718/Putnam-vs-Karras"> until $100,000 in unpaid rental bills landed him in court</a>. Later he lost a $5 million legal action when a business partner sued him for fraud.</p> <p>Karras and Pryor struck up a relationship with the spokesman of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party, Septimus Kaikai: Pryor became the party’s political adviser, while Karras used their high-level contact to advance his diamond deals.</p> <p>It seems to have paid off. The Sierra Leone government granted Karras its first export licence after the wartime diamond embargo and appointed both him and Pryor to honorary diplomatic posts in the Bahamas, where they later sailed a luxury yacht together.&nbsp; </p><p>“I have made many friends and business acquaintances over the last 30 years of working in Africa,” Pryor said. “I have worked on numerous election campaigns and also on numerous business deals. All have been above board, legit and open.” Karras did not respond to emailed questions.</p> <h2><strong>Ostriches of the Cosa Nostra</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Struthio_camelus_-_Etosha_2014_(3).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Struthio_camelus_-_Etosha_2014_(3).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>By Yathin S Krishnappa - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.</span></span></span></p> <p>Based on that success, Karras and Pryor exported the model to South Africa, where they forged similar ties with Inkatha Freedom Party MP Eric Lucas, now a director of two of Banks’s mining companies.</p> <p>Lucas is a controversial figure. His associates include a businessman who co-owned an ostrich farm linked to the Italian mafia, and documents seen by SourceMaterial suggest he was in line to receive shares in Gold Fields, a mining company at the<a href="https://mg.co.za/article/2013-09-20-00-gold-fields-graft-shaft-went-deeper"> centre of a corruption scandal</a>, while lobbying on its behalf. No charges were brought.</p> <p>It wasn’t the first time Lucas had appeared to misuse his position for financial gain. In 2005, he and another Inkatha MP floated Table Mountain Minerals on London’s junior stock exchange, telling shareholders they would identify mining opportunities and then serve as partners in the investments.&nbsp; </p><p>With Lucas sitting on parliament’s mining committee, it was a glaring conflict of interest. When his party’s leader found out about his business activities it nearly ended the MP’s career, according to two senior Inkatha insiders who spoke to SourceMaterial.</p> <p>The deal was shut down—though corporate documents show that Pryor was also set for a payout from Table Mountain. And it did not stop Lucas serving as local partner to his friends: Pryor, Karras and Banks.&nbsp; </p><p>“The relationship with Eric Lucas was legal and ethical,” Pryor said. “I've known Eric for over 25 years. He was, and still is, a very good family friend.” Lucas declined to answer questions.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>Mixing business with politics</strong></h2> <p>Banks’s long relationship with Pryor, who has a history of crossing business with politics, and the secretive donation to the BNP in Lesotho will raise new questions about the crossover between Banks’s business and political interests—though it seems that Lesotho diamonds were not among the sources of his Brexit cash.</p> <p>Banks has strongly denied that any dark money was involved in the Leave campaign—especially in light of speculation of Russian influence on Brexit.&nbsp; </p><p>Just two months after the referendum, Pryor—Brexit ‘bad boy’ and former campaign manager to Nigel Farage’s Ukip—was in Moscow, a Red Square selfie from his Facebook feed shows.</p> <p>He told SourceMaterial and openDemocracy he was there on “private business—none of your business”. As Pryor’s business is politics, his answer may not rule out a political purpose to the trip.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/we-cant-ignore-patels-background-in-britains-lobbying-industry">We can&#039;t ignore Priti Patel&#039;s background in lobbying</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Marcus Leroux Billy Ntaote Peter Geoghegan Leigh Baldwin Thu, 29 Mar 2018 13:15:27 +0000 Leigh Baldwin, Marcus Leroux, Peter Geoghegan and Billy Ntaote 116958 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Crimes' committed by Brexit campaigners? One extraordinary coincidence offers a new clue https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-evidence-that-leave-groups-co-ordinated-to-get-round-re <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Did Vote Leave abuse the rules to 'spend as much as necessary' to win? We've uncovered a small but revealing error which calls into question all their denials.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Chris Wylie.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Chris Wylie.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="248" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytics whistleblower Chris Wylie gives evidence in the House of Commons today. Image, House of Commons.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In April 2016, Aggregate IQ was a tiny digital services firm working out of a cramped office in British Columbia, Canada. The company had no web presence and no obvious track record. Yet over the final two months of the Brexit campaign, several pro-Leave campaign groups (Vote Leave, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Veterans for Britain</a> – and bizarrely, a 23 year old fashion student named&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Darren Grimes</a>) would spend over £3.5m with Aggregate IQ.</p><p dir="ltr">Why?</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking in parliament today, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump">Chris Wylie</a> said that all these Leave groups were working together – and breaking the law. “This must be co-ordination,” he told MPs. Under British law, there are strict campaign spending limits, and groups that ‘work together’ have to pool their spending under one combined cap.</p><p dir="ltr">But the various Leave groups all declared their spending with AIQ separately, and claim that the firm treated them as separate clients, without co-ordinating their campaigns. This allowed them to throw dramatically more cash than would othewise have been possible into winning the knife-edge Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">We now know that&nbsp;AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica – the firm behind Trump’s campaign which has been accused of a massive Facebook data breach – <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/24/brexit-whistleblower-shahmir-sanni-interview-vote-leave-cambridge-analytica">are closely intertwined</a>. AggregateIQ developed the very election software that Cambridge Analytica sold for millions of dollars during the <a href="https://gizmodo.com/aggregateiq-created-cambridge-analyticas-election-softw-1824026565">2016 US presidential election</a>. This raises the possibility that AIQ – the company that Vote Leave spent some 40% of their cash with – was using data illegally harvested from Facebook.</p><p>Jeff Silvester chief operating officer at AIQ said: “AggregateIQ works in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where we operate. AggregateIQ has never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica.”</p><h2>A strange new coincidence</h2><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has been reporting evidence that Leave groups were working together for months. Last year <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">we revealed</a> exactly how Vote Leave took advantage of loopholes in electoral law to funnel £625,000 to the 23-year old fashion student Darren Grimes. Grimes ran a campaign called BeLeave. Another whistleblower, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/24/brexit-whistleblower-shahmir-sanni-interview-vote-leave-cambridge-analytica">Shahmir Sanni</a>, has now revealed that BeLeave was run from Vote Leave’s offices, and had no control over the sudden, massive £625,000 donation, all of which was spent directly with AggregateIQ.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, openDemocracy has uncovered more information that casts serious doubt on Vote Leave’s contention that Grimes’s BeLeave was a separate campaign. Vote Leave and Darren Grimes made the <em>very same mistake</em> on their returns to the Electoral Commission. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Vote Leave and Darren Grimes made the very same mistake on their returns to the Electoral Commission&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In all, the various Leave campaigns sent 14 invoices to AggregateIQ for digital campaigning and marketing work worth over £3.5m. The DUP and Veterans for Britain correctly listed AIQ’s address in their returns. But Vote Leave and Darren Grimes both listed the exact same incorrect address. And Darren Grimes’s signature doesn’t even appear on the invoice.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking today, SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said that this was further evidence of Leave groups working together: “It can only be explained by one person filling out multiple forms for different groups, and making the same mistake...The case that senior Leave members have to answer becomes more serious by the day.”</p><p>Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie has called for a parliamentary inquiry into whether the Leave campaigns broke UK electoral law by co-ordinating. Not least because the idea of joint working was actually proposed in public by leading Brexiteer Steve Baker (now Theresa May’s Minister for Brexit) in February 2016, four months before the referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave, Baker wrote in an email <a href="https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/foreign-affairs/news/68508/pat-mcfaddens-letters-police-and-electoral-commission-vote-leave">leaked to the Times</a> before the vote, could “create separate legal entities each of which could spend £700k. Vote Leave will be able to spend as much money as is necessary to win the referendum,” <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">Baker</a>, a former chair of a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">controversial hard-Brexit lobby group</a>, told colleagues. A Vote Leave spokesman later had to clarify that “Steve would never encourage anyone to break the law”.</p><p>The Electoral Commission is currently investigating Vote Leave’s donation to the 23-year old Darren Grimes – for the third time. This week <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/26/vote-leave-members-may-have-committed-criminal-offences">lawyers concluded</a> that in their formal opinion there was a ‘prima facie’ case that Vote Leave had colluded with BeLeave in order to get round spending limits. </p><p>Our reporting has raised a number of specific questions about whether the various Leave campaigns were working together.</p><h2><span>1. How did four different campaigns find AggregateIQ?</span></h2><p>There is a string of evidence connecting AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica. But there’s still a very simple question about the firm which we’ve been asking for a year, and still haven’t had a decent answer to.</p><p dir="ltr">How did the various Leave campaigns find a company that, as the Observer's Carole Cadwalladr <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy">has shown</a>, didn’t even show up on online searches before the European referendum? And yet four separate campaigns – Vote Leave, the DUP, BeLeave, and Veterans for Britain all somehow <em>did</em> find them.</p><p dir="ltr">In the case of BeLeave, Darren Grimes, founder of the campaign, claims he heard about the group from friends who worked in the Vote Leave office, who he’d got to know over the course of the campaign. But as we have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">previously reported</a>, most of the payment to AIQ came directly from the Vote Leave bank account.</p><p>In the case of the DUP, we first rang their campaign manager Jeffrey Donaldson to ask him how he found out about the company almost a year ago. He said he <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">couldn’t remember</a>, and would have to look through his paperwork. We rang him again today. He told us it was an “internal referral” from one of the DUP’s staff that led him to AIQ, but wouldn’t tell us which staff member, nor how they heard about the firm.</p><p dir="ltr">So why would all these campaigns decide to spend money with the same firm? Ex-Vote Leave supremo Dominic Cummings has said that AIQ were the best in the business. (A testimony from Cummings on AIQ’s homepage was removed last week.)</p><p dir="ltr">But whistleblower Chris Wylie has suggested another reason. The ex-Cambridge Analytica data specialist told openDemocracy that rather than working on discreet digital campaigns for each of the Leave groups, AIQ effectively pooled all the campaigns together, using resources from smaller campaigns to fund the larger campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">“AIQ was running all campaigns together. It wasn’t siloed,” says Wylie, who points to BeLeave to illustrate his point. In June 2016, when BeLeave received £625,000 from Vote Leave, the tiny youth campaign had just over 1,000 emails. If AIQ was only targeting BeLeave supporters it would have almost no data to work with. “They would have been spending £625 for each person they targeted. That would be crazy,” said Wylie.</p><h2>2. Why did Vote Leave, Grassroots Out, Leave.EU, the DUP and UKIP all used the same obscure&nbsp;branding agency in Ely?</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_0633.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_0633.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Soopa Doopa's headquarters, Ely. Image, Adam Ramsay, CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p>Before the European referendum, Soopa Doopa branding in Ely had a turnover of £750,000 and two staff. In 2015-16, this boomed to £2.1 million on the back of a string of contracts with supposedly different campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">We spoke on the phone with the company’s founder, and asked how all these different campaigns had ended up finding his company. He replied that they were all really the same campaign, weren’t they?</p><p dir="ltr">So we went to Ely, to track the firm down. After touring the various addresses listed on Companies House and with the Electoral Commission, we found ourselves outside its official HQ: an empty house at the end of a suburban terrace row.</p><p dir="ltr">The company’s founder, Jake Scott-Paul, is a vocal Brexit supporter. Among his 142 Twitter followers (when we wrote about them last year) were the biggest Brexit donor Arron Banks and his spokesperson Andy Wigmore.</p><p dir="ltr">You can read about our Soopa Doopa adventures <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">here</a>.</p><h2>3. Where does Veterans for Britain fit in?</h2><p>Since October 2016, Veterans for Britain, who funnelled £100,000 to AggregateIQ, has been led by Lee Rotherham, the former&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">head of special projects</a>&nbsp;for Vote Leave. In the Vote Leave submission to the Electoral Commission for designated status as the lead campaigner, they described Rotherham’s job with them as “coordinating with specialist researchers working in parallel for allied think tanks and groups… and maintaining formal and informal outreach across the wider Eurosceptic movement.”</p><p dir="ltr">As we wrote in the autumn, “What the Electoral Commission will have to decide is whether Lee Rotherham “co-ordinating with… allied groups” counted as “working together” as defined by Commission rules, and if it included such co-ordination with Veterans for Britain, of which Rotherham would soon become executive director.”</p><p dir="ltr">Rotherham told openDemocracy that during his time working for Vote Leave, he “was in touch with a range of Eurosceptic campaigners, of which VfB [Veterans for Britain] was one group” – which in itself breaks no rules. He denies all allegations of co-ordinating campaign activities and expenditure, denies referring AggregateIQ to the group, and denies being behind the £100,000 donation.</p><p>Veterans for Britain also received a £50,000 donation from Arron Banks’ firm ‘Better for the Country Ltd’, which donated to a range of different Leave campaigns.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Patel PA-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Patel PA-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="327" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Former cabinet minister & PR agent Priti Patel at Veterans for Britain's final campaign event event before the referendum. Image, Hannah McKay, PA images, all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The famous Vote Leave bus is visible in photos (see above) from Veterans for Britain’s final event, with WWII veterans at an airfield in Berkshire, which was attended by Brexit-supporting Tory minister Priti Patel. If this was a joint event, we could expect it to count under working together rules. Yet Vote Leave doesn’t seem to have declared it.</p><p>You can read our profile of Veterans for Britain <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">here</a>.</p><h2>4. The DUP got a £435,000 secret donation, then spent it with the same groups as everyone else. Another coincidence?</h2><p>The Democratic Unionist Party had two members of the Vote Leave board, Nigel Dodds and Christopher Montgomery – respectively the DUP’s leader in Westminster, and the DUP’s Westminster chief of staff. The latter was later credited in <a href="http://brexitcentral.com/50-groups-behind-article-50-part-i/">a pro-Brexit website</a> with “bringing together Conservative and DUP MPs” to deliver Brexit.</p><p>As openDemocracy revealed last year, the party received a controversial donation of £435,000 from an anonymous source (via a front group in Glasgow with <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">lots</a> of surprising <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">links</a>) and, like Veterans for Britain and BeLeave, they spent the money in the final fortnight of the campaign. While the biggest single chunk of it was £282,000 for adverts in the Metro, the rest of their major items of spending went to Soopa Doopa and AggregateIQ: the same obscure firms used by Vote Leave and other Leave campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP went on to <a href="http://www.thedetail.tv/articles/brexit-technology-firm-used-by-dup-in-northern-ireland-elections">use AggregateIQ again</a> in a subsequent Northern Irish Assembly election, employing the firm to run campaigns for candidates running in the main university constituencies.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave in Northern Ireland was co-ordinated by Lee Reynolds, who was on secondment from his job as campaign manager from the DUP, though Reynolds has previously denied to openDemocracy that there was co-ordination between the two campaigns.</p><h2>How to spend 'as much a necessary'</h2><p dir="ltr">In the UK, donations to political campaigns are capped to limit the influence of the hyper-rich on British democracy. But it increasingly looks like the European referendum was used to pioneer a range of techniques for circumventing these rules. </p><p dir="ltr">Whatever our various opinions about Brexit, we should ask ourselves a simple question: do we want to live in a country where anyone can, to quote Steve Baker, “spend as much money as is necessary to win”?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">Revealed: The Tory MPs using taxpayers’ cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Who are Veterans for Britain?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £425,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 27 Mar 2018 19:33:17 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 116907 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is there a link between Cambridge Analytica and the DUP’s secret Brexit donors? https://www.opendemocracy.net/David-Burnside-Putin-Russia-DUP-Brexit-Donaldson-Vincent-Tchenguiz <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today we reveal the close relationship between a key Cambridge Analytica backer and a senior pro-Brexit Northern Irish PR man – who has Russian friends in high places</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytica/SCL's Alexander Nix. Image, Sam Barnes. CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica stands accused of using <a href="https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/vbxmm9/cambridge-analytica-ceo-caught-on-tape-saying-companys-facebook-scam-helped-elect-trump">‘unattributable and untrackable’</a> advertising to get Donald Trump elected, of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election">illegally accessing</a> 50 million Facebook profiles, and of much more besides. The controversial data company also has friends in high places, from <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/21/tory-donors-among-investors-in-cambridge-analytica-parent-firm-scl-group">Tory party donors </a>to the British military.</p><p dir="ltr">But openDemocracy has now discovered that Cambridge Analytica’s establishment links run even deeper, leading to one of the most senior figures in Northern Irish unionism – a PR man who has represented everyone from British Airways to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">Russian oligarchs</a> – and raising questions once more about who gave the DUP a secretive <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">£435,000 donation</a> for its Brexit campaign. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Former Ulster Unionist MP <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">David Burnside </a>has been one of the most influential PR figures in Britain for decades, a <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5487121/May-accused-denial-Kremlin.html">Tory dono</a>r with links to senior figures in <a href="https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2014-07-01/russian-front-camerons-encounter-with-putin-friend-at-tory-party">Vladimir Putin’s inner circle</a>. We have now learned that Burnside also works for Vincent Tchenguiz, a property tycoon who was the largest shareholder in Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, for almost a decade.</p><p dir="ltr">A number of links between the various pro-Brexit campaigns and Cambridge Analytica have already been established. Taken together, Vote Leave, the DUP and other Brexit campaigners spent millions with <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">a data analytics company</a> that has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/14/robert-mercer-cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-referendum-brexit-campaigns">linked</a> to Cambridge Analytica and is currently <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42055523">under investigation</a> by the UK Information Commissioner. The Leave campaign’s biggest donor, Arron Banks, also says Cambridge Analytica <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-facebook-cambridge-analytica-brexit/brexit-campaigner-banks-says-cambridge-analytica-pitched-but-we-did-not-hire-them-idUKKBN1GX19P">pitched to work</a> with him but that he never sealed the deal. These are coincidences that key Leave figures have so far <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">failed to adequately explain</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">There is no allegation that the Ulster Unionist David Burnside, via his close relationship with Cambridge Analytica-backer Vincent Tchenguiz, has done anything wrong, or that he is connected to the DUP’s controversial £435,000 Brexit donation. But his close relationship with Tchenguiz who, for almost a decade, was the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/211152/trump-data-analytics-russian-access">biggest shareholder</a>&nbsp;in the company that created Cambridge Analytica, raises fresh, troubling questions about how the Leave campaign was run, who paid for it – and in particular how far the web of influence of Cambridge Analytica and the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/16/15657512/cambridge-analytica-christopher-wylie-facebook-trump-russia">Trump-backing billionaire Robert Mercer</a>&nbsp;may stretch.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy today, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “We have seen this week the extent to which Cambridge Analytica sought to distort and manipulate the democratic process around the world."</p><p dir="ltr">"Now we learn that a major shareholder in the company that created Cambridge Analytica is directly connected to a senior pro-Brexit Northern Irish unionist – who is himself linked to some of Vladimir Putin’s associates. This poses serious questions about who is funding our politics and how."</p><p dir="ltr">“The Tories are being propped up by a party which refuses to say where it got a £435,000 Brexit donation. If the DUP won't come clean about these questions, the government should make them."</p><h2>‘Connections to serious money’</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-1891961_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-1891961_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David Burnside. Image, Paul Faith/PA Archive/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Few in Northern Ireland are as well connected as David Burnside. A former MP, ex-head of press at British Airways, and a constant presence at Tory party conferences, the pugnacious, cigar-chomping PR man “has long moved in very different circles to most of Northern Irish political figures,” according to a well-placed unionist source in Northern Ireland. “Burnside is also the only person here with connections to serious money.”</p><p dir="ltr">Politically, Burnside is firmly on the right of Northern Irish politics. He cut his teeth as a young man in the early 1970s as a press officer for the hardline Vanguard Unionist Progressive party, but by the early 2000s Burnside was an Ulster Unionist MP. In 2003, however, he and another UUP MP led a rebellion against the party’s support of the Good Friday Agreement. That other MP was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">Jeffrey Donaldson</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Burnside remained in the Ulster Unionist Party fold, but has often called for his party to merge with its more hardline cousins, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Jeffrey Donaldson, on the other hand, joined the DUP in 2004, and went on to manage its pro-Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">As<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts"> openDemocracy revealed</a> early last year, the DUP’s Brexit campaign was funded by a controversial £435,000 donation – the largest in Northern Irish history. Almost all the money was spent on campaigning outside Northern Ireland. The <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/calls-for-dup-to-reveal-source-of-500-000-brexit-donation-1.3115919%3Fmode%3Damp">DUP has said</a> the money came from an organisation that “wants to see the union kept”. But we do not know who gave the DUP the money because of Northern Ireland’s unique <a href="https://www.thedetail.tv/articles/changes-to-northern-ireland-political-donation-secrecy-laws-face-further-delays">donor secrecy laws</a>. (The Conservative government recently <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little">voted to maintain the veil of secrecy</a> around the DUP’s Brexit donor.)</p><p dir="ltr">Burnside is a Brexit-supporting unionist and a <a href="http://www.newcenturymedia.co.uk/team/">founder member</a> of both <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Friends_of_the_Union">Friends of the Union</a> and the Constitutional Reform Group, the pro-union think-tank set up by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Lord Salisbury</a> after Scotland’s independence referendum, whose <a href="http://www.constitutionreformgroup.co.uk/patrons/">patrons</a> include a roster of high-profile Brexit backers. Burnside remains close to many in the DUP, particularly in Westminster. This week, he declined to answer openDemocracy’s questions about the secret £435,000 Brexit donation, but a spokesperson said “you should ask the DUP”. (The DUP has consistently <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">refused to reveal</a> who is behind the secretive <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">front group</a> that channelled them the Brexit cash.) </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-5307004_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-5307004_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeffrey Donaldson (centre left) and David Burnside (centre right) in Orange Lodge sashes laying a wreath on the tomb of William of Orange, outside Westminster Abbey in 2007. Image, Fiona Hanson/PA.</span></span></span><br />Burnside left the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2009, saying he wanted to concentrate on his business interests. His PR firm <a href="http://www.newcenturymedia.co.uk/">New Century Media </a>has offices near St James’s Park in London and has represented some of London’s richest individuals – including multimillionaire property tycoon&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/vincent-tchenguiz">Vincent Tchenguiz</a>. That’s where Cambridge Analytica comes in.</p><h2>Vincent Tchenguiz and Cambridge Analytica</h2><p dir="ltr">For almost a decade the largest shareholder in SCL Group – the company that created Cambridge Analytica – was Vincent Tchenguiz. (As in ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2007/mar/25/theobserver.observerbusiness4">Ghengis</a>’: his father, the head of the Iranian mint, changed the family name to the Persian for the Mongol warlord.) Tchenguiz, a whip smart bon vivant born in Iran of Jewish-Iraqi descent, has been described <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs9v4Nb_TT8">by Bloomberg</a> as ‘the UK’s biggest private owner of residential real estate’. (He <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/17/citiscape-croydon-2m-recladding-bill-prompted-grenfell-disaster">made headlines in January</a> for reportedly forcing leaseholders to pay to replace Grenfell Tower-style cladding in a building owned by one of his companies.)</p><p dir="ltr">In 2005 Tchenguiz bought a 24% stake in SCL Group via his company Consensus Business Group. SCL boasts on its <a href="https://sclgroup.cc/home">website</a> of offering “data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organizations” in over 60 countries and has links to the heart of the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/scl-group-s-founders-were-connected-to-royalty-the-rich-and-powerful-3pxhfvhlh">Tory party, British royal family and the British militar</a>y. SCL’s shareholders and officers have given <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/21/tory-donors-among-investors-in-cambridge-analytica-parent-firm-scl-group">more than £700,000</a> to the Conservatives since 2015. It was also the company that, around 2013, created Cambridge Analytica to work on US political campaigns.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-7250720.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-7250720.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="664" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vincent Tchenguiz and Lisa Tchenguiz. Image, Ian West/PA Archive/PA Images.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Over the last week, Cambridge Analytica has been accused of illegally buying data on<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election"> 50 million Facebook profiles</a>, with its executives filmed claiming to use <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/cambridge-analytica-revealed-trumps-election-consultants-filmed-saying-they-use-bribes-and-sex-workers-to-entrap-politicians-investigation">honey traps and bribery</a> to smear political opponents. Its CEO Alexander Nix has now been suspended. Throughout the period of these activities, SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica shared directors and they are often seen as essentially the <a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/">same outfit</a>. As Carole Cadwalladr <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump">wrote last weekend</a> in the Observer, “For all intents and purposes, SCL/Cambridge are one and the same”.</p><p dir="ltr">Tchenguiz sold his stake in SCL in the summer of 2015 for just £147,746. (A tiny sum for a man who <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365701/Vincent-gave-20-girls-2-000-spend-St-Tropez-The-amazingly-decadent-lifestyle-property-baron-centre-Britains-biggest-fraud-probe.html">paid women £2,000</a> to spend a night dancing on his yacht.) Just weeks later, Cambridge Analytica began working on the Ted Cruz presidential campaign. Over the next year, Cambridge Analytica would earn more than $13m, working first for Cruz and then for Donald Trump. Much of this money came from Robert Mercer, the billionaire Trump and Breitbart-backing financier who was so impressed with Cambridge Analytica that he <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-bannon-cambridge-analytica-facebook-20180320-story.html">reportedly become a major shareholder</a> in late 2013.</p><p dir="ltr">SCL’s current chairman, Julian Wheatland, is a former employee of Tchenguiz and widely seen as his<a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/scl-group-s-founders-were-connected-to-royalty-the-rich-and-powerful-3pxhfvhlh"> place man</a>. Wheatland is also chairman of Oxford West and Abingdon Conservative Association. US writer Ann Marlowe has <a href="http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/211152/trump-data-analytics-russian-access">suggested</a> that Tchenguiz sold his shares to avoid awkward questions about his background and links. Tchenguiz denies this. “Consensus Business Group lost interest,” a spokesperson for Tchenguiz said when asked why he sold his SCL shares in 2015. “It was never a strategic investment for the company.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">The dour Northern Irishman, the flamboyant playboy – and the Ukrainian oligarch</h2><p>Ulster Unionist David Burnside has represented Vincent Tchenguiz as his <a href="https://www.leaseholdknowledge.com/tag/david-burnside">PR adviser</a> for more than ten years. The two men are very different – the dour Northern Irishman and the flamboyant playboy – but have a strong working relationship, according to a former employee of Burnside’s PR firm New Century Media.</p><p>Burnside was representing Tchenguiz when, in 2011, the Serious Fraud Office <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/mar/09/tchenguiz-brothers-arrested-kaupthing-collapse-iceland">arrested</a> the property tycoon as part of a dawn raid prompted by the collapse of the Icelandic bank Kaupthing. The High Court later ruled the arrest illegal, and, in 2014, the SFO <a href="https://www.sfo.gov.uk/2014/07/25/serious-fraud-office-vincent-tchenguiz-announce-settlement-civil-claims/">paid Tchenguiz £6 million</a> in compensation and costs.</p><p dir="ltr">In addition to their ten year working relationship, there are a number of other connections between Tchenguiz and Burnside. Both Tchenguiz and his brother, Robert, are Tory donors, as are many of SCL/Cambridge Analytica’s senior figures. Burnside is also close to the Conservatives: his PR firm New Century Media has donated £142,850 <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=new%20century%20media&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">to the Tories since 2009</a>. “All the company’s political donations are a matter of public record,” a spokesperson for New Century Media told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">Both men have another, intriguing link in common: Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch wanted by the FBI. Tchenguiz has invested in a business whose largest shareholder <a href="http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/211152/trump-data-analytics-russian-access">was Firtash</a>. After leaving Westminster, Burnside, alongside the PR firm Bell Pottinger, advised the Firtash Foundation, which is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">overseen by the Ukrainian oligarch</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Dmytro_Firtash.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Dmytro_Firtash.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dmytro Firtash. Image, Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Firtash is currently facing extradition to the United States on <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/354809991/U-S-v-Dmitro-Firtash-and-Andras-Knopp">charges</a> of international money laundering and other offences. Last year, federal prosecutors in Chicago <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/doj-ex-manafort-associate-firtash-top-tier-comrade-russian-mobsters-n786806">described the Ukrainian</a> as an ‘upper-echelon [associate] of Russian organized crime’, and he has long been associated with financing pro-Putin candidates in Ukraine. He also has close ties to former Trump campaign manager <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/21/austria-grants-us-request-to-extradite-ukrainian-mogul-dmytro-firtash">Paul Manafort</a>. (Manafort, who was running the Trump campaign when Cambridge Analytica began working for it, was recently indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller on <a href="https://www.vox.com/2018/2/22/17042254/robert-mueller-paul-manafort-indictment">dozens of counts, i</a>ncluding fraud, as part of the ongoing US investigation into the Trump-Russia connections.)</p><p dir="ltr">Firtash has also <a href="http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/cambridge-becomes-a-home-for-ukrainian-studies">donated millions</a> to Cambridge University. Speaking in 2014, Firtash said the allegations against him were “<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-firtash/ukraines-firtash-says-his-detention-political-raps-u-s-idUSBREA2H1JU20140318">purely political</a>”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The Russian connections</h2><p>In Northern Ireland, David Burnside maintains a low profile, rarely making the headlines except for the occasional call for <a href="https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/time-to-resurrect-the-uuuc-to-bring-unionist-unity-says-uup-veteran-1-7861808">‘unionist unity’ </a>and a merger between the UUP and the DUP. But Burnside’s work has sometimes come to the attention of the UK press. It was reported that New Century Media earned at least £100,000 working for the <a href="https://bahrainwatch.org/blog/2014/07/05/bahrain-lobbyist-paid-for-table-with-uk-defence-secretary-at-tory-party-fundraiser-as-defence-ties-deepen/">Bahrain International Circuit</a>. However it is Burnside’s ties to Russia that have attracted most attention.</p><p>In 2012, Burnside invited <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">Sergey Nalobin</a>, the senior diplomat from the Russian embassy in London, to a Tory fundraising dinner. Nalobin, whose father was a top-ranking officer in the FSB, the successor agency to the Soviet KGB, was forced out of the UK by the Home Office in 2015. Burnside has also provided “reputation management" and "personal introductions to individuals within ... politics” as part of a £900,000 a year contract with <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/11786123/Russia-claims-four-diplomats-forced-out-of-London.html">Vladimir Makhlai</a>, a Russian billionaire who fled to Britain in 2005. When Makhlai stopped paying, Burnside got tough and sued in the high court, winning <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">a £500,000 ruling</a>.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 17.08.28.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 17.08.28.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="278" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David Cameron speaking at the party to Vasily Shestakov (second right) and Russian billionaire Andrei Kliamko (right), translated by Alex Nekrassov of New Century Media (centre) - image, the Guardian.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">a photo emerged</a> of then prime minister David Cameron with influential Russian MP <a href="http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2055962,00.html">Vasily Shestakov,</a> co-author with the Russian president of <em>Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin</em>. The photograph was taken the previous June at a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">secretive Conservative fundraising party</a> at Old Billingsgate Market. The Russians were guests of David Burnside, sitting at a table that cost up to £12,000 (the translator in the picture is one of Burnside’s staff).</p><p dir="ltr">Also pictured is <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/andrei-klyamko/">Andrei Kliamko</a>, a <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=3&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj1jO6hv4LaAhVmC8AKHct4BEUQFggwMAI&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thebureauinvestigates.com%2Fstories%2F2014-07-01%2Frussian-front-camerons-encounter-with-putin-friend-at-tory-party&amp;usg=AOvVaw3tk_zHhHO-LBfsrUw55Rpb">Russian judo executive</a> with business interests in Crimea, who according to Forbes Russia is worth $1.9bn, and Alex Nekrassov, <a href="http://www.newcenturymedia.co.uk/members/alex-nekrassov/">director of accounts at Burnside’s New Century Media</a>. (Nekrassov’s father, Alexander, is a prominent pro-Kremlin commentator who recently linked the story of the poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal to a Westminster paedophile scandal). </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">When the paedophile scandal surrounding <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Oxfam?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Oxfam</a> and other big charities got out of control and Westminster MPs were about to be dragged into it I warned to expect a huge provocation against <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Russia?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Russia</a> , to distract attention. It came in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Salsbury?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Salsbury</a></p>— Alexander Nekrassov (@StirringTrouble) <a href="https://twitter.com/StirringTrouble/status/976046486743146496?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 20, 2018</a></blockquote> <p> In May 2013, a month before David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and others were photographed wooing Tory donors at that fundraiser in Old Billingsgate Market, Burnside’s longtime colleague at New Century Media, Tim Lewin, founded the <a href="https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2014-07-01/russian-front-camerons-encounter-with-putin-friend-at-tory-party">Positive Russia Foundation</a>. In an interview, Shestakov <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=CTiCCgAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PA105&amp;lpg=PA105&amp;dq=tim+lewin+putin+dinner+2013&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=DniEJ_s3Jm&amp;sig=0h4X5fIjulna4qlKPMsFWpy2X5s&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiah7zcsL7XAhVKDcAKHSDGAqwQ6AEIODAF#v=onepage&amp;q=tim%20lewin%20putin%20dinner%202013&amp;f=false">described the Positive Russia Foundation</a>&nbsp;as "a new variant of RT, but under the patronage of English aristocrats" set up to <a href="http://en.itar-tass.com/opinions/1512">combat 'anti-Russian propaganda' in the British media</a>. The company <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">was dissolved</a> in 2016, as were two other companies that Lewin was a director of: <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/08532530">Crimean National Tourism Office Limited</a> and the <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/07768105">Crimean Economic Development Agency Limited</a>. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing, and New Century Media says it does not comment on client relationships.</p><p dir="ltr">Concerns about the role of Russia in British politics are growing. The Sunday Times recently reported that Russian oligarchs and their associates had <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/tories-break-theresa-mays-vow-to-ban-russian-donors-glp2bl7cm">donated more than £820,000</a> to the Conservatives since Theresa May became prime minister. Last year Ben Bradshaw MP, citing reporting by openDemocracy, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/mp-calls-for-inquiry-into-arron-banks-and-dark-money-in-eu-referendum">told parliament</a> that there was “widespread concern over foreign and particularly Russian interference in western democracies” and called for an inquiry into the role of dark money in the Brexit referendum. Key players in the Leave campaign such as Nigel Farage and Arron Banks have <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/brexit-donor-blasts-watchdog-as-swamp-creature-grw69n7sv">laughed off suggestions of any ties to Russia</a>.</p><h2>Who gets to shape our democracy?</h2><p>Carole Cadwalladr’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/21/cambridge-analytica-offered-politicians-hacked-emails-witnesses-say">revelations</a> in the Observer about Cambridge Analytica and its networks have dominated headlines across the world, taking&nbsp;<a href="https://qz.com/1233816/facebook-has-lost-50-billion-in-market-value-over-the-past-two-days/">$50 billion off Facebook’s share price</a> in just two days. They have raised a string of vital questions for modern democracy – who gets to shape our elections, and who has access to key information about our lives.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has been investigating a number of these issues for over a year. Our reporting on the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">DUP’s secret Brexit donation</a>; on the finances of the Leave campaign’s biggest backer <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">Arron Banks</a>; and on the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">many groups</a> seeking to shape Brexit have been picked up by media across the world. They have prompted questions in parliament; triggered a law change ending donor secrecy in Northern Ireland; and have contributed to three separate <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">ongoing investigations</a> by the UK Electoral Commission and one by the Charity Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">For a long time, we have been asking ourselves: how does Cambridge Analytica/SCL connect to the secret £435,000 funnelled to the DUP’s Brexit campaign? We now have one answer: that the man who controlled the biggest shareholding in SCL for more than a decade is represented by a key ally of the DUP.</p><p dir="ltr">There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by either David Burnside or Vincent Tchenguiz. But their link offers new insights into the secretive networks of money and influence that are seeking to shape western democracies. And it once again underlines the urgent need for full transparency on how the Leave campaigns in Britain operated to pull off one of the biggest political shocks in a generation.</p><p dir="ltr">Unaware that he was speaking on camera to an <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/exposed-undercover-secrets-of-donald-trump-data-firm-cambridge-analytica">undercover Channel 4 investigator</a>, Mark Turnbull, the Managing Director of Cambridge Analytica, said:</p><p>“Sometimes you can use proxy organisations, who are already there, you feed them. They are [often] civil society organisations - like charities, or activist organisations – and you feed them, they do the work...” The best thing about this type of messaging, he said, is that it has “no branding, so it’s unattributable. Untrackable.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Fri, 23 Mar 2018 11:07:34 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 116834 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK government refuses to reveal details of meetings with the man who’s shaping Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/government-refuse-to-reveal-details-of-meetings-with-man <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Freedom of Information requests show that the 'disaster capitalist' Legatum Institute has unequalled access to Brexit ministers. But the government refuses to reveal what they're talking about.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 15.03.28.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 15.03.28.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="358" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>11 Charles Place, the offices of the Legatum Foundation. Image, Google Street View.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">There were big changes in the hard Brexit world recently with the announcement that Shanker Singham, a key advisor to senior Brexiteers in the British government, has left their favourite think tank, <a href="https://www.li.com/media/press-releases/shanker-singham-to-leave-the-legatum-institute-for-new-role-at-the-iea">the Legatum Institute</a>. But while Singham has departed the controversial organisation, the public is still being kept in the dark about his influence on the UK government.</p><p dir="ltr">As head of Legatum’s trade commission, Singham, an advocate of a hard Brexit, has had “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/18/brexit-british-business-leaders-legatum-eu">unparalleled access</a>” to Brexit minister David Davis, including at least five meetings with officials from Davis’s Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) in the year to August 2017. </p><p dir="ltr">But DExEU has refused openDemocracy’s repeated Freedom of Information requests for minutes, agendas and other information about these high-level meetings. Politicians from across the party spectrum have called for government to release all the details of dealings with think tanks and pro-Brexit lobbyists.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham’s access to Brexiteers in the UK government had raised eyebrows. In November, the <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5117547/Putins-link-Boris-Goves-Brexit-coup-revealed.html">Mail on Sunday</a> <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-thinktank-russia-legatum-institute-boris-johnson-michael-gove-christopher-chandler-a8076436.html">named the former US trade advisor</a> as being involved in a letter sent by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove urging Theresa May to take a tougher stance on Brexit. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The Legatum Foundation Limited is the charitable wing of the Legatum Group, a Dubai-based investment company run by Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born billionaire who made a fortune in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and recently obtained EU citizenship via Malta, <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/110f57ee-02a3-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5">according to the FT</a>. The think tank’s charitable status came under scrutiny in the wake of media reports of Singham’s access to government ministers. </p><p dir="ltr">In November 2017, Ben Bradshaw MP <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-11-16/debates/52D4EFE3-1F69-4859-9809-30812FA31FC3/IntelligenceAndSecurityCommitteeOfParliament">urged</a> the Intelligence and Security Committee to “look at the Legatum Institute, its relationship with the government, and the background of its founder and main funder, Christopher Chandler.” </p><p dir="ltr">But despite the growing public interest in Legatum, DExEU has refused to release materials relating of Singham’s meetings with Brexit ministers and officials on the grounds of formulation and development of government policy. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Exiting the EU Tom Brake MP said: “The public are entitled to know why one small institute has such privileged access to government and what they talk about in their surprisingly frequent meetings. The public have a right to know on what evidence the Government are basing their damaging Brexit decisions.”</p><p dir="ltr">He added: “I have no problem in letting the world know what I discuss with the Legatum Institute when I meet them!”</p><p dir="ltr">Singham has joined another pro-Brexit right wing think tank, the Institute for Economic Affairs, as part of a <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/09151308-23b9-11e8-ae48-60d3531b7d11">major exodus from Legatum</a>. He has called for the UK to leave the customs union and the single market and recently suggested that the heavily controlled border between the US and Canada is a good model <a href="https://twitter.com/JP_Biz/status/971400090152787968">for the Irish border</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy is not the only organisation asking for details of meetings between DExEU and the Legatum Institute. In response to a &nbsp;<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2018-01-05/121195/">written parliamentary question</a> from SNP MP Deidre Brock asking for minutes and papers of the meetings between the Permanent Secretary at DExEU and Shanker Singham, Brexit minister Steve Baker said “We do not publish the minutes of officials’ meetings.” openDemocracy has submitted requests for internal reviews over DExEU’s Freedom of Information responses, and is currently waiting for the outcome from the Department. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Ms Brock expressed concern about the “apparent easy access that one individual had to ministers and senior civil servants”, and said that “the public should have the right to know what is being discussed in these meetings that Mr Singham is having at the heart of the UK Government.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The government’s actions in negotiating Brexit have been secretive, to say the least, and each piece of information has had to be dragged out of them only to be seen to be not very well informed. The least we should be able to expect should be some indication of who is influencing policy, who they represent and what their interests are. We should know what is being done on our behalf,” she told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">It has been reported that Singham was the only think tank representative at a July 2017 event held at Chevening, the country house used by the foreign secretary, where DExEU officials and business leaders were in attendance. A further request made by openDemocracy has <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-adBGW8KWTqdW1iQTROTnk1RWR3b1U2c0JjeWdublVrYVVZ/view?usp=sharing">obtained the attendee lists</a> for the July Chevening event, as well as a second Chevening event that took place in September 2017, where Singham was also in attendance alongside Davis and Steve Baker. </p><p dir="ltr">Another <a href="https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/424859/response/1048831/attach/3/DEX000542%20response.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1">FOI response</a> has also indicated that Davis had attended an external conference in September 2016, “where representatives of the Legatum Institute were invited,” and that Davis spoke at a conference organised by Legatum in January 2017. The <a href="https://www.li.com/events/the-rt.-hon.-david-davis-mp-on-the-brexit-negotiations">event</a> was invite only.</p><p dir="ltr">Since the Brexit vote, Legatum hired several Eurosceptics, including Matthew Elliott, a co-founder of Vote Leave. Elliott is still with Legatum but Singham will head up a new Trade Unit at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), where he will be joined by lawyer Victoria Hewson; economist Catherine McBride; and senior research analyst Dr Radomir Tylecote. The Institute for Economic Affairs, one of the secretive think tanks in Britain, does not publish <a href="http://whofundsyou.org/org/institute-of-economic-affairs">details of its funders</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">There have been at least five meetings between DExEU officials and Singham. In response to our FOI requests, DExEU disclosed that Lord Bridges, who served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State until June 2017, met with Singham on ​8th September 2016, for 45 minutes, at ​9 Downing Street, London. Bridges then met with Singham on 6th February 2017 at the House of Lords, where the meeting lasted for 30 minutes. On 4th April 2017, Lord Bridges, along with Alex Ellis, Director General at DExEU, met Singham at 9 Downing Street, which is where DExEU is based. </p><p dir="ltr">On 17th July, DExEU Permanent Secretary Philip Rycroft met with Singham for an hour at 70 Whitehall. The following month, Rycroft met with Singham on 8th August 2017, for 45 minutes at 70 Whitehall, London, the address of the Cabinet Office. However DExEU refused to release any further information about what was discussed.</p><p dir="ltr">Since the EU referendum, Mr Singham has had multiple meetings and dinners with ministers and government officials across Whitehall, including a <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/604666/FCO_Ministerial_Meetings_Transparency_Return_Q3_October_-_December_2016_MASTER.csv/preview">meeting</a> with Boris Johnson in December 2016; a <a href="https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:8CiEVKmPheUJ:https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/651944/defra_mins_trans_Apr_Jun_2017.xlsx+&amp;cd=1&amp;hl=en&amp;ct=clnk&amp;gl=uk">meeting</a> with Michael Gove in June 2017, with the purpose of the meeting being “EU Exit advice”; and a “<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/668159/DIT_Special_Adviser_Transparency_July_to_September_2017_csv_-_Meetings.csv/preview">coffee catch up</a>” with a Department for International Trade special adviser in September 2017. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In turning down openDemocracy’s FOI requests for materials associated with the meetings, DExEU said while “there is a strong interest in policy making associated with our exit from the EU being of the highest quality… it is important that policy officials can exchange views and openly discuss and understand potential implications, especially on live issues.” It added that “releasing the information may result in policy officials refraining from considering all available views and options.” &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Responding to questions raised by this article, a DExEU spokesperson said: “DExEU is committed to transparency and accountability. The department publishes details of Ministers' and senior officials' meetings on a quarterly basis.”</p><p dir="ltr">A Legatum Institute spokesperson said: “Decisions over how to respond to FOI requests are for the government to decide. As an independent educational charity, all our work is published, as part of our efforts to inform the public about how we can create the pathways from poverty to prosperity. We are not aware of any record kept by Shanker of his meetings with officials in DExEU.”</p><p dir="ltr"><em>openDemocracy has contacted Mr Singham via the IEA for comment and will add any response received. &nbsp;&nbsp; </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/guy-shrubsole/meet-think-tank-shaping-future-of-britains-food-and-countryside">Meet the think tank shaping the future of Britain&#039;s food and countryside</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brendan-montague/how-legatum-has-written-hymn-sheet-for-dirty-brexit">How Legatum has written the hymn sheet for a Dirty Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy Mon, 19 Mar 2018 15:11:48 +0000 Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghegan 116747 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK diplomats met, talked Brexit with Trump aide linked to Russia probe https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-diplomats-met-talked-brexit-with-trump-aide-linked-to <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>More details emerge of controversial meetings between UK foreign office officials and George Papadopoulos.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Papodopolus.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Papodopolus.jpg" alt="" title="" width="450" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>George Papadopoulos, LinkedIn, fair use.</span></span></span></p> <p>A Trump aide who has admitted lying to the FBI about his Russian links met a Foreign Office minister and discussed Brexit with a team leader of the British Embassy in Washington, just weeks before the US presidential election.</p> <p>George Papadopoulos had three separate meetings with British Foreign Office officials in September 2016, we can reveal for the first time. Last October it emerged that Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his Russian connections.</p> <p>On September 10 2016, Papadopoulos discussed Brexit, UK/US relations, US foreign policy and the presidential campaign during an official meeting with an unnamed team leader of the British Embassy in Washington. &nbsp;</p> <p>Less than a week later, on September 16, the head of the UK’s then North America Department met the Trump aide at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London. The meeting covered “a number of current affairs issues” but no minutes were taken or briefing prepared, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) response from the FCO. </p> <p>The FCO disclosure reveals further details of the extent of Papadopoulos’s contacts with senior UK officials. Also, in September 2016, Papadopoulos met with Tobias Ellwood, at the time a Foreign Office Minister, while Ellwood was in New York for the UN General Assembly. The FCO describes the meeting as “informal” and says it has no further information. Ellwood has since been appointed as a Minister for Defence. </p> <p>Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Brexit, called for the UK government to publish a complete account of the meetings. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“With investigations into Mr Papadopoulos' contacts with Russia of global interest, anything less than total transparency about UK meetings with him will leave a nagging doubt about their purpose and impact,” said Brake.</p> <p>The meetings further undermine Trump campaign claims that Papadopoulos was a just junior aide and also raise questions about the extent of contact between Papadopoulos and British officials in the run-up to the presidential elections. Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo described Papadopoulos as little more than a “coffee boy”. </p> <p>SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said: “This is a strange development on a number of levels: why were senior FCO officials meeting with someone whom the current American President has described as a ‘low level volunteer’; and how on earth these senior FCO officials thought it appropriate to discuss Brexit with someone who’s primary role seems to have been facilitating contact between Trump Tower and the Kremlin?” </p> <p>Papadopoulos is at the centre of the on-going Mueller investigations into links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. The Greek American was living in London when he joined the Trump campaign in March 2016, <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-papadopoulos-russian-contacts-timeline/" target="_blank">with a brief to focus on US-Russia relations.</a> </p> <p>Papadopoulos boasted that he was connected to people who could organise a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. After it emerged in October 2017 that Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about the extent of his Russian connections, Trump described Papadopoulos as a “young, low level volunteer” - despite Papadopoulos featuring in a photo taken at a national security meeting and tweeted by Trump in March 2016. That same month Trump <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/30/george-papadopoulos-timeline-trump-campaign-adviser-russia-links" target="_blank">described Papadopoulos</a> as an “excellent guy” when unveiling him as a foreign policy advisor. </p> <p>Papadopoulos had strong links to Britain. In May 2016, before Wikileaks released hacked Democratic National Convention emails, Papadopoulos <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/30/us/politics/how-fbi-russia-investigation-began-george-papadopoulos.html" target="_blank">told Alexander Downer</a>, Australia's top diplomat to the UK, about Russia's “dirt” on Clinton while they were drinking at The Kensington Wine Rooms in London, according to the New York Times. Australian officials informed their American counterparts of Papadopoulos' conversation with Downer. The FBI <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/fbi-opened-russia-probe-after-papadopoulos-told-australian-diplomat-of-clinton-dirt-2017-12?r=US&amp;IR=T" target="_blank">began scrutinising</a> the Trump campaign's Russia ties after that. </p> <p>In London, Papadopoulos also met Joseph Mifsud, a ‘professor’ at Stirling University. Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos to a ‘female Russian national’. Papadopoulos wrongly called her ‘Putin’s niece’ in emails sent back to the campaign. Papadopoulos kept the Trump campaign up to date on his links with the Kremlin. “The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr Trump to meet him when he is ready,” Papadopoulos told his superiors in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/04/brexit-ministers-spy-russia-uk-brexit" target="_blank">late April 2016</a>. </p> <p>Alok Sharma MP, a Foreign Office minister until June 2017, met with Mifsud “a couple of times”, the Observer <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/04/boris-johnson-brexit-russia-trump" target="_blank">revealed</a> last year. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “As you would expect, in the run up to an election we seek to build links with figures in both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns. This type of outreach is normal diplomatic business”. &nbsp;</p> <p>In November 2017, a <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2017-11-15/HL3277" target="_blank">parliamentary written question</a> was submitted to find out more details about Papadopoulos’ visit to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 2016. In response, a FCO minister confirmed that the “then Head of the FCO’s North American Department held a brief introductory meeting with George Papadopoulos, one of the Trump campaign’s named foreign policy advisors, in September 2016. A written record of this meeting was not produced.” No further details of the meeting were provided.</p> <p>Tom Brake MP said: “With yet more evidence of informal and unminuted talks between Mr Papadopoulos and the UK government emerging, it is time the UK government published a complete account of these meetings and their content.”</p> <p>SNP Martin Docherty-Hughes MP also commented on the lack of minutes: “Given that one of the primary duties of our diplomatic service is to listen to the views of those they meet and communicate this to the Her Majesty’s Government, that no notes were taken is especially surprising: it now remains to be seen whether there was similar contact with other figures in the Trump team.” </p> <p>Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said: “Recently, we’ve noticed Whitehall becoming less inclined to be open about the work of government. From obstructive responses to information requests to delayed publication of spending decisions, departments aren’t living-up to the Government’s commitment to transparency. Given the historic significance of the decisions being made on our behalf, it’s more important than ever that government is open and accountable to its citizens.”</p> <p>“Only last December, the prime minister argued that ‘the sunlight of transparency…helps ensure the highest standards of public life amongst senior government representatives’. Yet without complete and accurate records of their meetings, the public are left in the dark about what’s being done in their name”.</p> <p> <em>See the full freedom of information disclosure <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-adBGW8KWTqbENMWWtUOEI1UThfNnZqczh6ckJ4V0xSZ2hv/view">here</a>. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy Thu, 15 Feb 2018 13:18:23 +0000 Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghegan 116151 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It's arguably the most influential think tank in the country, pushing a free market pro-Brexit vision and enjoying privileged access to media and ministers. But what does their background in 'disaster capitalism' tell us about Legatum's Brexit agenda?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/26010795334_987b5d5731_b (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/26010795334_987b5d5731_b (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>In June 2016, the Legatum Institute was just another free market think tank floating around the edges of Westminster. If you'd heard of it at all, it was probably for its regular 'prosperity indexes', which provided fodder for countless news stories about the <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/legatum-institute-2016-prosperity-index-the-worlds-best-countries-2016-11">happiest, richest</a><a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/legatum-institute-2016-prosperity-index-the-worlds-best-countries-2016-11"> </a>and even the <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2027537/new-list-reveals-uks-20-most-prosperous-towns-but-where-does-your-home-rank/">'most hard-up'</a> places to live.</p> <p>Fast forward less than eighteen months. Legatum is now the Brexite<strong>e</strong>rs' think tank of choice. </p> <p>Funded by a Dubai-based, New Zealand-born billionaire as well as around 40 mostly anonymous donors and based in plush Mayfair offices, Legatum has the ear of large sections of the British media and government. </p> <p>But former Legatum employees and others we spoke to called into question the think tank’s experience and raised concerns about the burgeoning influence of the group. <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-11-16/debates/52D4EFE3-1F69-4859-9809-30812FA31FC3/IntelligenceAndSecurityCommitteeOfParliament#contribution-53C33046-0F36-4AA5-B08A-28D325979686">Labour MP Ben Bradshaw recently called for the UK government</a> "to look at the Legatum Institute, its relationship with the Government, and the background of its founder and main funder, Christopher Chandler."</p> <p>Legatum’s belief that Britain should remove all tariffs has almost become an article of faith for leading eurosceptics, including Brexit minister Steve Baker. In a recent Times op-ed Shanker Singham, chairman of Legatum's self-styled 'special trade commission', wrote that Britain could "maximise the benefits and minimise the disruptions of Brexit" by <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/brexit-can-boost-our-trade-and-the-rest-of-the-worlds-tgvjkxpkd">leaving the EU as soon as possible and removing tariffs</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Irish border is a mere bagatelle, easily resolved by drones and ‘creative thinking’. </p> <p>Legatum has garnered lots of publicity of late. This weekend the Mail on Sunday reported that <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5117547/Putins-link-Boris-Goves-Brexit-coup-revealed.html">Singham was involved in drawing up Boris and Johnson and Michael Gove’s recent Brexit ultimatum</a>. Meanwhile, Edward Lucas in the Times <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hypocrisy-of-the-liberal-elite-is-breathtaking-5xzr6hj70">accused anyone who wanted to know more about Legatum and their influence</a> on the UK government of ‘breathtaking’ hypocrisy. </p> <p>But what do trade experts think of Legatum? The FT said that Legatum’s most recent report, the Brexit Inflection Point, report was “<a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/ukpolitics/comments/7b6bmb/beware_the_global_britain_con_trick/">riddled with misconceptions large and small</a>.” On Twitter, George Peretz, a lawyer specialising in trade law, described the proposal that the UK could become a "world leader" by immediate radical deregulation of tariffs as "<a href="https://twitter.com/GeorgePeretzQC/status/927121555762671616">not a realistic way forward</a>".<a href="https://twitter.com/GeorgePeretzQC/status/927121555762671616"> </a></p> <p><a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-42121442">Australia has just knocked</a> back such a vision for post-Brexit trade with the UK. Previous Legatum reports have also met disdainful responses from experts. In September, the thinktank suggested it could <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-41232991">solve the Irish border problem using drones</a>. It also proposed the UK government "should consider giving a prize for technological solutions to incentivise the development of innovative solutions".<a href="https://www.li.com/activities/publications/mutual-interest-how-the-uk-and-eu-can-resolve-the-irish-border-issue-after-brexit"> </a></p> <p>A <a href="https://www.li.com/activities/publications/mutual-interest-how-the-uk-and-eu-can-resolve-the-irish-border-issue-after-brexit">prize to solve the Irish border problem</a>? Publicly, politicos in <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2017/09/19/legatum-institutes-solution-for-the-brexit-border-is-highly-problematic/">Belfast politely described Legatum's ideas as "highly problematic"</a>. Privately, the language was far less restrained.</p> <p>But of course, we have all had enough of experts. Except, it seems, if the expert is Shanker Singham. Michael Gove himself told the Commons in February that he <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-02-07/debates/63BA059F-1DF7-4FE0-818D-3E34E34A5501/EuropeanUnion(NotificationOfWithdrawal)Bill?highlight=shanker%20singham#contribution-00C8A66C-1D39-47DF-9298-484FA36BE733">was "sanguine" about Brexit because he was taking "the lead from Shanker Singham</a> and other distinguished trade negotiators" who believe leaving the EU will deliver economic growth both in the UK and "across the world".<a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-02-07/debates/63BA059F-1DF7-4FE0-818D-3E34E34A5501/EuropeanUnion(NotificationOfWithdrawal)Bill?highlight=shanker%20singham#contribution-00C8A66C-1D39-47DF-9298-484FA36BE733"> </a></p> <p>While business complains of a lack of access to government, Singham has not struggled to get a hearing, meeting ministries at least seven times, most recently <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5117547/Putins-link-Boris-Goves-Brexit-coup-revealed.html">Michael Gove on Friday</a>. When executives and business figures met with David Davis and other ministers at Chevening House during the summer, Singham was the sole think-tank representative present.</p> <p>In July and August, <a href="https://twitter.com/JXB101/status/916673632428085249.">Singham held private meetings</a> with Philip Rycroft, a top<strong> </strong>civil servant at DExEU. Singham gave evidence to the Committee on Exiting the European Union. He also had <a href="https://www.politicshome.com/news/europe/eu-policy-agenda/brexit/news/86667/two-brexit-ministers-depart-week-eu-negotiations-get">meetings with Lord Headley of Bridges at Downing Street</a> before the peer resigned from DExEU in June - although the Brexit department refused to release minutes of that meeting or a list<strong> </strong>of attendees, in a response to a Freedom of Information request made by WhatDoTheyKnow. David Davis’s department has been similarly reluctant to release information about other meetings between Legatum and Brexit ministers and officials, despite requests from openDemocracy and others.</p> <p>Steve Baker, the ardently eurosceptic Brexit minister, has heaped praise on Legatum in parliament and on his own website on at least 20 occasions.</p> <p>When Baker spoke highly of Legatum during a <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-02-08/debates/B9545C0C-B593-43E4-A12E-2AD5D47DEFE4/EuropeanUnion(NotificationOfWithdrawal)Bill?highlight=shanker%20singham#contribution-2061B5E8-68E2-4A99-BD35-655BF3CA21E0">Commons debate in February 2017</a>, his fellow Tory and Remainer Ed Vaizey responded: "I know the Legatum Institute well because the chap who has become flavour of the month for his knowledge of trade deals, Shanker Singham, was at school with me, which automatically makes him a dangerous member of the liberal metropolitan elite. It is important that we are aware that one of the Brexiteers' great champions is a member of the dangerous liberal metropolitan elite."</p> <p>Singham, and Legatum, is certainly very well thought of in Conservative circles. "He is undoubtedly very knowledgeable regarding trade agreements," a well-placed Tory source said. "He seems to know more about the possibilities created by Brexit than anyone else." Theresa May, then home secretary, was guest speaker at the 2015 Legatum summer party. Many leading Conservatives have approvingly cited Legatum reports in recent months. </p> <p>Some have questioned the depth of Legatum - and Singham’s - trade expertise. Before joining Legatum at the start of 2016 as "<a href="https://www.li.com/media/press-releases/the-legatum-institute-appoints-shanker-singham-as-director-of-economic-policy-and-prosperity-studies">director of economic policy and prosperity studies</a>"<a href="https://www.li.com/media/press-releases/the-legatum-institute-appoints-shanker-singham-as-director-of-economic-policy-and-prosperity-studies"> </a>, Singham was managing director for competitiveness and enterprise cities at Babson Global, in Boston. Among Babson’s clients were the government of Republika Srpska, which comprises roughly half of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Republika Srpska has been controlled for more than a decade by the authoritarian Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik. Earlier this year, the US <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-sanctions-bosnia-dodik/u-s-imposes-sanctions-on-bosnian-serb-nationalist-leader-dodik-idUSKBN1512WI">imposed sanctions on Dodik</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 10.36.07-min (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 10.36.07-min (1).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Legatum director Shankam Signham in the Bosnian statelet of Republika Srpska. Facebook/Fair rights usage.</em></p><p>In October 2014, Singham met with Republika Srpska president Zeljka Cvijanovic in Banja Luka to sign a ‘letter of intent’ to build an ‘entrepreneur's city’ in the Serb-run statelet. From our inquiries this city has yet to be built. </p> <p>Legatum was not always well disposed towards Brexit. Before the June 2016 referendum, it widely seen as a liberal, pro-EU outfit. Among those employed from its Mayfair offices were US author Anne Applebaum and Soviet-born British journalist Peter Pomerantsev.</p> <p>That changed in the wake of Brexit. Applebaum left after Philippa Stroud was appointed as CEO, in September 2016. The eurosceptic Baroness Stroud co-founded the Centre for Social Justice think-tank and was a special adviser to Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith. Although a Remain voter during the EU referendum, Singham became <a href="https://www.li.com/programmes/economics-of-prosperity/special-trade-commission">head of a new Legatum special trade commission</a>.<a href="https://www.li.com/programmes/economics-of-prosperity/special-trade-commission"> </a></p> <p>There were other personnel changes at Legatum. <a href="https://www.li.com/about/people">Matthew Elliot, head of Vote Leave, became a senior fellow</a>. Toby Baxendale, who helped run Andrea Leadsom’s Tory leadership campaign, became a trustee. </p> <p>Baxendale established the radical free market think tank called Cobden Centre alongside Steve Baker. The think tank's objective, he said, was "to go for the jugular of the state, to cut the oxygen and the blood supply off and force it to be honest". Among the Cobden Centre's policies is a return to the <a href="http://www.cobdencentre.org/tag/gold-standard/">gold standard.</a></p> <p>In August, British-born New Zealander Crawford Falconer left Legatum's trade commission to become chief trade negotiation adviser at Liam Fox's Department for International Trade. The following month he made headlines when he <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/crawford-falconer-trade-deal-negotiator-regulations-legatum-institute-a7940216.html">insisted that UK regulations should be scrapped to get trade deals</a>. </p> <p>The Legatum Institute is a charity. Its <a href="http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends19/0001140719_AC_20161231_E_C.PDF">'lead sponsor' is the Legatum Foundation</a>, according to annual accounts filed with the Charity Commission. The Legatum Foundation is controlled by Christopher Chandler, a Dubai-based private hedge fund billionaire originally from New Zealand. The foundation is registered in Bermuda and controlled by a company in the Cayman Islands. The Legatum Institute’s income has grown significantly in recent years, from £35,000 in 2012, to <a href="http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends19/0001140719_AC_20121130_E_C.PDF">more than £4m in 2016, its accounts reveal</a>. </p> <p>Christopher Chandler and his older brother, Richard, have been described as 'disaster capitalists'. They created a hedge fund in the 1980s after selling the family department store in Hamilton, New Zealand. They piled into Russia in the 'shock therapy' years when the Soviet Union's state-run businesses were rapidly privatised.</p> <p>Sovereign Global, the brothers' fund, was by their reckoning the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia by 1994. By 2002 the pair were the fourth largest investor in Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled gas company.</p> <p>As Private Eye has reported, the brothers have given just one press interview in the 21st century - back in 2006. The Chandlers explained that they <a href="http://www.private-eye.co.uk/issue-1454/hp-sauce">made money from "transition economies or distressed sectors where information is not easily available and standard metrics don't apply</a>". </p> <p>The brothers split their fortunes in 2006 and went their separate ways. Under Christopher's auspices, Sovereign turned into the Legatum Group, which now operates from a building it named Legatum Plaza in Dubai's financial centre.</p> <p>The Legatum think tank in London still receives the bulk of its funding from Chandler and the Legatum Foundation. The charity also receives support from more than 40 separate donors. A spokesperson for Legatum said: "The Legatum Foundation provides the Institute with its core funding, as part of its vision is to see a more prosperous world for all…. We receive support from more than 40 separate donors covering a broad mix of individuals, businesses, trusts and foundations. All donors can remain anonymous if they wish – if not, they can receive credit in select publications, in our building, and on our website.”</p> <p>Legatum has received funding from British Brexit backers including major City figures. In 2015, prominent pro-Brexit hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall bankrolled a 12-month research programme entitled 'A Vision for Capitalism'. The programme was run by Conservative commentator Tim Montgomerie and launched by then chancellor George Osborne. Montgomerie is now editor of UnHerd, a website backed by Marshall.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Marshall said the multimillionaire investor no longer funded Legatum. "Paul co-chairs with Lord Hill something called Prosperity UK, which a group of us put together to bring Remainers and Leavers together to implement Brexit constructively. Legatum were one of the partners of the first conference. That might be why people might think he has supported their Brexit work. But they were helping him rather than the other way round." </p> <p>In a statement, a spokesperson for Legatum said:</p> <p>"The best possible Brexit outcome for the UK would be one that sees Britain flourish. The UK must be able to strike free trade deals with the EU and nations around the world. This is the goal we are working towards. Brexit will be a defining moment in the history of our nation. We must ensure that it becomes a pathway to greater prosperity for this and future generations."</p><p class="Body"><span>But others, like Professor David Miller of <a href="http://www.spinwatch.org/">Spinwatch</a>, remain concerned. Miller told openDemocracy:</span></p><p class="Body"><span>“Legatum has risen from nowhere, taken over by Philippa Stroud the</span> former SPAD for Iain Duncan Smith, director of his think tank the Centre for social Justice and Christian fundamentalist. It is amazing how easy it is for partisan think tanks to gain charitable status and to do so while mostly funded by a single secretive offshore donor.&nbsp;The Charity Commission has been pushed into investigating these kind of issues before with groups like the Taxpayers Alliance.&nbsp;It should be rapidly investigating Legatum and its offshore connections.”<span class="None"><span></span></span></p> <p>openDemocracy has contacted Shanker Singham for comment and will add any response received.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brendan-montague/how-legatum-has-written-hymn-sheet-for-dirty-brexit">How Legatum has written the hymn sheet for a Dirty Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Sun, 26 Nov 2017 10:31:21 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 114907 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Did the DUP's controversial Brexit donors break the law - by refusing to reveal the secret source of their cash? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/did-dups-controversial-brexit-donors-break-law-by-refusing- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It appears the secretive group that channelled Leave cash to Theresa May’s allies got hit with a record fine - for breaking rules on donor disclosure</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/theresa may dup.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/theresa may dup.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>DUP leader Arlene Foster with Theresa May. Image: BBC.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">It appears that the secretive group that channelled a controversial £435,000 donation to the DUP’s Brexit campaign has been forced to pay a record fine – for failing to properly disclose to the UK authorities where the cash came from, openDemocracy can reveal today.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP, Theresa May’s key allies in parliament, have always claimed that the unprecedented £435,000 donation to their Brexit campaign complied fully with the law. The secretive Constitutional Research Council, the group which channelled the mysterious cash to the DUP, has also made this claim.</p><p dir="ltr">However, new research by openDemocracy and Transparency International casts fresh doubt on these assertions, raising troubling questions about the true sources of Leave campaign cash – and about the extent to which secret interest groups continue to hold sway over the UK government as it negotiates Brexit.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Donor secrecy ‘protection’</h2><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, openDemocracy revealed that a mystery donor had given Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party £435,000 to campaign for Brexit. </p><p dir="ltr">The secret donation – a much larger sum than the DUP has ever spent on an electoral campaign in its history – attracted particular interest <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/24/eu-referendum-spending-official-campaigns-investigation-opens-electoral-commission">because</a> almost none of the cash was spent in Northern Ireland. Yet the donor <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/41/section/71E">secrecy laws</a> which apply to Northern Ireland, and not the rest of the UK, have allowed the donors(s) to remain anonymous.</p><p dir="ltr">Since then, May’s Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has announced an end to donor secrecy in Northern Ireland. But, crucially, he has gone back on a prior commitment to backdate transparency to 2014 so that the source of the vast DUP donation could be revealed – despite <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick/uk-government-set-to-ignore-northern-ireland-parties-transparency-calls">calls from all the Northern Irish political parties</a> (apart from the DUP) to do so. </p><p dir="ltr">Government and DUP sources have rejected accusations that Brokenshire’s refusal to make donor identities public is ‘protection’ for the DUP, as part of their £1 billion deal to keep the Conservatives in power.</p><h2 dir="ltr">A record fine – for what?</h2><p dir="ltr">In May, party leader Arlene Foster responded to questions about the unprecedented donation by <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-39970119">saying that</a> “we have satisfied ourselves that it was all kept within the rules.” </p><p dir="ltr">And the chair of the CRC, the secretive group that channelled the cash to the DUP, has previously said to <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15299375.Richard_Cook__chair_of_the_shadowy_Constitutional_Research_Council_talks_to_the_Sunday_Herald/">the Sunday Herald</a> that “the CRC is regulated by the Electoral Commission. We operate solely in the UK. We accept donations only from eligible UK donors. We donate solely to permissible UK entities. Any suggestion that we have done anything else is basically defamatory.”</p><p dir="ltr">However, in August, the Electoral Commission made a mysterious announcement. The UK regulator announced it had fined someone £6,000. But it couldn’t reveal more.</p><p dir="ltr">The curious fine was one of a number listed by the Commission. But unlike the other charges, it was covered by a controversial secrecy clause protecting donors to Northern Irish parties from public scrutiny.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy investigated, and subsequently <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/substantial-fine-linked-to-dup-s-secret-brexit-donors">revealed</a> that the hefty fine was indeed levied on the DUP’s secretive donors, the Constitutional Research Council (CRC).</p><p dir="ltr">And our research now reveals that, according to the rules governing donations of this kind, the fine could only have been levied for failure to properly disclose information about the source of the donation, as all donors of this scale are required to by law.</p><h2 dir="ltr">How did we get here?</h2><p dir="ltr">In order to establish what kind of organisation the CRC is, openDemocracy has previously examined the public records relating to every type of group that was allowed to give money to referendum campaigns – from the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-list-of-active-trade-unions-official-list-and-schedule/trade-unions-the-current-list-and-schedule">register of trade unions </a>to the Gibraltarian Companies House. The CRC doesn’t appear on any of these, which leaves one remaining category, of which there is no register: a relatively informal organisational form called an “unincorporated association”. </p><p dir="ltr">And so, in order to uncover how the CRC broke the law in regard to the DUP’s secret Brexit cash, openDemocracy and Transparency International have assessed <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/106737/Table-of-offences-and-sanctions_for_EP.pdf">every law</a> relating to unincorporated associations and enforced by the Electoral Commission. Some of these require the Commission to refer those who break it to the court system. And so we ruled that out – because we know that this was a fine issued by the Commission itself. </p><p dir="ltr">Among those laws for which the Electoral Commission are allowed to issue fines themselves, all but one have a maximum fine of £5,000. And so we ruled those laws out, too. </p><p dir="ltr">The remaining piece of legislation is a requirement that unincorporated associations which give more than £25,000 to a party must declare all donations to them of more than £7,500. </p><p dir="ltr">This is the only remaining law which the Constitutional Research Council could have been fined £6,000 for breaking. They paid the fine in full in August 2017.</p><h2 dir="ltr">“The rules are very clear”</h2><p dir="ltr">In July, Channel 4 chief reporter Alex Thomson asked the CRC chairman Richard Cook whether he told the Electoral Commission the true source of the donation. Cook said: “The Electoral Commission are fully aware of everything the CRC has done, where it’s raised its money from, and of any declarable donation”.</p><p dir="ltr">Thomson clarified: “So the Electoral Commission know where that money came from?” and Cook replied with a firm, “yes”. </p><p dir="ltr">He also told Channel 4: “The rules regarding the CRC are very clear”.</p><p dir="ltr">What openDemocracy’s revelation means is that Cook’s organisation was in fact fined £6,000 for breaking these “very clear” rules, and that, if he had told the Electoral Commission all the details of where the money had come from at the point at which he told Channel 4 he had done so, it was only after being fined for failing to do so.</p><p dir="ltr">Both the CRC and the Electoral Commission have declined to specify exactly how the CRC broke this law, with the Commission simply repeating what is on its website: “A £6,000 penalty was imposed on a regulated entity, as<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/151659/Cases-publication.pdf"> reported on our website</a>, in August. We cannot provide any further details in respect of that penalty because of the restrictions on disclosure under section 71E of PPERA.” Section 71E is the piece of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act which bans them from revealing information about donors to Northern Irish parties.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Record fine</h2><p dir="ltr">However, openDemocracy can also reveal that £6,000 is the biggest ever fine charged to an unincorporated association. Having assessed <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/151659/Cases-publication.pdf">every</a> <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/149627/Powers-and-sanctions-report-2012.pdf">fine</a> charged by the Electoral Commission since it started regulating donations to unincorporated associations in 2010, we have found that the previous largest penalty issued was just £1,200. That fine was charged to the National Conservative Draws Society. An Electoral Commission press release at the time said: </p><p dir="ltr">“The society has been fined for repeatedly failing to notify the Commission that it had made donations to the Conservative Party in excess of £25,000 during 2012, 2013, and 2014.”</p><p dir="ltr">All other previous fines were under £1,000, with the usual charge of £400 applying to those who failed by the relevant deadline to notify the Commission of donations over £25,000 (which the 2010 law requires) and £900 being charged to those who had failed twice to make such a declaration.</p><p dir="ltr">Before the CRC, there was no example of an unincorporated association being charged for breaking the other half of the same law – the clause requiring them to declare to the Commission all donations of more than £7,500. (Although as openDemocracy has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/how-dark-money-is-drowning-british-democracy">previously revealed</a>, only one unincorporated association has ever made such a declaration – which points to wider concerns about the policing of the law as it stands).</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>Due diligence?</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">When openDemocracy challenged DUP MP and Brexit campaign manager Jeffrey Donaldson about the donation <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">in his constituency office</a> this spring, he told us that the party had done proper “due diligence” on the donation, but then claimed that they hadn’t known that the chair of the Constitutional Research Council had set up a business in 2013 with the former head of the Saudi Arabian intelligence service. Mr Donaldson said:</p><p dir="ltr">“I believe they have raised the money legitimately. We were delighted to receive the money for the Brexit campaign from them.”</p><p dir="ltr">He added: “We have complied not only with the law, but we’ve gone much further than the law requires… If the Constitutional Research Council wish to publish where they do their fundraising, that is a matter for them, not the DUP.”</p><p dir="ltr">When asked, “you have a legal obligation to do due diligence, do you not?”, he replied by saying,“ we have done that”.</p><p dir="ltr">“We have complied fully with our legal requirements and obligations… we have satisfied all the requirements. If you have an issue about that, go to the Electoral Commission; we have complied with all their requirements”.</p><p dir="ltr">While there is no suggestion that the DUP has broken any law, the question we put to them then remains: how is it possible they did due diligence on a donation while knowing neither the basic facts about the business activities of the man channeling them the money nor, as it transpires, that he had failed to follow the basic legal procedures required of those giving such donations? </p><p dir="ltr">We contacted the DUP again, and also asked why they had accepted a donation which breached electoral law to the extent that the donor was charged a record fine; whether they knew the Electoral Commission was investigating the CRC for breaking the law at the point at which their party leader claimed "it was all kept within the rules"; and how it's possible they did proper due dillegance, as Donaldson told us they had, if it later transpired that the donors had broken the law? They have chosen not to comment.</p><p dir="ltr">We put to CRC chair Richard Cook the conclusion of our research, that he had been fined for failing to declare who his donors are. We also asked him if he is now willing to reveal the source of this money. He refused to comment.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/dup-dark-money">numerous revelations</a> about the CRC and the surprising connections of those involved with it – including the former head of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Saudi intelligence service</a>, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">a Danish spy</a> accused of flying hundreds of rifles to West Bengali terrorists, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">the Brexit minister</a>, an English weapons manufacturer and American billionaire Robert Mercer – we still don’t know where their funding came from.</p><p dir="ltr">We will continue to press both the Democratic Unionist Party and the CRC for full transparency on this matter.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/substantial-fine-linked-to-dup-s-secret-brexit-donors">‘Substantial’ fine linked to DUP’s secret Brexit donors</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Mystery deepens over secret source of Brexit &#039;dark money&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Sat, 11 Nov 2017 13:01:00 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 114585 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who's paying for these 'reports' on BBC Brexit coverage? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/whos-paying-for-these-reports-on-bbc-brexit-coverage <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why do newspapers parrot 'reports' about BBC bias from organisations funded by hardline Brexiters?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/arron banks.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/arron banks.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks on Newsnight. Image: BBC, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Brexiters often accuse the British media of being biased towards remaining in the European Union. Especially the BBC. In July, a cross-party group of 70 MPs wrote to the corporation complaining that it was heavily "in favour of those who wish to water down or even reverse the referendum decision.” Earlier this month, would be Conservative leadership hopeful Jacob Rees Mogg said the BBC had a “deep-seated anti-Brexit bias”.</p><p dir="ltr">Research would appear to back up these accusations. In recent months, a flurry of studies have been reported showing everything from a bias towards Remain on the <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/865340/Jacob-Rees-Mogg-BBC-bias-Brexit-Remain-Andrew-Marr-Sunday-Politics">Andrew Marr show</a> to a supposed deluge of anti-Brexit voices on Radio 4’s <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/26/bbc-radio-4s-today-programme-business-slot-has-three-times-remainers/">Today Programme</a>. No wonder International Trade Secretary Liam Fox <a href="https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/politics/brexiteers-declare-war-bbc-accusing-pro-remain-bias/">declared that</a> “it does appear that some elements of our media would rather see Britain fail than see Brexit succeed.” </p><p dir="ltr">But we have looked a bit closer at these studies and noticed a pattern – all the research is produced by a single tiny company that is explicitly anti-EU and whose funders include <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">controversial businessman Arron Banks</a>’s Leave.EU. These studies are almost always reported uncritically by major newspapers with little or no mention of how the research was compiled and interpreted, or who paid for it.</p><p dir="ltr">Take yesterday, October 22. In <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/22/bbc-invited-third-pro-eu-eurosceptic-speakers-appear-election/">a story</a> entitled “BBC invited a third more pro-EU than Eurosceptic speakers to appear during election campaign, report claims”, the Sunday Telegraph reported claims that “BBC correspondents and presenters one-sidedly emphasised the difficulties of Brexit" and that the BBC Reality Check team "put further undue weight on the disadvantages of leaving the EU". The research, the paper reported, was carried out by “media analysts News-watch”. </p><p dir="ltr">News-watch style themselves as “media analysts” but seem mainly interested in one outlet and one story – the BBC and Brexit. Since being founded in 1999 by former BBC producer <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/David_Keighley">David Keighley</a>, News-watch has published <a href="http://news-watch.co.uk/monitoring-projects-and-reports/">dozens of reports</a>, pretty much all of them on the BBC’s coverage of the EU. Every story on News-watch’s <a href="http://news-watch.co.uk/">home page</a> is avowedly pro-Brexit. As far as we can tell, all of the newspaper stories of BBC anti-Brexit bias are based on reports written by News-watch. Kathy Gyngell, who helped <a href="http://news-watch.co.uk/author/kathy-gyngell/">set up News-watch</a>, runs Conservative Women, a prominent pro-Leave blog site, and is the widow of ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2000/sep/09/guardianobituaries.maggiebrown">Thatcher’s favourite broadcaster</a>’, Bruce Gyngell, for whom Keighley used to work.</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, Keighley was keynote speaker at the Traditional Britain Group <a href="http://traditionalbritain.org/events/traditional-britain-conference-2016/">annual conference</a>. In 2013, Conservative MP Jacob Ress-Mogg was <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23617555">forced to apologise</a> for addressing the organisation’s annual dinner when <a href="http://liberalconspiracy.org/2013/08/08/exclusive-william-rees-mogg-and-the-right-wing-group-that-wants-black-britons-to-leave-the-uk/">it transpired</a> that it has called for Doreen Lawrence and other black people to be ‘requested to return to their natural homelands’, and has referred to Labour MP Chuka Umunna as “<a href="https://www.facebook.com/traditionalbritaingroup/posts/515919895128675">a Nigerian</a>” and Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi as “<a href="https://www.facebook.com/traditionalbritaingroup/posts/519842988069699">foreign</a>“.</p><p dir="ltr">News-watch has been connected with right-wing Eurosceptic think tanks, politicians and journalists for almost twenty years. Under its previous name, <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Minotaur_Media_Tracking">Minotaur Media Tracking</a>, it produced a number of reports for the dark-money funded Eurosceptic think-tank <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Global_Britain">Global Britain</a> and the <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Centre_for_Policy_Studies">Centre for Policy Studies</a>, (with whom Kathy Gyngell is now <a href="https://uk.linkedin.com/in/kathy-gyngell-81313834">a fellow</a>). In 2004 News-watch wrote a report of the BBC’s coverage of asylum issues for the right wing think tank Migration Watch, whose income source is also unclear and which is chaired by the former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Newswatch UK Ltd was dissolved in 2009 and it is not clear what News-watch’s current corporate structure is. </p><p dir="ltr">David Keighley, who describes himself as a ‘psychotherapist’ as well as a media consultant, used to sit on the board of the company ‘<a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/08916948/officers">the Mindful Policy Experts Group Ltd</a>’. Another board member was Tim Loughton, the pro-Brexit Conservative MP who chaired Andrea Leadsom’s leadership campaign in 2016. The company was dissolved in April of this year, according to filings with Companies House.</p><p dir="ltr">Keighley has appeared before select committees in the Commons talking about the BBC’s EU coverage, including the <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmeuleg/109/130313.htm">European Scrutiny Committee</a> in 2013 when Tory Eurosceptic Bill Cash was chair. In 2016, News-watch received £65,000 from the right-wing Institute for Policy Research, according to <a href="http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends43/0000285143_AC_20160930_E_C.pdf">accounts filed with the Charity Commission</a>. The Institute for Policy Research also provides funding for Migration Watch, the Tax Payer’s Alliance and other right-wing lobbying groups. IPR’s payments to these groups were possible because of donations worth £682,000 in 2016. The source of this money isn’t clear.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 16.17.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 16.17.56.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Institute for Policy Research 2016 accounts.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Some of News-watch’s recent work has been paid for by pro-Brexit MPs. The Sunday Telegraph notes that the recent report was commissioned by MPs Kate Hoey, Philip Davies, Kelvin Hopkins, Philip Hollobone, Ian Paisley and Graham Stringer, as well as former Ukip leader Malcolm Pearson. But openDemocracy has also discovered that News-watch has received funding from Arron Banks’ Leave.EU.</p><p dir="ltr">On its own website <a href="https://leave.eu/news-watch/">Leave.EU</a> has a page for donations to News-watch, which it describes as “an independent organisation providing much needed scrutiny of the politically skewed BBC”. Leave.EU say: “We’re raising money to help <a href="https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__news-2Dwatch.co.uk_&amp;d=DQMFaQ&amp;c=euGZstcaTDllvimEN8b7jXrwqOf-v5A_CdpgnVfiiMM&amp;r=vtViBQipetEvnViOVAqHBcCPss7q0mZES0gKDfPArEWlYX_-RXVno8JsiPxbp0K6&amp;m=xpD2DS8y8OnLo2gisfa6OFN45kgZEVAG1WkC9Rmze5Y&amp;s=ffTI5b0BE75CjdhBF4PlvAVaI4L4j-F677yOeHiEshg&amp;e=">News-watch</a> continue its essential work analysing the output of the BBC. Please consider a monthly donation or one-off contribution and help keep this vital service going.” <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Leave.EU suggest sending donations for News-watch direct to Leave.EU, with an address at Lysander House, Catbrain Lane in Bristol. According to documents filed with companies house, Lysander House is the correspondence address for a number of companies linked to Arron Banks, including insurance company, Go Skippy, the news site Westmonster and Better for the Country Limited. Better for the Country donated <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=better%20for%20the%20country%20limited&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">£100,000</a> to the Brexit campaign and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">bought almost £2m</a> of merchandise for the Leave.EU campaign. </p><p dir="ltr">In May 2016, Better for the Country was <a href="https://ico.org.uk/action-weve-taken/enforcement/better-for-the-country-ltd/">fined by the Information Commssioner’s Office</a> for sending half a million pro-Leave texts. Banks says he <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8cddfeea-5c02-11e7-b553-e2df1b0c3220">contributed almost £9m </a>in cash, loans and services to pro-Brexit causes. MP Ben Bradshaw has called for an investigation into ‘dark money’ and Brexit in the wake of recent stories on openDemocracy about <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">Banks’s spending</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">News-watch also runs a spin-off site called <a href="http://bbccomplaints.com/">“BBC Complaints”</a> (Indeed it is one of the first hits that appears when you Google ‘BBC Complaints’). Despite the title is it is only interested in a single issue – complaints about the corporation’s coverage of Brexit. “Despite the vote for Brexit,” the website states, “the BBC output remains massively opposed to withdrawal from the EU. It is required by law to be impartial, but is not.”. The website invites readers to send in examples of anti-Brexit coverage on the BBC.</p><p dir="ltr">It was the previous efforts of News-watch and its allies which led the BBC Board of Governors to set up an independent panel to examine BBC reporting on the EU, and subsequently to introduce greater monitoring of output for ‘balance’.</p><p dir="ltr">News-watch reports are picked up by a small group of major newspaper titles – the Sun, the Mail, the Telegraph and the Express have all heavily featured News-watch reports on putative BBC bias in recent months. Often the same reports are used by pro-Brexit newspaper commentators to argue that the media is biased against leaving the EU. Senior politicians often respond, too: during the summer Commons leader, Andrea Leadsom, urged the BBC to “address” its coverage of Brexit in the wake of a News-watch report. </p><p dir="ltr">Academic research on media coverage of Brexit has reported rather different results. A <a href="https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/our-research/uk-press-coverage-eu-referendum">major study</a> on the press conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford found a pronounced tendency to favour pro-Leave voices in the run-up to last June’s referendum. <a href="https://blog.lboro.ac.uk/crcc/eu-referendum/uk-news-coverage-2016-eu-referendum-report-5-6-may-22-june-2016/">Research by Loughborough University suggested </a>the BBC achieved a good balance between the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps during the referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">‘News-watch and other pro-Leave lobbyists are obviously trying to influence debates around Brexit in certain interests,’ says Tom Mills, lecturer in sociology at Aston University and author of The BBC: Myth of a Public Service, ‘and they are doing that through what looks like a rather crude coding framework. The problem with dividing everything into pro and anti camps is that it makes a substantive and informed discussion of the issues at stake very difficult.’<br class="kix-line-break" />‘If the evidence makes one side of an argument look worse, then what is it the duty of the BBC to report? There’s a tension here between accuracy and balance. And that is a grey area that lobby groups are always trying to exploit. News-watch do analyse a lot of reports, which is good. But what’s lacking is a clear and transparent methodology that can deal with how the underlying issues are dealt with, rather than the question of how much time is given to two sides of a political argument.’</p><p dir="ltr">Academic researchers are required to be transparent about both their sources of funding, and their methodology.</p><p dir="ltr">News-watch managing director David Keighley said:</p><p dir="ltr">"News-watch is funded by a variety of sources but works independently and has never been under any pressure from any funding source to modify any of its findings. University departments &nbsp;which provide similar work have been funded by bodies such as the EU and the BBC. Does that influence their findings?</p><p dir="ltr">"Our methodology is rigorously robust and is clearly displayed on our website. All our reports since 1999 are posted on our website. It is the largest corpus of work about the media’s handling of EU coverage ever undertaken. Anyone wishing to challenge our methodology or findings is very welcome to do so but they should do so by being specific rather than making generalised and unfounded &nbsp;statements that our work is influenced by our funding, or that News-watch is ‘right-wing’ .</p><p dir="ltr">"Such ‘ad hominem’ attacks are sadly all too common in the academic world these days; those making them should properly back up their allegations. The source you quote most certainly does not. An example of our own robustness of approach can be found in a <a href="http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/impartialityatthebbc.pdf">Civitas </a>paper in which we challenged - on rigorous academic grounds -the work of a Cardiff University report commissioned by the BBC in connection with the Prebble report which purported to give its EU-related output a clean bill of health. It did no such thing.”</p><p dir="ltr">News-watch are not the only pro-Leave lobby group that have found column inches in major newspapers easy to come by. Back in 2015, Matthew Elliott – Vote Leave boss – produce a 1,000 long, anti-EU dossier called “<a href="http://brexitcentral.com/dr-lee-rotherham-change-go-dispels-pernicious-myth-no-work-done-brexit/">Change or Go</a>”. The report was particularly well received by the Daily Telegraph which, in a single week, featured “Change or Go” four times on its front page, and wrote a glowing editorial in praise of the “genuinely open-minded” report.</p><p>But openDemocracy has found that the Telegraph’s coverage omitted to mention that it had sponsored Elliott’s report. Change or Go was jointly funded by “generous sponsorship” from Telegraph Media Group and the Politics and Economics Research Trust, a charity that Elliott himself had established in 2006. Earlier this year, Elliott was forced to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/09/vote-leave-chief-matthew-elliott-repays-charitable-grant-anti-eu-dossier-charity-commission">repay the £50,000 grant</a> for writing the Change or Go report to the Politics and Economics Research Trust after the Charity Commission found that the trust should not have been supporting groups to undertake research that takes a political position on a contested topic like EU membership.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Mystery deepens over secret source of Brexit &#039;dark money&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/key-poll-which-boosted-leadsom-s-leadership-bid-funded-by-d">Key poll which boosted Leadsom’s leadership bid funded by DUP’s dark-money donors</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk OurBeeb uk EU UK World Forum for Democracy 2017 DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Mon, 23 Oct 2017 18:04:09 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 114221 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mystery deepens over secret source of Brexit 'dark money' https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Only one major pro-Leave donor refuses to distance himself from controversial £435,000, which bankrolled DUP's Brexit spending spree.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/211242921-eb61e1cf-1dc2-49ad-93d7-903da5f82f30_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/211242921-eb61e1cf-1dc2-49ad-93d7-903da5f82f30_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Richard Cook, chair of the secretive group that channelled £435,000 to the DUP, is interviewed at his home by Channel 4's Alex Thomson. Image used under Fair Use: Channel 4. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>A number of major political donors have denied they are the source of a controversial £435,000 donation to the DUP’s Brexit campaign, openDemocracy can reveal today – with only one person refusing to distance themself from the secret donation.</p><p>openDemocracy has investigated a list of key figures in relation to the donation, and all apart from one have either denied involvement or have made public statements indicating opposition to Brexit. The only person we contacted who has told us he will not comment is Henry Angest, a banker and longstanding Conservative party donor, who is known to be a supporter of Brexit.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Continuing secrecy raises pressing questions about transparency in UK politics.</p><p>There is no evidence to suggest that Angest, nor any of the other figures we have contacted, are the source of the £435,000. Nor is there any suggestion that whoever gave this unprecedented sum to the DUP’s Leave campaign broke any laws.</p><p>But the continuing secrecy raises pressing questions about transparency in UK politics – particularly as Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party now holds the balance of power in parliament, propping up Theresa May’s minority government as it negotiates Brexit.</p><p>The UK government announced earlier this year that it will change the law to end donor secrecy in Northern Ireland, but has rejected calls to backdate the law to 2014, so that the source of the DUP donation could be revealed. Government and DUP sources have rejected accusations that this is ‘protection’ for the DUP, as part of their £1 billion deal to keep the Conservatives in power.</p><h2>One consistent clue</h2><p dir="ltr">Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has repeatedly refused to reveal the source of the cash, which was spent on lavish pro-Leave campaigning in the weeks before Brexit. But we have consistently been given one clue as to where the money came from: that those behind the donation are passionate supporters of the Union between the four nations of the UK.</p><p dir="ltr">After openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">first revealed</a> the scale of the secret donation, DUP leader Arlene Foster was grilled about it on the BBC Northern Ireland show ‘The View’. <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/calls-for-dup-to-reveal-source-of-500-000-brexit-donation-1.3115919">She said</a> that the money came from “an organisation in England that wants to see the Union kept". Later that month, under continued pressure, her party disclosed that the money came from “<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-39075502">pro-Union business people</a>”, via a little-known group called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC). Glasgow-based <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15299375.Richard_Cook__chair_of_the_shadowy_Constitutional_Research_Council_talks_to_the_Sunday_Herald/">Richard Cook</a>, who chairs the CRC, <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15299375.Richard_Cook__chair_of_the_shadowy_Constitutional_Research_Council_talks_to_the_Sunday_Herald/">has claimed</a> that the group was set up to promote the Union, and has also revealed that Scottish people are among the donors.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has since investigated every major political donor who fits this profile. In particular, we contacted everyone who gave £25,000 or more to oppose independence in the run-up to the 2014 Scottish referendum, and asked each donor from that group (apart from those already on record as Remain supporters) if they were the source of the DUP donation.</p><p dir="ltr">The findings of our investigation are below.</p><h2>Ruling out Remainers</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/London_June_7_2016_021_ITV_EU_Referendum_Debate_Cameron_v_Farage_(2)_(26917273454)_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/London_June_7_2016_021_ITV_EU_Referendum_Debate_Cameron_v_Farage_(2)_(26917273454)_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>‘Vote to Leave the EU’. Flickr/David Holt. CC-by-2.0.</span></span></span>In February, we discovered that the £435,000 had been channelled to the DUP via a little-known group, the Constitutional Research Council (CRC). The DUP Brexit campaign manager Jeffrey Donaldson MP has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland-assembly-election/revealed-group-that-funded-dups-425000-brexit-ad-campaign-35477951.html">described the CRC</a>&nbsp;as "a group which supports constitutional pro-Union causes". He added: "they believed, as did we, that Brexit would be good for the Union and bad for those who oppose it.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Our first step was to eliminate from our enquiries all the pro-Union donors who have also – vocally or financially – supported the Remain campaign. These include Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who gave a million pounds to the pro-Union Scottish campaign, Better Together, and has also spoken repeatedly in public about her support for EU membership. Donald Houston, whose firm Raindance Investments Ltd gave <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/English/Donations/C0152354">£200,000</a> to the pro-Union campaign in 2014, also <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=donald%20houston&amp;sort=Value&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">contributed</a> to the Remain campaign. The billionaire banker Bruno Schroder made significant donations to Better Together, the Remain campaign, and the Kensington Conservative party.</p><p dir="ltr">Ian Taylor's company Vitol, the world's largest oil trader, was fined <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB119559280680099579">$7 million</a> in 2007 for paying $13 million <a href="http://star.worldbank.org/corruption-cases/node/20207">in kickbacks</a> to Iraqi officials during the Saddam Hussein era. Taylor is also the majority shareholder in <a href="https://www.harristweedhebrides.com/">Harris Tweed Hebrides</a> and chairman of the board of the <a href="http://www.roh.org.uk/news/ian-taylor-appointed-as-chairman-of-the-board-of-royal-opera-house-trustees">Royal Opera House</a>. He was a major donor to Better Together before the Scottish independence referendum, and also to the Remain campaign in 2016.</p><p dir="ltr">Orion Engineering is also an important player in Scotland’s oil industry, led by Alan Savage. The firm, which specialises in recruitment, gave £50,000 to Better Together ahead of the Scottish referendum. The firm has not responded to our attempts to contact Savage, but given that the firm has also supported the Liberal Democrats (opponents of Brexit), and in 2015 Savage&nbsp;<a href="https://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-press-and-journal-inverness-highlands-and-islands/20151116/283008283667165">wrote</a>&nbsp;that "being part of the European Union is fundamental to my business", and that "leaving the EU is a completely absurd idea", we have ruled him out of our enquiries.&nbsp;</p><h2>“Mr Sansom knows nothing about this shower”</h2><p dir="ltr">Next, there were those pro-Union donors who told us that they supported the Remain campaign, or vocally distanced themselves from the DUP deal.</p><p dir="ltr">Author <strong>Christopher Sansom</strong> is reported on the Electoral Commission website as having given <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Christopher%20Sansom&amp;sort=Value&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">£200,000 to Better Together</a> (though The Scotsman has previously put the figure at <a href="http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-independence-pro-union-donors-revealed-1-3234090">£294,000</a>). Speaking to openDemocracy via his agent, he confirmed that he “knows nothing about this shower”, and was a Remain supporter.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Conservative peer <strong>Andrew </strong><strong>Fraser</strong>&nbsp;is reported on the <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=andrew%20fraser&amp;sort=Value&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;open=filter&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;date=Reported&amp;from=&amp;to=&amp;quarters=2017Q1234&amp;quarters=2016Q1234&amp;quarters=2015Q1234&amp;quarters=2014Q1234&amp;quarters=2013Q1234&amp;quarters=2012Q1234&amp;quarters=2011Q1234&amp;quarters=2010Q1234&amp;quarters=2009Q1234&amp;quarters=2008Q1234&amp;quarters=2007Q1234&amp;quarters=2006Q1234&amp;quarters=2005Q1234&amp;quarters=2004Q1234&amp;quarters=2003Q1234&amp;quarters=2002Q1234&amp;quarters=2001Q1234&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">Electoral Commission website</a> as having given £100,000 to Better Together of which he was treasurer, and also gave £20,000 to the “Let’s Stay Together” campaign (again, this number has been reported in <a href="http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-independence-pro-union-donors-revealed-1-3234090">the Scotsman </a>as being higher). He was ennobled in David Cameron’s resignation honours, and, when asked by openDemocracy if he supported a Remain vote said, “I certainly did”.</p><p dir="ltr">The Scottish businessman <strong>Alan McFarlane</strong>, who is chairman of the advisory board of the think tank “<a href="https://reformscotland.com/staff/alan-mcfarlane-chairman-2/">Reform Scotland</a>” and <a href="http://www.dundasglobal.com/about-us/the-team/">founder and senior partner</a> of Edinburgh based investment management company Dundas Partners LLP, <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Mr%20Alan%20McFarlane%20%09&amp;sort=Value&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">gave</a> £20,000 to the Unionist “Vote No Borders” campaign, and also £10,000 to the “WSF2014 Ltd” pro-union campaign. Asked about the Constitutional Research Council, he told openDemocracy “I know nothing about them”, and sources confirmed that he was a Remain supporter.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Angus MacDonald</strong>, who made his fortune in the financial information industry and now works <a href="https://www.spectator.co.uk/2007/10/riches-from-oily-rags/">in recycling in Scotland</a>, ran <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/electoral_commission_pdf_file/0009/169425/2014-pre-poll-donations-and-loans-2014-07-03-deadline.pdf">his own</a> pro-Union campaign in 2014. He confirmed that he had “no idea about any of this”. The Constitutional Research Council chair Richard Cook also works in the waste management industry in Scotland, but MacDonald said he had “never heard of Richard Cook.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The Earl of Seafield</strong> is the chieftain of Clan Grant and one of Scotland's biggest landowners. It was the previous Earl of Seafield who, as Scotland's Chancellor, signed the Act of the Union in 1707, famously <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory/union/intro_union2.shtml ">saying, </a>"there’s ane end of ane auld sang". The current Earl made<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory/union/intro_union2.shtml "> </a><a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Ian%20Seafield&amp;sort=Value&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">a donation of £100,000</a> under the name "Sir Ian Seafield" to the Better Together campaign, while his <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Reidhaven%20Trust%20Estate&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">Reidhaven Trust Estate Ltd</a> made a further donation of £20,000. Asked about the DUP donation, his spokesperson confirmed that “Lord Seafield does indeed know nothing about this”.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Banker Ivor Dunbar</strong>, former co-head of global capital markets at Deutsche Bank, <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=ivor%20dunbar&amp;sort=Value&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">gave £50,000</a> to Better Together in 2012. Dunbar is chairman of the Scottish based gap-year charity Project Trust, and has told openDemocracy he knows “nothing about the matters to which you refer”.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Jimmy Milne</strong> is chairman and managing director of the Balmoral Group, a major player in the Scottish oil industry. His firm gave <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=balmoral&amp;sort=Value&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">£58,000</a> to Better Together, but his spokesperson also confirmed that “he has no knowledge of the CRC or Richard Cook so is unable to assist with your enquiry”.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The Buccleuch Estates Limited</strong>, the company owned by the Duke of Buccleuch, gave a total of <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Buccleuch&amp;sort=Value&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">£55,724</a> to various pro-Union campaigns ahead of Scotland’s referendum, but confirmed to openDemocracy that they know nothing about the £435,000 donation to the DUP.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sir David Garrard</strong>, a major Labour donor and Better Together supporter to the value of <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=david%20garrard&amp;sort=Value&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">£25,000</a>, told us that “I can confirm that I have never given directly, or knowingly indirectly, a penny piece to the DUP”.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sir Edward Percy Keswick Weatherall</strong>’s family fortune comes from its controlling share of the bank Jardine Matheson, which played a notable role in the 19th century <a href="http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/the-opium-wars-how-scottish-traders-fed-the-habit-1-465743">Opium Wars</a>, an episode of British history so bloody that it caused William Gladstone to say at the time that he lived “in dread of the judgments of God upon England for our national iniquity towards China”.</p><p>Weatherall made a donation of <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Weatherall&amp;sort=Value&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">£50,000</a> to Better Together ahead of the vote in Scotland in 2014. He has told openDemocracy that he was not involved in any donation to the Constitutional Research Council, and has never heard of the organisation or of its chair, Richard Cook.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Mark Bamford</strong>, whose family firm owns the iconic heavy-machinery company JCB gave a <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/English/Donations/C0132405">£74,747.47</a> donation to a group called the Scottish Research Society ahead of the 2014 referendum. openDemocracy investigations have ascertained that The Scottish Research Society’s registered address was a flat in Edinburgh which belonged to Christopher Monckton, the former UKIP deputy leader and prominent climate change denier (and subject of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/climate-skeptics-agree-their-key-messages-for-journalists-with-journalist-in-room">previous openDemocracy investigations</a>). However, Bamford responded to our queries saying “I am sorry I am unable to assist and any donations that may have been made are in the public domain.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Malcolm Offord</strong> ran his own pro-Union campaign, named “Vote No Borders”, to which he personally donated £20,000, and which attracted a number of other substantial donations. Offord previously worked in the City, and moved back to Scotland to establish his own firm “Badenoch &amp; Co”.</p><p dir="ltr">Badenoch’s office sits at the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town on the top floor of a building otherwise occupied by the firm Murray Capital, owned by the <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/by/alex-thomson/blogs/rangers-cheated-football-fraudulent-silverware">controversial </a>former Rangers owner David Murray. Together, they face across Charlotte Square to Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, Offord spoke in favour of a Leave vote, and he is well connected with the Unionist, political and business worlds in Scotland. However, his office has told us that he knows nothing about the donation to the Constitutional Research Council and the DUP.</p><h2>The Marquess of Salisbury and Stalbury trustees</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Summer20179-1180x530.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Summer20179-1180x530.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="207" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hatfield House. Imaged used under Fair Use: http://www.hatfield-house.co.uk/. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Stalbury Trustees, who gave to Better Together, are regular donors to the Conservative party. Their trustees include the Marquess of Salisbury, a former leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords who is known to have supported a Leave vote. Salisbury has long taken an interest in Northern Irish Unionism, and, in 2010, hosted talks between the Conservatives and Northern Irish Unionist parties, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/jan/26/northern-ireland-power-sharing-talks">including prominent DUP figures</a>, at his home, Hatfield House, in Hertfordshire.</p><p dir="ltr">The Marquess of Salisbury is also a donor to the think tank <a href="http://openeurope.org.uk/supporters/">Open Europe</a>. As openDemocracy has previously revealed, one Open Europe former staff member, Christopher Howarth, is now responsible for the European Research Group – the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">secretive pro-Brexit MP group</a> which received funding from the Constitutional Research Council when it was chaired by the now Brexit minister, Steve Baker. Another former Open Europe staffer, Raoul Ruparel, now works<a href="https://uk.linkedin.com/in/raoul-ruparel-a45b2a62"> as a Special Adviser</a> in the Department for Exiting the EU alongside Steve Baker, the former ERG chair.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">'No one involved with Stalbury is aware of the specific donation which you mention.'</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy wrote to Mr Ulric David Barnett, who is secretary of the trust (and lists his profession as “<a href="https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/document-api-images-prod/docs/aAxHQnSp2mzUDzo1EnhQgpwq-6VmquoInuneyTRG54Y/application-pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=ASIAIDNU22Z5LIJ7EO5Q&amp;Expires=1508155071&amp;Signature=4Gh%2F4kI1xiKQbjW%2FbdOdNwxeJ8k%3D&amp;x-amz-security-token=FQoDYXdzEFgaDNEIey6fLpQsb04BPiK3A4h4SlkGj%2BDJwLYpvBMgFUm%2FolB83mekMnYpgNJhDABwyVnnKFlfGSpaG6SMZje5O0%2BKcgX3TVSa9mPD6opgVdwAEjZRtxO8f0rg%2F9h%2BkCXAbbvKJKbaCzKocyVpKbklv3jz54Mb22R2muJ7df5Zhc098HTmfxLA07%2BDlq2940wZKLkrId6%2FHib%2BFisHj%2Fl2tRKQ%2FF09%2FWfujLzUX740tY5%2FVR8XbdLfMNHUYRZXawpNmGYwpJwrn%2BT%2F0zjXz3LSzPFfClnOeiQE1Sc267PTf%2FZk%2FPPoLZea2%2FaJn6fTIf2j1bSBbHpau%2BXsibNDmceB5VLb8zwDLYdctbi4JH3Hqh%2F8CdLgoNkfD2aXVPbVZjY8MIWEz12vRxUmiyh0YDQtflXphoR6hkAep323mFGFdRt5JukcChuhk3%2FJ%2BvWf4wFZMp7A%2FYviW85V1JIc95dg4kOb7Q32tupjt%2BzbJZwX013fAmkda0z0Vw7E%2BCWnzD83ECVvxCEFfclh1qeo7dpwjhpz7w5v1tP9Ndye14ihI8Bqr1i3n8khzL%2BdUZ4z8few56MgTVlZNFu6QOxoM0c5u0Ot%2FSvT4xEoirWRzwU%3D">gentleman</a>”). We received a phone call from the mailroom of a legal firm named Forsters, in Mayfair. The address belongs to them, and they initially claimed they knew no one of that name. However, we eventually managed to establish that the trust is, in fact, a client of the firm. After emailing and telephoning the relevant lawyer, we finally received this statement:</p><p dir="ltr">“I can tell you that Stalbury has made no donation to the Constitutional Research Council, nor, directly or indirectly, to the Democratic Unionist Party and no one involved with Stalbury is aware of the specific donation which you mention.”</p><p dir="ltr">The distillers <strong>William Grant and Sons</strong>, who produce whiskies including Glenfiddich and Balvenie, donated £135,000 to Better Together, and £25,000 each to the separate pro-Union campaigns “Vote No Borders”, run by the businessman Malcolm Offord, and £25,000 to the campaign run by the previously mentioned Angus MacDonald. After chasing up our letters to them, we received a phone call from Jack Irvine, CEO of Media House International, who told us that he had arranged the Better Together donation, and that “I can assure you there was no connection” between the company and the Constitutional Research Council or the DUP.&nbsp;</p><h2>The Vestey family</h2><p>There is one major Unionist donor who has not responded to our repeated attempts to contact him.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The Vestey family</strong> are heirs to a vast meat processing fortune, and one of their firms, Western United Investment Management Ltd, gave <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/English/Donations/C0152361">£40,000 to Better Together</a>. Lord Samuel Vestey is Master of the Horse in the Royal household, and perhaps best known in the UK for the ‘horse meat scandal’, in which his firm supplied horse meat,<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/9929122/Queens-Master-of-the-Horse-drawn-into-horsemeat-scandal.html"> labelled as beef</a>, to a number of major outlets in 2013. In Australia, he is notorious for the more serious allegation that he used Aboriginal people as “<a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-26/fnwa-on-fight-for-indigenous-workers-rights-and-end-to-cdp/8834502">virtual slaves</a>”, leading to the iconic “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave_Hill_walk-off">Wave Hill Walk Off</a>” in 1966 and remembered in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Little_Things_Big_Things_Grow">Australian protest song</a>, “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_ndC07C2qw">From little things, big things grow</a>”. Both Vestey and his father served in the Scots Guards.</p><p dir="ltr">We have been unable to establish whether Lord Vestey took a firm public position on the EU referendum, but in <a href="https://farmersweekly.co.nz/#">an interview with Farmers’ Weekly</a> in April this year he talked about how difficult Brexit would be for farmers, and worried about the shock to British voters as a result of what he called a “divorce settlement” – not language traditionally associated with Leave supporters.</p><p dir="ltr">The Vesteys have not responded to our repeated attempts to contact them.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Henry Angest and Arbuthnot Latham</h2><p>There is one major donor to the Unionist cause in 2014 who is known to have supported Brexit, and who has refused to deny involvement in the DUP donation.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/henry_2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/henry_2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="728" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sir Henry Angest, Chairman and Chief Executive of Arbuthnot Banking Group PLC. Image used under Fair Use: Arbuthnot Banking Group PLC. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Henry Angest is a Swiss-born banker with an estate in Bridge of Cally, Perthshire. He is chairman and chief executive of the private bank Arbuthnot Latham, owner of the firm <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/02463564/officers">Flowidea</a>, and a former treasurer of the Conservative party. He has given over £1.9 million to the Conservative party and made headlines when he was given a knighthood by David Cameron, causing what the Daily Mail called a “<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3122179/Tories-face-fresh-cash-titles-storm-former-party-treasurer-donated-1-9million-given-knighthood.html">cash for titles storm</a>”. He made headlines again when, in 2013, it was revealed that Secure Trust Bank plc, of which he was chair, owned the controversial high-cost loans company<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/top-tory-funder-runs-high-cost-loans-company-8656356.html"> Everyday Loans</a>, which was reported to charge interest at an average of 74.8% APR. His bank sold the company <a href="http://www.arbuthnotgroup.com/Upload/file/STB%20Everyday%20Loans%20press%20release%20(130416).pdf">in April 2016.</a></p><p><a href="http://www.arbuthnotgroup.com/Upload/file/STB%20Everyday%20Loans%20press%20release%20(130416).pdf"></a>Angest’s firm Flowidea gave £100,000 to Better Together in 2014, and £10,000 to the “North East says No” campaign, against devolution to the North East of England, <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=north%20east%20says%20no&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=asc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">in 2004</a>. His Arbuthnot Banking Group gave £20,000 to the Vote No campaign in the referendum on the Alternative Vote in 2011. In 2016 alone, Arbuthnott gave £68,500 to the Conservative party, Flowidea gave £185,000 and Angest himself gave £2,000 to the Perth and Kinross Conservatives.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Angest publicly<a href="https://business-reporter.co.uk/2016/03/23/support-for-eu-in-city-is-shallow-says-boris-johnson/"> backed Brexit</a>, and, we are told, has long been involved in the Eurosceptic movement. Despite being a prolific donor to the causes he believes in, neither he, nor Flowidea, nor Arbuthnot, nor any of the 22 companies he is currently or has <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/cMeYXSAgf_-Yvi7mU-gSliwVVdo/appointments">ever been a director of</a>, are listed with the Electoral Commission as having registered any donations to any of the Leave campaigns in Great Britain.</p><p dir="ltr">However, investigations by The Observer in 2010 showed that he had given funds in 2006 to the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/apr/11/conservative-donor-paymaster-activists">Freedom Association</a> – a right-wing group which has a number of ties to the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Constitutional Research Council</a>, through which the DUP donation was channelled. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">Steve Baker</a>, the current Brexit minister, was a member of the Freedom Association until “around 2013”, the organisation told openDemocracy. Baker took a donation from the CRC in December 2016 for his work with the European Research Group. As openDemocracy has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">previously revealed</a>, Richard Cook, CRC chair, has spoken at Freedom Association events, and was the Scottish representative of the Campaign Against Political Correctness – an organisation with very close links to the Freedom Association. In 2007, the two key DUP MPs, Jeffrey Donaldson and Sammy Wilson, were involved in a Freedom Association ‘fact-finding mission’ to Northern Ireland. Donaldson was the DUP’s Brexit campaign manager.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">There is one major donor to the Unionist cause in 2014 who is known to have supported Brexit, and who has refused to deny involvement in the DUP donation.</p><p dir="ltr">Angest, like the Marquess of Salisbury, has also previously funded the group<a href="http://openeurope.org.uk/supporters/"> Open Europe</a>, whose former staff members (as mentioned above) include Christopher Howarth, who now runs the CRC-funded European Research Group, and Raoul Ruparel, now a special adviser in the Department for Exiting the EU.</p><p dir="ltr">Finally, Mr Angest has also been a donor to the controversial organisation <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/apr/11/conservative-donor-paymaster-activists">Atlantic Bridge</a>, which brings together the British and the American neo-Conservative right and whose UK director <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/oct/15/liam-fox-atlantic-bridge">was listed in 2009</a> as the Scottish businessman Adam Werritty, whose links to Liam Fox caused the latter to <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/8828141/Liam-Fox-resigns-following-Adam-Werritty-revelations.html">resign in disgrace </a>as defence secretary in 2011.</p><p dir="ltr">Angest’s office eventually responded to our attempts to contact him, saying that they “have no comment on this matter”. We informed him that he was the only known Brexit-backer in our survey not to distance themselves from this donation, and asked again if he wanted to comment. His office didn’t reply.</p><p dir="ltr">We have no evidence to suggest that Henry Angest is the source of the DUP donation, and he is welcome to contact us to clarify the matter.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/mary-fitzgerald/who-bankrolled-brexit">Who bankrolled Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-demand-full-investigation-of-hard-brexit-backing-tory-party-within-par">MPs demand full investigation of hard-Brexit backing Tory &quot;party within a party&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">Revealed: The Tory MPs using taxpayers’ cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/key-poll-which-boosted-leadsom-s-leadership-bid-funded-by-d">Key poll which boosted Leadsom’s leadership bid funded by DUP’s dark-money donors</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/release-details-of-dup-brexit-dark-money-mps-tells-northern">Release details of DUP Brexit ‘dark money’, MPs tells Northern Ireland Secretary </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/opendemocracy-has-forced-change-in-law-on-dark-money-but-we-still-need-to-do-more">We&#039;ve forced a change in the law on &#039;dark money&#039;. But we still need to do more</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">Meet the Soopa Doopa branding agency that delivered Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dark-money-driving-scottish-tory-surge">The dark money driving the Scottish Tory surge</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/how-dark-money-is-drowning-british-democracy">How dark money is drowning British democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £425,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">Democratic Unionist Party Brexit campaign manager admits he didn’t know about its mysterious donor’s links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/electoral-commission-contradict-dup-on-brexit-donor-transparency">Electoral Commission contradicts DUP on Brexit donor transparency</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Mon, 16 Oct 2017 09:21:43 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 113976 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>New tranche of Electoral Commission emails show how Vote Leave gave a student £675,000 overnight – and the worrying implications for British democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Darren Grimes.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Darren Grimes.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Darren Grimes. Image, Channel4, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Last year a young fashion student from County Durham called Darren Grimes registered a pro-Brexit social media campaign, aimed at persuading young people to vote to quit the EU. It was called BeLeave. At first, not many people noticed.</p><p dir="ltr">In its first ten weeks, BeLeave raised the sum total of £107 for its activities. But in the ten days before the Brexit referendum, Darren Grimes spent more than £675,000 on a pro-Brexit social media campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, <a href="https://theferret.scot/brexit-campaigners-spending/?utm_source=push">a string of emails</a> released under Freedom of Information laws to WhatDoTheyKnow and seen by openDemocracy demonstrate the full scale of the loophole in Britain’s electoral rules which allowed Grimes and Vote Leave to spend this extraordinary sum – and the worrying implications it has for British democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">By the usual measures, BeLeave wasn’t much of a social media success. Its launch met with the traditional fate of campaigns aimed too obviously at young people: it was briefly mocked on Twitter, and then ignored. To this day, it has a sum total of <a href="https://twitter.com/beleaveuk/followers">4,139 followers on Twitter</a>. Its Facebook page seems to have been taken down, but was reported on Buzzfeed to have <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/marieleconte/vote-leave-donations?utm_term=.ob358N1Yj#.im8K56xLa">reached fewer than 6,000 fans</a>. We can’t find an Instagram account. </p><p dir="ltr">Grimes is now deputy editor at BrexitCentral (who controversially got a <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/vote-leave-campaigners-have-secured-a-place-at-downing?utm_term=.cw5M63dN3#.ut5wp9XE9">press pass for the Westminster lobby</a> recently.) </p><p dir="ltr">Investigations by Buzzfeed, Private Eye and the Observer have all reported on the sudden and extraordinary £675,000 spent by BeLeave in the ten days before the referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">But here’s another strange thing: Darren Grimes didn’t spend the money at all. All the donations to cover his bills were paid by the official Leave campaign, Vote Leave, directly to AggregateIQ, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/14/robert-mercer-cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-referendum-brexit-campaigns">controversial data analytics firm</a> linked to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy">Trump-backer Robert Mercer</a>. The firm was used by a range of different Leave campaign groups, who between them paid £3.3m for its services during the referendum.</p><h2 dir="ltr">All in this together?</h2><p dir="ltr">In internal emails the Electoral Commission describes Grimes’ spending as ‘unusual’ and also finds that he did break some of its rules. But the commission decided to take the matter no further as there was “no reasonable grounds” to believe that Vote Leave and Grimes had been working together, which would have more tightly limited how much they could spend under UK electoral law. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The referendum saw a number of different groups register as campaigns on each side. These campaigns were given spending caps, designed to limit how much the rich can sway our democracy. If one campaign can simply get round its limit by donating to another on the same side, then the cap verges on meaningless. And so Electoral Commission rules are meant to restrict campaigns from getting round spend limits in this way. But legal experts and transparency advocates have questioned the Electoral Commission’s interpretation of these laws on campaigners working together, on the back of the revelations about Darren Grimes and Vote Leave.</p><p dir="ltr">“In practice, if campaigner X is incurring bills in the knowledge that campaigner Y is going to pay those bills it is quite difficult to see that sensibly as anything but working together,” says Jolyon Maugham QC, one of Britain’s <a href="https://waitingfortax.com/2017/09/18/16188/">leading barristers</a>. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />“I find it quite difficult to see how Vote Leave would have paid this student’s bills unless he was incurring expenditure that they were happy with and had been prepared to approve in advance."</p><p dir="ltr">Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK said: “It is almost inconceivable that campaigners would donate to each other hundreds of thousands of pounds without some assurance or agreement as to what the money would be spent on. The idea that their use of the same principal service provider was somehow not co-ordinated but a mere co-incidence is as implausible as it is convenient for those campaigners investigated.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Spend as much money as needed in order to win the referendum’</h2><p dir="ltr">As a registered Leave campaigner, Grimes was allowed to spend up to £700,000 during the referendum. Earlier this year a Vote Leave source <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/vote-leave-the-canadian-it-company-and-the-ps725000-donation?utm_term=.yv3d1GJDa#.lpWmQqojG">told a parliamentary committee</a> that it had enlisted Mr Grimes’s BeLeave campaign because it was close to breaching its £7 million spending limit and wanted to ensure all the money it had been given would be used. Under UK electoral law, this is fine. The Electoral Commission has ruled that such donations are allowed – so long as there was no ‘plan or other arrangement’ between Darren Grimes and Vote Leave about how the money was spent.</p><p dir="ltr">However, if there is coordination in how the money is used, UK electoral law requires campaigns to declare if they are working together. As the <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/193067/Joint-campaigning-for-non-party-campaigners-May-2016.pdf">Electoral Commission guidance</a> says “Working together means spending money as a result of a coordinated plan or arrangement between two or more campaigners.” If campaigns are working together, they have to declare expenditure together, and their combined spending counts towards the same cap. </p><p dir="ltr">There were a number of controversies around joint working during the Brexit campaign. In February 2016, four months before the referendum, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">Steve Baker</a>, the Conservative MP who used to chair the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">controversial European Research Group</a> and is now a junior minister at the Department for Exiting the EU, told colleagues that Vote Leave could ‘create separate legal entities each of which could spend £700k: Vote Leave will be able to spend as much money as is necessary to win the referendum.” A Vote Leave spokesman later had to clarify that “Steve would never encourage anyone to break the law”. (Baker <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">subsequently received fundin</a>g from the Constitutional Research Council, the secretive organisation that <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">gave the DUP more than £425,000 for its Brexit campaign</a>.) </p><p dir="ltr">In August 2016, Darren Grimes reported his campaign spending to the Electoral Commission on behalf of BeLeave. Grimes told the Electoral Commission that his spending “was done in isolation of Vote Leave Ltd”. He also initially told the commission that Vote Leave and another pro-Brexit donor had given BeLeave the money in cash. However, the true story is in fact more surprising than that. </p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>Here’s £675,000 - without conditions</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">As revealed above, Vote Leave didn’t actually give Grimes cash donations. Rather, Vote Leave paid the money directly to his sole ‘supplier’ AggregateIQ, a data analysis company linked to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy">Trump-backer Robert Mercer</a> that is based in small Canadian city, and which Vote Leave and other pro-Brexit campaigners spent more than £3.3m. Grimes also confirmed that another donation – £50,000 from Vote Leave donor Anthony Clarke – was actually paid directly to Aggregate IQ, too. </p><p dir="ltr">Specifically, on June 13 2016, Vote Leave had paid Aggregate IQ £400,000 for social media work on BeLeave’s behalf. There followed another payment of £40,000 on June 20, and £185,315 on June 21, just 48 hours before the Brexit vote.</p><p dir="ltr">Grimes told the Electoral Commission that although Vote Leave paid his bills with AggregateIQ, they did not dictate what the social media campaign looked like. “[M]y understanding is that Vote Leave did not buy advertising services to gift to BeLeave but discharged BeLeave’s debt to AIQ by a transfer of cash at our request. It was a not a condition of the donation either that the donation be spent on advertising – but that is what we wanted to do given the limited time left in the campaign period and the nature of our campaign,” Grimes wrote to the Electoral Commission, in one of the emails seen by openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">Grimes told the Electoral Commission that he had not co-ordinated with Vote Leave, although Vote Leave did directly pay AggregateIQ for social media on BeLeave’s behalf. “We didn’t discuss with Vote Leave how we would spend the money apart from telling them that it was for our digital campaign and that is why we asked for the money to be paid directly to the company were working with Aggregate IQ,” Grimes said. “Vote Leave had no say or input in our strategy or our campaign spending.” </p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission found that by registering these donations as cash Grimes had misreported on his return “due to lack of understanding”. However, the Electoral Commission decided that there were “no reasonable grounds” for suspecting that Vote Leave knew details of the social media campaign they were paying for on Darren Grimes’s behalf – knowledge which would have constituted ‘joint working’. Last September, the commission decided that a formal investigation was not in the public interest. </p><p dir="ltr">On November 15, Buzzfeed journalist Jim Waterson wrote to the Electoral Commission asking if the commission was planning to investigate “potential co-ordination” between Vote Leave and Grimes’s campaigns. In response staff said they “found no evidence that Darren Grimes and Vote Leave worked together in a way that broke the law… based upon what you have told us, we are content that there is nothing in the information you have provided below that needs us to re-consider this decision.”</p><p dir="ltr">In February 2017, the Electoral Commission launched an investigation into referendum spending by <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-news-investigation-eu-referendum-vote-leave-britain-stronger-in-europe-campaigns-a7596981.html">Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe</a>.<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-news-investigation-eu-referendum-vote-leave-britain-stronger-in-europe-campaigns-a7596981.html"> </a>On the back of a series of articles, particularly by Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer, the Commission began looking at the role of AggregateIQ in the referendum campaign. The Electoral Commission wrote to Darren Grimes again, this time asking him to ‘please explain why you chose to commission AggregateIQ in particular to undertake the work you reported in your spending return, rather than another company.’ </p><p dir="ltr">Replying on March 3, Grimes told the Electoral Commission that he decided to spend more than £675,000 with AggregateIQ after volunteering with Vote Leave and watching the US presidential election process. “I attended some Vote Leave Ltd events during the campaign as a volunteer activist and socialised with some members of staff. I asked and was told that AIQ (AggregateIQ) was running Vote Leave’s digital campaign and I also became aware that AIQ had worked on Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, that I was greatly impressed by. I was therefore confident that they could assist us in putting the proposed donation to effect in the time available,” Grimes said in emails to the Electoral Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">Grimes told the Commission that before Vote Leave approached him, his BeLeave social media campaign had struggled for funding, and for traction. ‘Until Vote Leave Ltd made me aware that they were in a position to make a donation and asked if BeLeave was able to make use of it we had not been able to put any funds behind pushing our messaging despite previous requests for donations.”</p><p dir="ltr">Writing in notably formal language, Grimes also reiterated that BeLeave had worked separately from Vote Leave. “Be Leave ran its own independent campaign from the outset and throughout, we did not take any instruction, collaborate with, or indeed discuss any aspect of our digital campaign, or our relationship with AIQ with anyone from Vote Leave Ltd, apart from the fact of the donation itself.” </p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission also asked AggregateIQ about Grimes’s spending. In March, AIQ president and CEO Zack Massingham told the Commission: “We did not discuss with Mr Grimes any of the work undertaken by AggregateIQ on behalf of Vote Leave Limited nor are we aware of any details being shared with Mr Grimes.” Massingham also told the Commission that he had no reason to believe that Vote Leave and BeLeave were “not separate and distinct”. The Electoral Commission subsequently decided not to launch a larger investigation into Grimes’s spending.</p><h2 dir="ltr">A watchdog for our democracy?</h2><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave and Grimes have both consistently said that there was no coordination between the two campaigns. But barrister Jolyon Maugham QC says the Election Commission needs to do more to investigate potential breaches and enforce its own rules. “I think the British public deserves better than this from the Electoral Commission. It is the watchdog of our democracy. A true watchdog stands sentient and courageous. This looks more like the yearning for a quiet life of an ageing Labrador,” says Maugham in a <a href="https://waitingfortax.com/2017/09/18/16188/">detailed blog post </a>on the issue of joint working. </p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on this story, Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK highlighted the role of dark money in the Brexit referendum. </p><p dir="ltr">“Far from being the people’s plebiscite, the facts show the referendum campaigns were dominated by big money on either side of the debate. Our research found that over half of reported donations to referendum campaigners came from just ten people, with only a hundred donors accounting for almost all of the reported contributions that were made.</p><p dir="ltr">“Our electoral law is of no use if it is not enforced in practice.”</p><p dir="ltr">Darren Grimes has not responded to openDemocracy’s attempts to contact him about this affair. Vote Leave no longer exists, but its former staff haven’t responded to our attempts to contact them. The Electoral Commission chose not to comment.</p><p dir="ltr"><em><strong>The full cache of Election Commission emails about AggregateIQ are available on <a href="https://theferret.scot/brexit-campaigners-spending/">The Ferret</a>.</strong></em></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">Meet the Soopa Doopa branding agency that delivered Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Mon, 18 Sep 2017 12:19:18 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 113433 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Growing up on the border: on Brexit’s Irish problem https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/growing-up-on-border-on-brexit-s-irish-problem <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>People voted to <em>take back control </em>of the UK's borders... with little thought for what that would mean for the only actual land border.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ireland-NI-Border-019.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ireland-NI-Border-019.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Ireland/Northern Ireland border - Wikimedia.</span></span></span></p><p>It is inconceivable that a vote for Brexit would not have a negative impact on the (Irish) Border, bringing cost and disruption to trade and to people’s lives.</p><p><em>Theresa May, June 2016</em></p><p>Nobody wants to return to the borders of the past.</p><p><em>Theresa May, July 2016</em></p><p>Around three hundred roads bisect the circuitous three-hundred-and-ten-mile border that separates the six counties of Northern Ireland from the twenty-six of the Irish Republic. Some are barely paved country lanes that snake over and back from one jurisdiction to another multiple times in a matter of miles. Others – like the motorway that connects Dublin and Belfast – are major arteries, as seamlessly asphalted as any German autobahn. The only way you can tell which side of the border you are on – as British television reporters have become so fond of telling viewers back home on ‘the mainland’ – is whether the speed signs are in miles or kilometres.</p><p>I grew up about thirty miles into the southern side of the border line, in a drab market town called Longford. For an over-eager child in a monochrome 1980s Irish home, Northern Ireland was strikingly exotic, simultaneously always present and continually absent. Each night it seems the news was filled with macabre tales from Belfast, less than a hundred miles away. But we seldom ventured north. When I was about seven years old my mother took us shopping in Enniskillen, the closest large town across the border, in County Fermanagh. We must have passed barbed wire and concrete look outs manned by acne-scarred teenagers from Derby or Newcastle touting automatic weapons, but I have no recollection of any of these. My only memories are remarking to my mother about how smooth the northern roads were – I was a serious boy – and how colourful was the window display in Enniskillen’s Woolworths. Northern Ireland seemed so much more modern. There were no Woolworths in Longford.</p><p><a rel="attachment wp-att-959" href="https://www.petergeoghegan.com/2017/07/29/brexits-irish-border-problems-a-semi-personal-reflection/images/"></a></p><p>By the time I went to university in Dublin, in 1998, the border that had been erected in the early 1920s had started to disappear. The customs posts had already been dismantled. Most of the green wooden border huts were gone. Those that remained rotted slowly in the countryside. The signing of the Good Friday Agreement effectively brought an end to the thirty-year-long Troubles. The IRA’s war was over. So was the British state’s. The imposing watchtowers that hugged the hillsides of the southern reaches of Down and Armagh were dismantled. The squaddies went home, or eventually ended up in Afghanistan or Iraq. Roads that had been closed during the violent years – or simply bombed into uselessness – were opened. In the early 2000s, by which time I was living in Belfast, I often travelled on a rickety country bus back to Longford to visit my mother. I would occasionally pass the time by trying to figure out if we had crossed the invisible line based on when my cellphone switched providers. I was seldom certain.</p><p>Politically, the border started to fade, too. As southern politicians no longer had an immediate need to worry about the insoluble ‘national question’ attention turned towards getting filthy rich. The Celtic Tiger roared. Property prices doubled, then tripled. Semi-detached houses in Longford sold for €400,000. Now it was Dublin that was modern, all wine bars and hundred grand sports cars. I often headed south from Belfast at the weekends, escaping a half empty ghost city where people were still fearful of venturing after dark. By the time the boom turned to bust – form 2008 – most Irish voters had forgotten about the ‘black north’. Even Sinn Fein, the party of the IRA, campaigned on working-class demands for higher wages and social security not the need for “Brits Out.”</p><p>I was the only person I knew from my school who spent any time living in Northern Ireland. Over Christmas pints in the local pub nobody asked about life in Belfast. In the south, Northern Ireland had become an an embarrassment. A place famous around the world for bombs and bitterness. Thirty miles away, but another world. A Lacanian ‘Other’ that can never be assimilated, nor totally disavowed. Better to ignore and move on least the atavism proves contagious. So the Republic spent the best part of the last decade struggling to emerge from a self-inflicted mountain of bank debt while the north continued the slow struggle to emerge from its brutal past.</p><p>Thirty thousand people cross the Irish border every day for work. The border has not withered away but it is far less noticeable. There are still the fireworks stores on the northern side, and the incongruous petrol stations, often said to be illegally passing off industrial fuel for commercial use. Every so often, the Irish and British police team-up for a raid on republicans opposed to the peace process. But, for most, the border has ceased to matter a great deal. People in Donegal give birth in hospitals over the border in Derry. When my brother needed to get his driving licence at short notice he took the test in Enniskillen, where waiting times are far shorter.</p><p>In March 2016, I was in Dublin for the centenary commemorations of the Easter Rising, a rebellion which led to the war of independence and then to partition. The fiftieth anniversary of the Rising – a story of blood sacrifice still told in gruesome detail when I was a school child – had been celebrated with high nationalist pomp. The rebels of Easter 1916 were the heroes. The villains were the British. Everybody else – the vast majority of the population who had little interest in insurrection – were ignored. The IRA even got in on the act, blowing up Nelson’s Column on Dublin’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, in March 1966. Out of practice, the republicans misjudged the amount of explosives needed, leaving behind a stone stump that the Irish Army was left to dispose of. The tone in Dublin a half-century later could scarcely have been more different, or more ecumenical. There were solemn silences and visiting dignitaries from well beyond the republican family. There had even been talk of an invitation being extended to the Queen. Almost a century after independence, ‘Official Ireland’ showed itself off in the Dublin sun, a mature state, reconciled with its former colonial power beneath the European Union’s starry flag. There was little talk of Irish unification, or the border.</p><p>———————–</p><p>A few weeks before the European Union referendum I went on a reporting trip to Belfast. Elections to the devolved assembly in Stormont had taken place a fortnight earlier. Round-faced middle-aged men still smiled down from placards on lampposts. The Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein once more topped the polls. Barely half the electorate had voted. There seemed even less enthusiasm for the EU referendum.</p><p>“We’re not allowed to vote in that. It’s only England,” Sean Morgan told me inside his souvenir shop on the Falls Road in republican West Belfast. I thought better of correcting him. His shop was called Fenians after the 19th&nbsp;century Irish republicans committed to a United Ireland. Replica guns and copies of the proclamation of Ireland adorned the walls. There were rolls of red, white and blue union flag toilet paper at £2.50 a pop. “You’ll never never believe how many of those we sell,” Morgan laughed.</p><p>Sinn Fein – long the dominant political force in West Belfast – reversed its historic opposition to the EU to back a remain vote but there was little sign of pro-EU sentiment on the Falls Road. No starry European Union flags flew alongside the Tricolours. None of Northern Ireland’s parties spent more than £10,000 on their pro-EU campaigns. I counted a single Leave poster, on the Shankill Road, on the opposite side of the 15-foot-hight corrugated iron “peace wall” that has cut off Catholics from Protestants in west Belfast for more than four decades.</p><p>In the interests of balance – or so I told myself – I called into Ulster Souvenirs, halfway up the Shankill Road. Across the street, faded images of hooded loyalist gunmen looked down from a gable end mural. Inside the narrow shop, a portrait of a serious-looking Edward Carson, Northern Ireland’s Dublin-born founding father, hung over the till. David Reid, the shop’s owner, looked about thirty years old. I asked how would be voting in the referendum. “Oh aye, out!” He smiled. “People are fed up with the way the country is run, with being in the European Union.”</p><p>As if on cue, a trio of customers arrived. All wanted to buy Northern Ireland football jerseys for the upcoming European championships. How will you vote, I asked, a little too aware of which side of the border my accent placed me on. “Leave,” Greg Benson bellowed. The “Now That’s What I Call Loyalist Music” CDs and the Apprentice Boys flags behind the counter almost shook with the reverberations of his voice.&nbsp; “You can’t say too much or you’re a racist, but immigration is the big thing. It’s having a massive affect on our health system,” Benson told me.</p><p>Northern Ireland remains one of the most ethnically homogenous places in the UK. Non-white faces are still something of a rarity in Belfast. But the squat capital has changed since I left for Scotland in 2009. The city centre is no longer a dead zone after dark. The rebirth of Belfast as a “cool” destination has been celebrated by journalists from around the world. Where once even a cup of coffee on a Sunday afternoon was hard to find now there is a plethora of cafes in the modish fashion, all exposed brick and customers with fixed gear bicycles.</p><p>Yet Belfast still carries the scars of the Troubles, particularly in the near-inner city districts such as the Shankill and Falls Roads. Here unemployment is high. Long term out of work even higher. There are still gap sites, and much of the new private housing is beyond the reach of local residents. And there are still the “peace walls”. These barricades, ad hoc at first, emerged with the start of the Troubles in the late 1960s. In 1971, a secret Northern Ireland government report expressed concern that the barriers, gates and fences springing up in West Belfast in particular were creating an “atmosphere of abnormality”. However, the report writers added that they did “not expect any insurmountable difficulty” in bringing down the walls. The following year, Stormont was suspended as the violence worsened to descend into civil war. The peace walls continued to appear. Only a handful have ever been dismantled.</p><p>When Britain first voted on Europe, in 1975, Northern Ireland was the most Eurosceptic of the “home nations”. Where two-thirds of English backed the then European Economic Community, just 52 per cent of Northern Irish voters supported membership. In 2016, positions were basically reversed. Where English opposition to the European Union swung the Brexit vote, fifty-six per cent of Northern Irish citizens voted to remain part of the EU in June 2016. In the border counties, the remain vote rose to 65 per cent.</p><p>My mother rang the day after the Brexit vote. It must have been the afternoon because she asked about Scottish independence. (In the morning, Nicola Stugreon had said that a second referendum was “highly likely”.) But she was mainly interested in the border. “What will it mean for Northern Ireland?” she asked. “Will I need to bring a passport to go to Belfast?” I said that I did not know but was sure it would not come to border controls. I was only half honest. I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t come to that. Already that morning Boris Johnson, one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, was distancing himself from the referendum result.</p><p>That nobody on the BBC’s rolling referendum coverage was talking about what Brexit might mean for the Irish border was hardly surprising. Northern Ireland rarely features in news headlines anymore, in Britain or in Ireland. There was little said about Northern Ireland – or the border – during the campaign. The Democratic Unionists supported a Leave vote, without providing any discernible rationale, while almost every other local political party opposed Brexit, mainly on the basis that anything that might unsettle the notoriously fragile political and economic ecosystem could hardly be a good thing. Such caution seemed particularly justified when, a few weeks before the referendum, then home secretary Theresa May warned that a leave vote could create border chaos, “bringing cost and disruption to trade and to people’s lives”. In 2015, Northern Irish farmers received 87 per cent of their income direct from European Union grants. Polls suggest many famers subsequently voted Leave.</p><p>May’s pre-referendum fears about the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland were quickly forgotten, however. In July, the new prime minister, declared that there be would be “no return to the borders of the past”. That sound-bite would quickly assume the role of a mantra, trotted out as often, it seemed, as “Brexit means Brexit”. Concerns about the cross-border trade and travel were blithely dismissed by references to the Ireland-wide Common Travel Area. (The CTA, Irish political leaders pointed out, has existed since the early days of the Free State but never before has one jurisdiction been inside supranational body with free movement of people and the other outside.)</p><p>In her first cabinet reshuffle, May defenestrated Theresa Villiers, David Cameron’s Brexit-supporting Northern Ireland secretary. Ms Villiers, generally perceived as detached from local affairs, caused consternation in Belfast by openly campaigning with the DUP ahead of the EU referendum. Villiers’s replacement, James Brokenshire, has smacked of nominative determinism: since the Brexit vote Northern Irish politics has, after a decade of relative calm, collapsed. Divided on the most significant issue facing Northern Ireland since the peace process, relations between DUP first minister Arlene Foster and her then deputy, the late Martin McGuinness, quickly deteriorated. When a botched green energy scheme was revealed to have massively overspent – apparently largely on grants to DUP-supporting farmers – Sinn Fein pulled the plug on Stormont.</p><p>Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland is governed by a “consociational” system. This approach – in which ethnic blocs are given vetoes and balances – was initially devised in the Netherlands, to deal with regionalist demands. Since the 1990s it has become the solution of choice for post-conflict societies: Bosnia, Lebanon, Iraq. Under the Northern Irish iteration, the largest unionist and nationalist parties must share power. But in government the DUP and Sinn, always uncomfortable bedfellows, have drifted further apart, not closer together. The DUP has consistently blocked Sinn Fein legislation, including a law to permit gay marriage. While Foster was first minister, grants under a community halls scheme were bestowed on groups linked to the Orange Order, and largely denied to Gaelic Athletic Association clubs. The DUP’s culture minister refused a small grant to a Belfast community group which planned to take some children to an Irish-speaking area. The DUP leader’s fondness for majority rule echoes that of Theresa May. Brexit means Brexit. That most Northern Irish voters rejected the prospect of leaving the EU is incidental. The United Kingdom has spoken. But such majoritarianism has run into a major obstacle – not the Armalite, but the ballot box.</p><p><a rel="attachment wp-att-956" href="https://www.petergeoghegan.com/2017/07/29/brexits-irish-border-problems-a-semi-personal-reflection/stormont/"></a></p><p>In March, Northern Ireland held another round of devolved elections. This time there was a notable sense of expectation. In the weeks leading up to the vote, Adam Ramsay and I published a series of articles on how the DUP had received £425,000 for its Brexit campaign and was refusing to name its donors. The story caught the Northern Irish public imagination. I found myself on nightly news programmes, where anchors explained that the murky story of the DUP’s funding fed into a sense that the party were untrustworthy. In Ballymena, the buckle in Northern Ireland’s bible-belt and the powerbase of DUP founder Ian Paisley, I met traditional Protestant voters who accused the party of having “lost touch with its religious base”. In Belfast, younger voters were angry at the prospect of losing their ready access to the other 27 European Union states, including the country on the other side of the invisible border. The election proved dramatic. Turnout was up almost ten per cent on 2016. For the first time since partition, unionism failed to secure a majority in a Northern Irish parliament. Sinn Féin won 27 seats to the DUP’s 28. The Democratic Unionists lost seats across the border counties, including in Foster’s home, Fermanagh, where Sinn Fein took three of the five seats on offer. At the time of writing, no arrangement has been reached on a new governing coalition. Sinn Fein insist Foster must step aside. She has refused. The prospects of a swift re-instatement of power-sharing look slim.</p><p>Brexit has put the border back into Irish politics, in ways that would have seemed impossible only a couple of years ago. In Belfast, senior people from Alliance – an avowedly ‘cross-community’ party borne of a split in the Ulster Unionists in the Troubles’ early days – talk of the need to make plans for Irish unification. The Fine Gael government in Dublin held up as a major victory the Brussels’s confirmation that a post-unification Northern Ireland would seamlessly rejoin the EU. Having emerged from the pro-Treaty side after the civil war, Fine Gael has long been the most fiercely anti-republican force in Irish politics.</p><p>Along the border, life goes on, in its own quiet way. After Ulster Gaelic football championship games, queues of traffic still snake out from Clones, in County Monaghan, over the border into Northern Ireland. The questions of who did what to whom during the three-decades-long dirty war remain, waiting for answers. Peace, however, has not given way to prosperity. The border remains one of the poorest parts of the country. The large houses dotted across the drumlins belie a general shift from the rural to the urban, from the towns to Dublin and Belfast, that has characterized Irish life in recent decades. Where there has been sustained – and sustainable – investment in the border counties it has often come with a large sign bearing the European Union’s starry standard.</p><p>My first proper job, at the University of Ulster, was funded by the European Union. It was 2008, just before the financial crash. We were not so starry-eyed as to imagine that our attempts to reconcile Catholics and Protestants on either side of a peace wall in Derry would bring the barriers down overnight, but there were minor moments of success. A film night on Derry’s walls. A talk on social enterprise well-attended by both sides. Small steps. Nobody expects that London – or Dublin – will replace the £500m that Northern Ireland receives from the EU each year, especially for the slow, difficult work of rebuilding communities after conflict.</p><p>This spring I was back home for a wedding. The reception was in a stunning colonial castle nestled by a lake in rural county Leitrim, barely fifteen miles from Northern Ireland. The road signs were peppered with destinations on both sides of the border. The following day, I visited my mother. She was planning to get her teeth fixed, in Enniskillen. She had the name of a dentist there who charged only a fraction of the price on the southern side of the border. “The NHS is great,” she told me. “We should have it here, too.”</p><p><em>This piece first appeared on Peter's <a href="https://www.petergeoghegan.com/2017/07/29/brexits-irish-border-problems-a-semi-personal-reflection/">blog</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/philip-petit/shared-space-solution-to-ireland-s-brexit-border-problem">A shared-space solution to Ireland’s Brexit Border problem </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Peter Geoghegan Mon, 31 Jul 2017 06:23:29 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 112607 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Leadsom campaign chair denies involvement in dark-money funded poll which boosted her campaign https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/leadsom-campaign-chair-denies-involvement-in-dark-money-funded-poll-which-b <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The MP who ran Andrea Leadsom’s leadership bid tells openDemocracy that he wasn’t involved in commissioning a key opinion poll which boosted her campaign and was funded by the secretive Constitutional Research Council.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Lougton.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Lougton.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tim Loughton MP - photo, timloughton.com.</span></span></span></p><p>The chair of Andrea Leadsom’s campaign to become Conservative party leader has denied involvement in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/key-poll-which-boosted-leadsom-s-leadership-bid-funded-by-d">an opinion poll</a> which added momentum to her bid for prime minister at a key moment, openDemocracy can reveal.</p><p>Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing &amp; Shoreham, has responded on Twitter to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/key-poll-which-boosted-leadsom-s-leadership-bid-funded-by-d">our revelation</a> that a vital poll in the election, which showed Leadsom to be the key challenger to Theresa May on the day that MPs voted in their ‘first ballot’, was funded by the secretive Constitutional Research Council. Mr Loughton Tweeted “it is nonsense &amp; the campaign had nothing to do with this poll”.</p><p>The <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom-tags/dup-dark-money">Constitutional Research Council</a>, who funded the Survation poll, are a secretive group, currently taking advantage of obscure Northern Irish laws to prevent the public from finding out who gave them the £435,000 which they passed to the DUP ahead of the European referendum. The group later funneled cash to Steve Baker, who was the only MP other than Loughton to be a director of the “<a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/10260982/officers">Leadsom4Leader</a>” campaign.</p><p>News of the poll was <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/06/four-in-10-tory-supporters-will-not-vote-conservative-at-2020-el/">published at the time in the Telegraph</a>, who quoted two MPs supportive of Leadsom – Andrew Bridgen, and one who “asked not to be named”. As openDemocracy <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/key-poll-which-boosted-leadsom-s-leadership-bid-funded-by-d">reported on Saturday</a>, the poll was one of only three to appear after Boris Johnson withdrew from the race, and showed that Michael Gove – Leadsom’s main contender for pro-Brexit MPs – had disastrous approval ratings among the public. Responding to openDemocracy’s story about the poll, Mr Loughton tweeted at us:</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">1/2 No one contacted me or my office about this or I would have told them it is nonsense &amp; the campaign had nothing to do with this poll -</p>— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) <a href="https://twitter.com/timloughton/status/889170202587537410">July 23, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">2/2 so trust you will want to put the record straight immediately</p>— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) <a href="https://twitter.com/timloughton/status/889170238096506880">July 23, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script><p>In fact, openDemocracy spoke to a member of Mr Loughton’s staff on the 18th of July at 16:31, and she said that she’d ask Mr Loughton what he knew about the poll and get back to us, which she never did. But leaving such details aside, the response begs a bigger question: if the campaign had nothing to do with the poll, who was the anonymous Leadsom supporting MP quoted in the article? Who was behind this carefully timed intervention in the election, which was spun so heavily in Leadsom’s favour and, most importantly, where did the money for the survey really come from?</p><p><i><strong> Update: Mr Loughton has now added that he was completely unaware of the poll altogether. </strong></i></p><blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Not only denied it but completely unaware of poll altogether-at that time we were too focussed on getting MP votes 2 do any outside activity</p></blockquote><blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet">— Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) <a href="https://twitter.com/timloughton/status/889461051720437760">July 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/key-poll-which-boosted-leadsom-s-leadership-bid-funded-by-d">Key poll which boosted Leadsom’s leadership bid funded by DUP’s dark-money donors</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Mon, 24 Jul 2017 09:19:18 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 112464 at https://www.opendemocracy.net