Peter Geoghegan https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/20798/all cached version 23/01/2019 16:45:00 en Brexit’s primitive passions could bring havoc to Ireland – and far beyond https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/brexit-passions-could-bring-havoc-to-ireland-and-far-beyond <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Good Friday Agreement was a marvel that is now threatened by the ignorant and the nasty among Britain’s ruling elite.</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/PA-31751897.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/PA-31751897.jpg" alt="Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a press conference in 2017. Image: PA" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a press conference in 2017. Image: PA</span></span></span>History, Karl Marx famously quipped, repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce. That’s certainly true of Theresa May’s approach to Ireland. This past weekend began with <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/brexit-barnier-says-withdrawal-agreement-is-best-deal-possible-1.3765164">a tragic misreading of Dublin’s position on Brexit</a> – that London could somehow sign a bilateral deal with Dublin – and ended with farce: a proposal that the Good Friday Agreement could be “amended” to help the British prime minister’s deal pass the Westminster parliament.</p><p dir="ltr">May, <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/01/20/exclusive-theresa-may-mulls-amending-good-friday-agreement-get/"><em>The Daily Telegraph</em> reports</a>, wants to see the 1998 peace accord rewritten to assure Ireland that the UK is committed to maintaining no hard border after Brexit. Leaving aside the lack of faith many in Ireland have in the promises of a government propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which opposed the Good Friday Agreement in the first place, the very idea of rewriting the agreement attests to a much wider failure to understand the island, both north and south of the border.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/good-friday-agreement-is-20-years-old-today-but-will-it-last-another-20">The Good Friday Agreement effectively ended a conflict that cost more than 3,000 lives</a>. Historic enemies agreed to share power and respect each other’s identities and beliefs. The genius of the agreement was compromise: everybody lost something, so everybody won something.</p><p dir="ltr">Brexit is the exact opposite of that irenic spirit. It is politics as zero-sum game: a victory for me means a defeat for you. This approach is damaging enough in Britain, but it is potentially disastrous across the Irish Sea.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Blind spots</h2><p dir="ltr">Northern Ireland has been without a government for more than two years. This paralysis wasn’t caused by Brexit but the chaos in Westminster has clearly exacerbated tensions, reopening old questions about constitutional futures that the Good Friday Agreement had settled. A car bomb exploded in Derry on Saturday night. All this sententious talk of “sovereignty” can have very real effects in a divided society.</p><p dir="ltr">Brexiters like to point out that the agreement barely mentions the border. There are two good reasons for this: first an entire section of the accord, strand two, deals with north-south arrangements; second, in 1998, with Labour in power, nobody sitting around the table even considered the possibility of Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">The UK government’s failure to appreciate this complexity was exemplified by David Davis during a recent sitting of the European Union scrutiny committee last week. Without a word of apology, the man at least nominally in charge of the Brexit process for two years told MPs that the government has had a “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-46898944">blind spot</a>” when it comes to Brexit and Ireland. Yes, it is easy to miss a 310-mile-long land border. Troubles? What Troubles?&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">With hindsight, Davis said, Number 10 should have put more resources into what used to be called ‘the Irish question’ back when it divided the Tory party in the 19th century. But it was not all his fault. Britain had been “unpredictably handicapped”. Ireland had changed Taoiseach. The power-sharing government in Belfast had collapsed.</p><p dir="ltr">Yep, that’s right. If only Leo Varadkar hadn’t come along, pursuing the exact same Brexit strategy as his predecessor Enda Kenny. If only the Northern Ireland Executive was still up and running.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Blaming the Irish for Britain’s chaos has become a popular pastime for many on the Tory right.</p><p dir="ltr">Blaming the Irish for Britain’s chaos has become a popular pastime for many on the Tory right. “<a href="https://www.joe.ie/news/sun-leo-varadkar-shut-gob-grow-606943">Leo shut your gob</a>,” demanded <em>The Sun</em> last year. Perfidious Paddy is widely seen as standing in the way of the great British Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">But what lies behind this caricature? Is it simple ignorance of Ireland, a failure to grasp that Irish interests are no longer directly aligned with that of the old colonial master? Or is there something more malign?</p><h2 dir="ltr">What border? </h2><p dir="ltr">Just weeks after the Brexit vote David Davis – him again – told journalists that the <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-northern-ireland-buffer-zone-border-david-davis-customs-deal-uk-eu-latest-a8378596.html">UK had an “internal border” with Ireland</a>. Only after becoming Northern Ireland minister did Karen Bradley discover that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/07/karen-bradley-admits-not-understanding-northern-irish-politics">nationalists and unionists tend to vote for parties that share their views on the constitution</a>. She is 48 years old.</p><p dir="ltr">But such comments speak more of witlessness than mendacity. It is the Irish backstop – the Brexiters’ bete noire – that has brought out the nastier side of Britain’s ruling elite when it comes to Ireland. An arrangement for avoiding customs check on the Irish border has been reframed as a Machiavellian plot to carve up Theresa May’s “precious union”, hatched by Brussels bureaucrats and irredentists in Dublin.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">That many of the proposed checks already take place does not seem to matter. Listening to many Tory MPs, and to some journalists, it often seems that understanding of what the benighted backstop actually means is pretty thin on the ground in the Westminster village.</p><p dir="ltr">The failure to grasp the realities of everyday life in the shadows of what Winston Churchill disdainfully dismissed as the “dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone” is hardly surprising. Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, yet the only voice we hear from Belfast is the DUP’s.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The unionists’ putative leader, Arlene Foster, blithely declared last week <a href="https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/dups-arlene-foster-says-there-was-never-a-hard-border-in-ireland-37714456.html">that there never was a hard border in Ireland</a>. I was surprised by that. Growing up 40 miles south of the border, on shopping trips to Enniskillen we used to pass checkpoints armed by callow squaddies touting rifles. Maybe I am suffering from false memory syndrome.</p><p dir="ltr">The border has changed, of course. Theresa May has repeated ad nauseam that there will be “no return to the borders of the past”. I hope she is right. Beyond dissident republican splinter groups, nobody wants to see a return to barbed wire and bombed-out roads.</p><p dir="ltr">But what has Britain’s existential crisis done to the borders of the mind?</p><h2 dir="ltr">The near abroad </h2><p dir="ltr">I’ve lived in the UK for over a decade, one of hundreds of thousands of Irish people to carve out lives in our own near abroad. But even before I moved to Edinburgh to study I was inculcated in British culture: we grew up watching the BBC, supporting English football teams. I have clearer memories of Tony Blair’s first general election victory than of any of Bertie Ahern and Fianna Fáil’s succession of triumphs.</p><p dir="ltr">In my lifetime, Ireland has come to feel at ease with Britain, which is often a synonym for England. As Fintan O’Toole notes in his excellent new Brexit book, <em>Heroic Failure</em>, over the past two decades Anglo-Irish relations “finally evolved to be nicely boring. The sharing of a small space in a big world has become as normal as it should be. To each other, the English and the Irish were no big deal.”</p><p dir="ltr">No wonder my generation of Irish immigrants found it so easy to settle in Britain. There was no discrimination to be faced. No racist signs in boarding-house windows. We came to this country as equals. Or so we thought.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Perhaps we are too blunted by familiarity with the Good Friday Agreement to realise how remarkable it is.</p><p dir="ltr">Brexit has revealed that some of our neighbours have a very different view of us. Paddy the fifth column. Untrustworthy, even traitorous. Maybe this minority was always there, just hidden. Or perhaps, it has been recreated afresh by a national persecution complex that has taken hold in some quarters.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">And yet Britain’s relationship with Ireland points the way out of the current mess in Westminster. Perhaps we are too blunted by familiarity with the Good Friday Agreement to realise how remarkable it is. Three decades of violence ended by dialogue and compromise.</p><p dir="ltr">But many Conservatives, particularly in both the pro-Brexit European Research Group, as well as the DUP would happily see the agreement picked apart. <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/uk/michael-gove-a-fanatic-who-would-damage-peace-process-1.2710224">Michael Gove compared the Good Friday Agreement to condoning the desires of paedophiles</a>. This weekend’s kite-flying about “amending” the agreement is not just dangerous, it also shows that the British government could be led by its most primitive passions, which could have serious consequences across these islands.</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/brexit-ireland-and-revenge-of-history">Brexit, Ireland, and the revenge of history</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/gerry-hassan/brexit-britain-is-displaying-its-old-dangerous-delusions-about-ireland">Brexit Britain is displaying its old, dangerous delusions about Ireland</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/fintan-otoole/listen-england-it-is-ireland-talking-0">Listen England, it is Ireland talking</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 class="field-item even"> Northern Ireland </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </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 Can Europe make it? UK Northern Ireland Ireland Conflict Democracy and government Good Friday Agreement Brexit DUP Peter Geoghegan Mon, 21 Jan 2019 15:48:25 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 121373 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Former shadow Northern Ireland minister asks elections watchdog to investigate DUP Brexit dark money https://www.opendemocracy.net/peter-geoghegan/former-shadow-northern-ireland-minister-snp-mp-ask-elections-watchdog-to-investigate <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Former Northern Ireland frontbencher joins cross-party MPs calling for ‘full investigation’ into Richard Cook and the controversial £435,000 DUP Brexit donation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/211242921-eb61e1cf-1dc2-49ad-93d7-903da5f82f30_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/211242921-eb61e1cf-1dc2-49ad-93d7-903da5f82f30_0.jpg" alt="" 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></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Owen Smith, the former Shadow Northern Ireland secretary, has asked the Electoral Commission to open an investigation into Richard Cook, the man behind the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), a secretive group that funnelled £435,000 to the DUP for Brexit. The call comes after </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-dirty-secrets-of-dup-s-dark-money-brexit-donor"><span>openDemocracy revealed fresh concerns about Mr Cook’s business dealings</span></a><span>.<br /><br /></span><span>In a letter sent to Northern Ireland Electoral Commission Friday, Smith urges the elections regulator to investigate Cook, the CRC and the DUP donation.<br /><br /></span><span>"This individual, Richard Cook – and his organisation, the CRC – clearly has a blatant disregard for the rules of electoral law. Therefore it is in the public interest that all new information on this disturbing donation is fully investigated,” </span><span>the former shadow Northern Ireland minister wrote.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><br /></span><span>Separately, SNP MP Brendan O’Hara has also written to the Electoral Commission, calling for the watchdog to publish evidence of any due diligence that was conducted on the source of the £435,000 donation.<br /><br /></span><span>"The least the Electoral Commission can do is to provide reassurance to the public that no stone has been left unturned and that no lead has been left unexplored in confirming the veracity of this massive donation,” said O’Hara.<br /><br /></span><span>Last weekend an openDemocracy investigation revealed that Cook’s waste management company had been involved in </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-dirty-secrets-of-dup-s-dark-money-brexit-donor"><span>shipping in illegal waste, leaving an international trail of regulatory concern, legal action and debt stretching from India to California</span></a><span>.<br /><br /></span><span>The DUP, which props up Theresa May’s government, is set to play a crucial role in the outcome of Brexit in the Commons. But the source of the £435,000 given to the DUP just weeks before the 2016 referendum - </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>revealed by openDemocracy</span></a><span> &nbsp;remains clouded in mystery due to donor secrecy laws then in force in Northern Ireland.<br /><br /></span><span>The DUP donation was made through the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), a secretive group whose chair and only known member is Cook, a Glasgow-based businessman and former Scottish Conservative vice-chairman.<br /><br /></span><span>Both Cook and the DUP have refused to say where the £435,000 came from. Under British electoral law political parties need to know the source of all donations, but last year DUP treasurer Gregory Campbell said that </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex"><span>it was not his party’s responsibility to check out Cook or the CRC</span></a><span>.<br /><br /></span><span>The Electoral Commission fined the CRC for failing to declare the DUP donation, saying the group "<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-46607265">had no reasonable excuse for these failings</a>"</span><span>. But the elections watchdog has so far refused to launch a full investigation into Cook or the CRC.<br /><br /><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 2019-01-11 at 13.50.17_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2019-01-11 at 13.50.17_1.png" alt="" title="" width="400" height="569" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /><br /></span><span>Owen Smith said: </span><span>"openDemocracy's latest revelations raise serious questions about Richard Cook's business dealings and the £435,000 given to the DUP to campaign for Brexit which the Electoral Commission needs to fully investigate.<br /><br /></span><span>“Even if you have assurances from Mr Cook that the source of the funding is legitimate, use of the Commission’s full resources and powers should be used to verify this. And if rules have been broken, then this is a clear occasion when public action by the commission is needed.”<br /><br /></span><span>Brendan O’Hara MP also told openDemocracy that it was time for the Electoral Commission to investigate Cook and the DUP donation.<br /><br /></span><span>"I have written to the CEO of the Electoral Commission asking that he publish all the due diligence carried out by the Commission on the £435,000 paid to the DUP by the Constitutional Research Council (CRC) during the Brexit referendum,” said O’Hara. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span> </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>"Recently the Electoral Commission declared the money to have come from “permissible sources”, yet there has been no public scrutiny whatsoever of where this money came from, and I suspect that the CRC knowingly channelled money through the DUP precisely in order to avoid public scrutiny.”<br /><br /><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 2019-01-11 at 13.50.48_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2019-01-11 at 13.50.48_0.png" alt="" title="" width="400" height="528" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /><br /></span><span>O’Hara is a member of the influential Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee’s investigation into disinformation and ‘fake news’. </span><span>The DCMS committee has also written to Cook about the controversial £435,000 DUP Brexit donation.<br /><br /></span><a href="https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17254271.scots-tory-in-435000-brexit-dark-money-row-facing-questions-by-mps/"><span>Cook claimed that his response to the DCMS committee had been “lost”</span></a><span>, but </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-dirty-secrets-of-dup-s-dark-money-brexit-donor"><span>openDemocracy recently revealed</span></a><span> that he did subsequently reply to the committee chair, Conservative MP Damian Collins, in what has been described by sources close to the committee as “a less than conciliatory manner”.</span><span> <br /><br /></span><span>Cook recently appeared in the WhatsApp message group of the European Research Group, the hardline group of Conservative MPs pushing for a no deal Brexit. The CRC also donated money to the ERG. <br /><br /></span><span>Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland in the wake of openDemocracy’s revelations, Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw also called on Cook to say where the DUP money had come from but stopped of short of saying he would ask the former Tory general election candidate himself.<br /><br /></span><span>The bulk of the DUP donation, £282,000, was spent on a wraparound advert in the Metro, a free newspaper that does not circulate in Northern Ireland. Investigative journalists at BBC Northern Ireland last year revealed that </span><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299"><span>the Metro ad was booked by Richard Cook, and not the DUP</span></a><span>.<br /><br /></span><span>The Good Law Project, founded by Jolyon Maugham QC, is seeking </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/high-court-case-which-could-reveal-dups-secret-brexit-donors"><span>a judicial review of the Electoral Commission over its decision not to investigate the DUP donation</span></a><span>. Maugham argues that because Cook placed the advert directly himself, the DUP ‘donation’ ought to be counted as expenditure by the CRC in the same way that a controversial ‘gift’ by Vote Leave to the 23-year old fashion student Grimes was later counted as expenditure. Both Vote Leave and Grimes were subsequently fined and referred to the police over </span><a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/vote-leave-case-referred-to-police-after-record-fine-lzvr2gx5d"><span>“illegal donations</span></a><span>”.<br /><br /></span><span>Reacting to openDemocracy’s recent revelations, Maugham said: "You look at Cook's history and you can't help but think 'What does someone have to do, who do they have to be, to cause the Electoral Commission to take an interest'?"<br /><br /></span><span>An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “The Commission continues to be prohibited by law from commenting on donations made before July 2017 relating to Northern Ireland recipients. We are therefore unable to provide more complete information about the steps we took to fulfil our regulatory duty in any particular case. What we can say, however, is that we fulfil this duty to the highest standard".<br /><br /></span><span>Richard Cook's lawyer says he denies any wrongdoing. Peter Watson said that while his client would not respond in detail, any claims suggesting wrongdoing by his former waste management company DDR were baseless and actionable.<br /><br /></span><span>Mr Cook has previously told the Sunday Herald: “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.”<br /><br /></span><span>The DUP said the party has been “open and transparent” about the CRC donation.</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/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-dirty-secrets-of-dup-s-dark-money-brexit-donor">Revealed: the dirty secrets of the DUP’s ‘dark money’ Brexit donor</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 class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £435,000 DUP Brexit donation</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 Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Fri, 11 Jan 2019 14:11:09 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 121261 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: the dirty secrets of the DUP’s ‘dark money’ Brexit donor https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-dirty-secrets-of-dup-s-dark-money-brexit-donor <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>MPs call on Richard Cook to “emerge from the shadows” after we uncover his trail of illegal waste, unpaid bills and court documents stretching from India to California.</p> </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/Richard Cook David Cameron_0_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Richard Cook David Cameron_0_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Richard Cook and David Cameron. Image: voterichardcook.blogspot.com, fair use.</span></span></span> <span>MPs have called upon Richard Cook, the man behind a secretive group that channelled&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">£435,000 to the DUP’s Brexit campaign</a>, to “emerge from the shadows and explain where this money came from”.</span><p>Their calls come as openDemocracy today reveals disturbing new details about Mr Cook's business dealings across the globe. Our investigation has uncovered an international trail of regulatory concern, legal action and debt linked to Cook that stretches from an Indian port to a California courtroom.</p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Cook has so far refused to reveal the source</a>&nbsp;of the controversial £435,000 donation to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which bankrolled lavish pro-Leave campaigning in the final weeks before the EU referendum. However, amid escalating questions around his business career, cross-party MPs are now demanding that Cook appears before parliament to explain the source of the money.</p> <p>Brendan O’Hara, a Scottish National Party member on the powerful Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said that Cook should appear before the committee’s ‘fake news’ inquiry to answer questions about his role in funnelling the biggest donation the DUP has ever received.</p> <p>“I think [Cook] has information which would be very useful to our investigation in relation to spending around the Brexit referendum,” O’Hara said.</p> <p>Today, we detail a series of international deals linked to Mr Cook and his waste management firm, DDR Recycling Ltd, which have provoked concern, including:&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Cook was a defendant in a California court case after DDR Recycling left an international haulage firm with unpaid bills of over $1.5m for shipments to Korea. A default judgement was made against DDR and Cook.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;UK and Scottish environmental regulators told Cook that he was involved in an “illegal waste shipment” of 250 tonnes of rubber to India. Test results supplied by Cook to the regulator appear to be fake.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Cook said that an Eastern European company was to blame for the illegal Indian waste shipment. When authorities pointed out that Cook’s own LinkedIn page said he was a director of the firm, he claimed that his account had been hacked.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;On that LinkedIn page, Cook lists his current post as “president of international development” at a Canadian waste management firm. This company has regularly failed to file accounts, in breach of corporate law in Canada, and shows little sign of economic activity.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;DDR Recycling Limited is currently in liquidation owing British tax authorities around £150,000. After Cook left the company, it was involved in a trade in gold that saw $5m deposited in a Cambodian bank account. Liquidators are “currently investigating”.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Cook had previously said that he had signed agreements worth $1bn to build environmental projects in Pakistan. A US businessman reportedly involved in the deal said that his company had not worked on the project and complained that Cook “never returned a call or an email”.</p> <p>Cook strongly denies any wrongdoing, but the fresh details of his business career have renewed focus on the Brexit cash he channelled to the DUP, via a secretive group called the Constitutional Research Council.</p> <p>The DCMS committee first wrote to Cook about the controversial £435,000 DUP Brexit donation in November.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17254271.scots-tory-in-435000-brexit-dark-money-row-facing-questions-by-mps/">Cook claimed that his response had been “lost”</a>, but openDemocracy can now reveal that he did subsequently reply to the committee chair, Conservative MP Damian Collins, in what has been described by sources close to the committee as “a less than conciliatory manner”.</p> <p>The DUP, which now props up Theresa May’s government in Parliament,&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">has always refused to reveal</a>&nbsp;where its record amount of Brexit cash came from, or why it was channelled via the secretive Constitutional Research Council (CRC), whose chair and only known member is Richard Cook.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Under Northern Irish laws in force at the time, the identity of the original donors can remain a secret – even though the cash was not spent in Northern Ireland. But last month the Electoral Commission confirmed it had<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/fresh-concerns-raised-over-dup-s-secret-brexit-donation">&nbsp;fined Richard Cook's CRC for failing to report the DUP donation</a>.</p> <p>openDemocracy has previously revealed that Cook, a Glasgow-based businessman and former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservatives, went into business with<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">&nbsp;a former head of Saudi intelligence</a>&nbsp;and<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">&nbsp;a Dane involved in gun-running in India</a>.</p><p> Both Cook and the DUP have claimed that the Brexit cash came from permissible sources. But our new findings raise fresh questions about the dark money that drove the DUP’s Brexit campaign.</p><h2 dir="ltr">From Clarkston, to Belfast, to Westminster &nbsp;</h2><p>The story of the DUP’s dark money begins far away from the corridors of Westminster or the streets of Belfast, on a stretch of pebble-dash semi-detached houses in the sleepy Glasgow suburb of Clarkston.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span><span><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/zqEeJhxp5pdMPqawdxvlJL5BYO8ooiOBnJUsoPZxih_tbpN578rMqfuqz74QNxHKksfjedBWZBHHyZtnL_I2fejZdSQwiCSmkBItpcYZdYDNDxKL0NwjlLbe4XfSxxeCPDrlGD5K" alt="" width="315" height="232" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Richard Cook once had high hopes of a career in politics. Back in 2010 he was a 38-year-old recycling company director in Clarkston, widely tipped as the next Member of Parliament for East Renfrewshire. Expectation of a Conservative gain from Labour’s Jim Murphy in Glasgow’s ‘stockbroker belt’ was so high that the BBC even sent a film crew to follow Cook’s campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Cook made much of his environmental credentials. His leaflets talked of “protecting green spaces” and the <a href="http://voterichardcook.blogspot.com/2009/10/day-3-making-difference.html">importance of recycling</a>.<br /><br /><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/kc1MM4rvpVtz84EmIkwNWLrhoz8_HhUGkKA0dtNq4-7ojV5FtIGxVfQKkKnqwI7_zdOq2saHIvl4N_LCBrvUHsoDcu3I5LqiuG3aHXHvrRidfl7gbUyIJEZ9doDiCreFP8ZfHaPp" alt="" width="306" height="303" /> </p><p dir="ltr">He had worked for almost a decade in the accounts department of a major waste management company, Biffa. And in May 2008 he became a founding director of DDR Recycling Limited, a company dealing in the “recovery of sorted materials”, operating out of a small office on an unremarkable industrial estate on the outskirts of Glasgow. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Illegal waste</h2><p>But while Cook was promising to “clean up politics” on doorsteps in East Renfrewshire, his business was very far from environmentally friendly. Email correspondence obtained by openDemocracy suggests that Cook’s company was involved in illegal shipments of waste.</p><p>In April 2009 DDR sent a shipment of ten containers from Felixstowe in England to the Indian port city of Cochin. It was claimed that the shipment contained 250 tonnes of valuable ‘hard rubber crumb’. But on inspection Indian authorities discovered that the containers were filled with scrap tyres, a lucrative – but prohibited – cargo.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/53rYAgEKNxnvBIILfIGRnZDXs8_wJ3dvvISnIJL-AKpP-JPM3bwLXyL-w4SKo1wpXwbktsiMnHkd58pRCACA_qg3HzpsuQoRKzBmEil7IM_jkrVyhLXutyHUPGQ-Hr6lsSEy525AqUB3nZtrWA" alt="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/HI1uG_LYxX624MZeUkYpXKD0XlZX3FpMdsqoMAOPuGMxS8XD1jWfFi0ojVLNTpTEjMBfpR0S3P0udi8hJS7dFEsevLhMvz9eXfPjVeBQ6JyApM8z6o_R-rlQXxscXw7wOgL_Uu1j" width="601" height="481" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In a letter that December, the Environment Agency told Cook and his long-time business partner Donald McCorquodale about this “illegal waste shipment”. The regulator instructed DRR to ship the containers back to the UK, warning, “Failure to comply... may result in formal enforcement action being taken against your company.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/1cENbXLABG6ikxDha6sBqSTUzGUA9o8KW2aadxvC8zQDTdTRZ3Ik_NcndjJTWrPvuhNhMYuJ5NbfyhiwJXYqQM3zJkGuDnTRhGoBJdXouqCexZHhqBN2DntKMY3XyCWbRra_N8NG5jPgMqZ9tQ" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/iOdEVj2NIFCcNMCkOWugmywzFoSDv6yo6z9eQHE-iSqMytydALWTdurvOjVOv92iEW2ilUDvKBRpdE0CxFZRZXLuiodSA0CFKOP-b1qbvWrloAqDn9Z20tw5x40YG6BXmYv4_oxf" width="601" height="468" />&nbsp;</p><p>In January 2010, the Environment Agency again wrote to Cook, saying “I have not received a response to my letter nor any details of your arrangements to effect the return of these containers of waste, as requested.”</p><p dir="ltr">The following day, Cook wrote to the regulator suggesting that the illegal waste could be sold on “to licensed end users in India”. Less than an hour later, the Environment Agency wrote back warning that DDR was not permitted to sell the waste on to a third party or to move it to another country. </p><h2 dir="ltr">“Potentially fraudulent” </h2><p>The Environment Agency contacted Cook again on 23 February, saying that Indian customs had conducted a lab analysis on the rubber and “determined that the material is soft rubber, most likely originating from used vehicle tyres, which means this is an export of waste.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cook responded later that day, telling the regulator that the tests conducted by the Indian authorities in Cochin were “inaccurate” and “potentially fraudulent”. Cook sent the regulator tests that DDR had supposedly done on the material and which found that the rubber was of high quality.</p><p dir="ltr">But the “material authenticity” test results that Cook supplied to the regulator appear to be fake.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the documents that Cook gave the Environment Agency, the tests were conducted by a company called Grapevine Networking Limited. This firm, which was dissolved in 2015, was a recruitment company with an address in the centre of Glasgow run by Cook’s fellow DDR director, Donald McCorquodale.</p><p dir="ltr">McCorquodale, now DDR’s sole director, told openDemocracy: “Grapevine never did any tests on any rubber at all.”</p><p dir="ltr">Asked how test results on Grapevine-headed notepaper could have been sent to the environmental regulator by Richard Cook, McCorquodale said “I have no idea. No idea. Absolutely no idea… it does seem strange but I have no idea at all.”</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy understands that the waste material was eventually shipped from India. McCorquodale told openDemocracy that he did not know what happened to the waste.</p><p dir="ltr">“We shipped the goods under the instruction of an Indian gentleman based in Leicester, we shipped it using the coding he requested,” he said. “That’s as much as we know. We were never involved, we were never asked to attend a court case in India or anything.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">LinkedIn hack...?</h2><p>This was not the only curious exchange between Richard Cook and the Environment Agency. Also in February 2010, McCorquodale forwarded an email to the regulator from a company called Xener Import Export SRL claiming that the company, which had an address in Romania, “acted as an intermediary” with responsibility for the rubber shipment to India.</p><p dir="ltr">On 3 March the environmental regulator wrote to Cook asking if he could “advise me of the precise relationship” between himself and Xener. Cook took a month to respond, saying that he had missed the regulator’s calls as his mobile provider “had archived some messages over the past fortnight, due to excessive call numbers”. But his email did not answer the question about his relationship with Xener.</p><p dir="ltr">At the general election on 6 May 2010, Cook came second in East Renfrewshire, more than 10,000 votes behind Labour’s Jim Murphy. Adding to his woes, on 17 June the Environment Agency wrote again to DDR asking about Cook’s relationship with Xener.</p><p dir="ltr">This time the regulator pointed out that on his LinkedIn page Cook himself claimed to be a director of “Xener Imports/Exports, Romania.” </p><p><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 2019-01-05 at 10.53.53.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2019-01-05 at 10.53.53.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="372" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“I would be grateful of an explanation of the meaning of this link between Mr Cook, DDR Recycling Limited and Xener Imports/Exports, Romania,” the regulator wrote.</p><p dir="ltr">On 22 June Cook told the regulator that he has “never been a Director of any foreign company and have never had any relationship with Xener Import Export SRL other than the containers they ordered and paid for from DDR Recycling Limited”. Cook said that he had contacted the director of Xener’s parent company using LinkedIn and speculated that the LinkedIn “entry has something to with him”.</p><p dir="ltr">Cook suggested to the regulator that his LinkedIn profile may have been hacked. “I have contacted LinkedIn to establish how a fraudulent entry could be made on my profile,” he wrote. <br /><br />openDemocracy understands that LinkedIn did not receive any complaint from Cook.&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/564977/Screen Shot 2019-01-05 at 10.52.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2019-01-05 at 10.52.41.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="341" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>A spokesperson for LinkedIn said: “Our members control the information on their profile and we encourage anyone who thinks there’s an issue with their account to contact us so we can investigate it immediately.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Californian courtroom drama</h2><p>California is a long way from Clarkston. But it was here in 2014 that Cook, McCorquodale, DDR Recycling, a company called DDR Recycling Limited USA and a number of associates were cited as defendants in a case brought before a district court judge.</p><p dir="ltr">International logistics firm UPS filed a lawsuit against Cook and his colleagues after they failed to pay over $450,000 for a shipment of steel wire transported by UPS to Busan, South Korea, in December 2012. </p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/DL-tl09jpL0Uov0l4OORC9tZKwpo0LlTJBUiLUC3qf5o-ZOPII4LmrQSuHMzbS-qw-16m3o_pFXWrcYv9fPCKjDzQcp5Gw_qjf9VITejgIYl_sTL9AWus6Ojus9c_OC_Dakch7djpprzfbKYmQ" alt="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/GEpPjh_Hbj-qwdUt_LjBs2ympPU0xtD1nZCbWWmoQfJu1hDWUJ9Tk23Ot_W6VGeq5JS_PnIHSWBuCFS1zGRXWQ67jrrQ8hHdhF6PCkYfp9Ro5UIBN5agV7uXDQnRntAQiOjJJV3g" width="601" height="349" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">UPS said that Cook and his business associates had made small payments before the South Korean shipment in an an apparent attempt to build up trust with the company. In November 2012, Cook wired $3,315.32 to UPS. “Such payment was for the purpose of inducing UPS to provide additional shipping services to DDR,” court documents state.</p><p dir="ltr">Documents submitted by UPS paint a picture of consistent evasion by the Scottish company’s directors after the shipment was sent to South Korea. After a series of exchanges, in May 2013 a UPS lawyer wrote to McCorquodale “your emails have been non-responsive and appear to be solely for the purpose of delay”.</p><p dir="ltr">“At this point I am not inclined to waste any more of my time or of my client’s money engaging in your dilatory tactics… your emails to date have provided UPS with no pertinent information and only seek additional non-relevant information in a transparent attempt to avoid your debt,” the lawyer added.</p><p><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/lPEtowHTDdfeg4ubr2_eZDmX1A_n-a3uo8QVlH7bwJrhK73iSQzpT3yCBAI6DXWV5-5fPodj5hDcORyShYXjCgzUq8iGZMyKT25qhgfJNfMzue0a8chBl9P4FvjLBSGqi1LKg-b3" alt="" width="602" height="137" />&nbsp;</p><p>Neither Cook nor any of the other DDR Recycling defendants appeared in court or offered a defence. In July 2014 a California district court judge awarded a default judgement of &nbsp;$1,506,586.51 against Cook, McCorquodale, and a number of the company’s associates. A default judgement is issued against a defendant who fails to answer a lawsuit.</p><p dir="ltr">The money owed to UPS does not appear to have been paid. A spokesperson for UPS told openDemocracy, “UPS received a default judgment in that case. The company does not disclose customer information.”</p><p dir="ltr">McCorquodale told openDemocracy: “We had nothing at all to do with it… it was completely nothing to do with the company in the UK, it was a company in California who used our name. Nothing to do with us at all.”<br /><br />“We weren’t pursued for it in the UK because it was a completely fictitious judgement,” McCorquodale added.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Cambodian gold</h2><p>Richard Cook resigned as a director of DDR Recycling Limited in February 2014. The company was put into liquidation in 2017, owing Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs around £150,000. The only current active shareholder is Donald McCorquodale.</p><p dir="ltr">But documents obtained by openDemocracy suggest that DDR Recycling could have $5m in a Cambodian bank account, following the apparent sale of gold nuggets from Tanzania.</p><p dir="ltr">In December 2014, a Tanzanian company named Barax Mining Limited invoiced McCorquodale for the sale of 200 kilograms of gold nuggets, worth exactly $5m. Barax’s invoice listed an address in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/iRloAFVwrIhmk6viIg5vBi95hPYNtfbJyCJFep1yIQ5W0-kqx51gmmSJ8G_ANUqPmgQqLF7TE43797Rj93zf2JpkSBxBAR7OwVBL29mEkivMzJL_U5XbxvQ5cgynx37sQP8i-HgFCjdpqo1stA" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/iM0LXlt1jXUoD_vgSWaOZgeUxO293vK7gsW_9UL0cZasH1HDGcREBBRl1hNlFYQptAZcOji1fWOe0q-wezRQt_QYyIk8fLHV8DDyglmzfSnm7X9WA0aM2_ePyXS3ihJZeGWEx9wE" width="601" height="494" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In March 2015, a Cambodian bank called CIMB wrote to DDR Recycling stating that McCorquodale had $5m on deposit in a Phnom Phen bank account. Screenshots of the company’s Cambodian bank account appear to support this. </p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/4XJjisD5FCBsI7lKUEoHQZoDTaCNpu-5oq1jAVglaYgrp28IBlpQmg8UhGMQAvcSUe28xtMNmldkOQVfqum_sN7QWPhvLel3haKZ9aOyt7KOrS7MqV1sDE_WcTZsYWKWOXFFbsIw" alt="" width="602" height="428" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In January 2015, McCorquodale paid just over $25,000 to the Cambodian ministry of economy and finance as “payment for clearance stamp duty fee”. In May, McCorquodale paid a further $75,000 to the “department of anti-money laundering” of the Cambodian government. A receipt describes this payment as a “clearance fee”.</p><p>Investigations by openDemocracy have yet to identify a “department of anti-money laundering” in the Cambodian government.&nbsp;</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/ASXHUTqlPXya3yVjKwPiXJI5biPS_FPR6ab8YGG2G95-YRpY1oWag08nHpZJ82XwLBd8OEsNJm0NShcFTi_Q-bd0hePPcgcsX9CdLfrYgj6zSIa088EzAIl4hcaa-RUsPq6U1PV6zobRPx97Gg" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/bgz7TbWugTQbEOCyF3fv2eu-rq74B7Um6IlhpS5deorp5kBdw_hxAptek9m0VcAyW4YsS0D7bFg9UGUHc8gt2uCeChHvgaNRnwXqWGBGOK5QIqLIrZnOa1N4hFjAJoMJ4IeNQSGe" width="601" height="376" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">According to Cambodian bank documents, the barrister representing McCorquodale in Phnom Penh was one Tran Thuyen Ly. A few months later a man with the same name was detained in connection with <a href="http://africansuntimes.com/2015/10/n-vietnam-police-hunt-nigerians-accused-of-conning-local-women/">setting up fake bank accounts in Vietnam</a> for Nigerian scammers targeting local women. It is not clear if the barrister and the detainee are one and the same person.</p><p>openDemocracy understands that DDR’s Cambodian bank account is being investigated by the company’s liquidators.</p><p dir="ltr">McCorquodale told openDemocracy that the Cambodian gold sale “was completely a waste of time. We didn’t get any goods and the whole thing was just a complete waste of time.</p><p dir="ltr">“The information about the $5m in Cambodia was reported to the liquidator at the time of the liquidation, they have been pursuing that money. Unsuccessfully as I understand it. So there is nothing more for me to say.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Pakistan plants</h2><p dir="ltr">Since resigning from DDR in 2014, Cook appears to have remained in the waste disposal business. According to his LinkedIn profile, since May 2012 he has been president of international development at a company called <a href="http://swil.ca/">Sentinel Waste Management</a>, based near Toronto.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/2ZiQXkNL7G_aNJPm8F09bx_SwYElv7yrdMRhJ_il88EylVg-oRX0fKCgS3E_yX0sePZeJfylUFgugl706WTB3V03XqJafWx2ctJNRF6RQOArBXFFJjBq1mvk6FGvAzz7kjw6b17Hq81GlfEZiA" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/J6DPRC7rxXtsVbRS52AMU8DrQPKPvY35yY21cJjx_kszJppQ3gcfSA7172XiFK29UJ3DyHWfoTvif6_DF1s0tT-amaBt7FyVwiLjiADueBAXElbeLhRZImycvtDyBOMthgnE2YsA" width="601" height="439" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Sentinel describes its business as eliminating “waste dumping problems with sustainable technology”, principally through diverting waste from landfill by converting it into pellets. But the company appears to have struggled for clients.</p><p dir="ltr">Sentinel has frequently failed to file accounts on time, in breach of Ontario corporate law. It filed all returns from 2011 to 2015 on a single date in 2016, and has not filed anything since that date. According to the Ontario Corporations Information Act, annual returns have to be filed within six months of the end of the last tax year. </p><p><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/BKdoNjHxJj4Z2aRJTmrLXSVGUlTmUg5LuvXjnstw5hIuMyoqa9DyK9mdwX-I74W1Odwu4XpkYPTv-WUTweUrqBRhkphNMgIy8Fe1On_x7yAYl5qYyNY-HLUlpwpCpVpe5hrOa8W29xfs-HpPbg" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/UTldCYB9WOrbb7y1U8eE_MOAmwZMl4GVcpfPd8pLj9ct5_R2raj6orSYyPVVFfDyW5iBUCV8TFRIchrN0Ge1m6rQ61aEfVvrXIiln3zMsI-xvZQ9c5hXZ6iFu2Bffam1s94aHubN" width="601" height="468" />&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Beyond Cook’s LinkedIn page, the only instance openDemocracy found of his name in relation to Sentinel was in the description of a video on the company’s YouTube channel.</p><p dir="ltr">In July 2012, it was widely reported that Sentinel Waste Management had agreed a $1bn deal to deliver environmental projects in Karachi, Pakistan. In a ceremony at Glasgow City Chambers <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-18829302">Cook signed a memorandum of understanding</a> with Pakistani officials to work with the Port Qasim Authority to develop drinking water production facilities through desalination.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time Cook said: "These projects will be extremely significant in developing an infrastructure in Karachi which provides its population with significant environmental and health benefits."</p><p dir="ltr">The Pakistan work does not appear to have gone any further. Peter Gross, the former head of one of the firms reportedly involved, a US-based waste-water treatment firm called Aeromix Systems Inc., expressed surprise that the company had been named in the 2012 agreement with Pakistani officials.</p><p>Gross said that he met Cook once, in Ireland, in 2012. “It was pretty obvious a week after that meeting [that nothing was happening],” he said. “No one returned calls or emails. There was no follow-up.”</p><p dir="ltr">There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing in relation to the proposed Karachi work.</p><h2 dir="ltr">DUP donation: ‘running down the clock’?</h2><p>The exact role of Richard Cook – and the secretive Constitutional Research Council he chairs – in the £435,000 given to the DUP ahead of the Brexit referendum remains unclear.</p><p>Brendan O’Hara MP said: “Where did this money come from and how did it get into the hands of the DUP? And why was it felt necessary to funnel it through the DUP rather than being open and transparent about it? It feeds into that whole narrative about secrecy, transparency, the undermining of accepted norms and processes of fighting elections and referendums.”</p><p dir="ltr">O’Hara added: “My concern is that in the crisis that we are wading through at the moment, Mr Cook thinks that he can run down the clock on this and somehow it will be forgotten and I sincerely hope that our committee don’t forgot it.”</p><p dir="ltr">Labour MP Ian Murray echoed calls for Cook to appear before the DCMS committee:</p><p>“At a time when our politics is under extensive scrutiny with regards to the breaking of the electoral rules from the Leave campaign, we need as much transparency as possible to have confidence in our electoral system,” the Edinburgh South MP said.</p><p dir="ltr">“It is in the interest of Mr Cook, the DUP and the Electoral Commission for the appropriate people – including Mr Cook – to appear before the appropriate committee to answer these questions. By continuing not to appear before the committee to answer the questions, people will be suspicious that our electoral system is not as robust as it should be, particularly on the back of all the questions that have been posed about the 2016 EU referendum.”</p><p dir="ltr">Jackson Carlaw, second in command at the Scottish Conservatives and a frequent campaigner for Cook during his election bids, has also said that the CRC chief <a href="https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16881792.scottish-tory-deputy-leader-calls-for-disclosure-of-donors-in-dark-money-row/">should reveal where the DUP cash came from</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP’s Brexit donation money – almost ten times more than the party had spent on 2015 general election – was mainly spent on lavish pro-Brexit advertising in the final days before the Brexit vote. More than half of the cash was splashed on a wraparound advert in Metro, a newspaper which does not circulate in Northern Ireland.</p><p dir="ltr">As well as the Metro advert, the DUP also spent money on online campaigning with the Canadian data analytics firm, Aggregate IQ, used by the official Vote Leave campaign. This spending was permitted but has raised concerns of co-ordination between different pro-Brexit groups .Undeclared co-ordination is illegal. Vote Leave have already been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/17/vote-leave-fined-and-reported-to-police-by-electoral-commission-brexit">fined and referred to the police</a> for co-ordinating with another pro-Brexit group</p><p dir="ltr">Under British electoral law, parties need to know the source of their donations. But last year DUP treasurer Gregory Campbell told a journalist from investigative website SourceMaterial that it was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">not his responsibility to check out Cook and the CRC</a>. An investigation by <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299">BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight team</a> also raised serious questions about Cook’s business dealings.</p><p dir="ltr">Someone named Richard Cook also recently appeared in WhatsApp group containing members of the hardline pro-Brexit European Research Group, to which the CRC also donated money.</p><p dir="ltr">On 12 December 2018, the day of the unsuccessful no-confidence vote in Theresa May, Cook hailed the “outstanding leadership of Brexit” by Steve Baker, the Conservative MP who was head of the ERG before he became a minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union. Baker resigned his ministerial post last July.&nbsp;</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/0kOlUOaU1rytu056kvH9jwJKddvmKxcrWwEQAG1mkESOyu5hg7cWjaCFmAmoBDUEtwCSgALAji06xESStcUPG4R5RjVtTlHrYhfxgBEXO0FFhnKoiFrawxkyHW-1fPyQWW8R1jT34MOfpzEMcA" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/ZvgySg-f9dgdQjvNwYiiUtQm1RMhMGU3aOIuT1KtFkROGpEV6JyFtGW36oBcImkpP0JJOBCBxGg2KnbLOzGWzDRTm2SUGIUgthLpfbmWW0FXNXy_fwoVwjQ6IKhWbe0uX1Wfpv8_" width="468" height="466" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission has so far<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex"> declined calls to launch a full investigation</a> into the source of the DUP’S Brexit cash.<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-46607265"> Judicial proceedings have been proposed</a>&nbsp;against the regulator’s decision not to investigate the handling of the donation.</p><p>The lawyer acting for Richard Cook denies any wrongdoing in his business dealings. Peter Watson said that while his client would not respond in detail, any claims suggesting wrongdoing by his former waste management company DDR were baseless and actionable.</p><p dir="ltr">Mr Cook told the Sunday Herald: “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. I’m not going to get into the donors, like I am not going to get into the members.”</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP said the party has been “open and transparent” about the CRC donation.</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesman said: “The DUP is well aware of its responsibilities and has complied with the regulations as set out by the Electoral Commission. If we failed to comply we would be subject to further investigation.</p><p>“In the interests of transparency we have provided information into the public domain which we were not legally obliged to provide. There is no additional information provided to the Electoral Commission that we have failed to publish.”</p><p><em>Additional reporting on this story by <a href="https://twitter.com/DrewMay_">Drew May</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/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £435,000 DUP Brexit donation</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/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 class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">How the Electoral Commission turned blind eye to DUP&#039;s shady Brexit cash</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/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/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-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"> India </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </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> </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 India United States Democracy and government Democratic Unionist Party investigations Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Sat, 05 Jan 2019 20:50:58 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 121191 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: Arron Banks Brexit campaign's 'secret' meetings with Cambridge Analytica https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-arron-banks-brexit-campaign-had-more-meetings-w <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Leaked emails show Leave.EU misled parliament and UK regulator about meetings with controversial Trump-linked firm – where they discussed targeting British voters. Steve Bannon was included in correspondence.</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_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1_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">Arron Banks’s Brexit campaign discussed ‘micro-targeting’ British voters during previously undisclosed meetings with Cambridge Analytica, openDemocracy can reveal, raising fresh concerns about ‘psychographic warfare technology’ used to target voters in the run up to the 2016 EU referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Leave.EU told the UK Information Commissioner’s Office that it held only four meetings with Cambridge Analytica. Earlier this year, Banks also claimed to MPs that his Leave.EU campaign only “had two or three meetings” with Cambridge Analytica and had never paid the data analytics firms for any work. <br /><br />But emails obtained by openDemocracy suggest that Banks’s Brexit campaign had additional meetings with the controversial data analytics firm, which they did not disclose either to parliament or to the information regulator, and in which they discussed in detail how to target British voters. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Former <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/brexit-bankroller-arron-banks-cambridge-analytica-and-steve-bannon-expl">Trump adviser Steve Bannon</a> was included in some of the email correspondence seen by openDemocracy, as was a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/30/revealed-ukip-whistleblowers-raised-fears-about-breitbart-influence-on-brexit">former UKIP party secretary</a> linked to Robert Mercer, the Trump-supporting hedge fund billionaire who controlled Cambridge Analytica.</p><p dir="ltr">Topics discussed at these meetings included fundraising for Leave.EU and how to build sophisticated target audiences for pro-Brexit adverts on Facebook, similar to those used by the Trump campaign.</p><p>In evidence presented to <a href="https://ico.org.uk/media/2260277/investigation-into-the-use-of-data-analytics-in-political-campaigns-20181107.pdf">the Information Commissioner</a>, Leave.EU said that its final meeting with Cambridge Analytica took place on January 8 2016. But later that month, an email seen by openDemocracy discussed Banks’s campaign “using [Cambridge Analytica] and staging the contract.”</p><p dir="ltr">Damian Collins, chair of the UK parliament’s fake news inquiry, said: “I can’t think of any sort of relationship between a supplier and an organisation which would involve so many meetings over such a long time which neither side regards as working together, and which neither expect to get paid for it, and both sides seem so adamant in denying.”</p><p dir="ltr">Data protection expert Paul-Olivier Dehaye said that the email exchanges suggested that Leave.EU had “used psychographic warfare technology” to target voters based on psychological traits across a range of social media in the run-up to the Brexit vote. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The undisclosed meetings raise fresh questions about Banks’s Brexit campaign. The National Crime Agency is currently investigating whether Banks is the “true source” of more than £8m worth of donations made in his name to Leave groups.</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica was closed down earlier this year after being accused of harvesting data from of tens of millions of Facebook users’ data and employing “black ops” to influence elections around the world. openDemocracy last month revealed that Banks’s Leave.EU operation built up a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/revealed-arron-banks-s-staff-crunched-millions-of-voters-data-after-brexit-vote">database of tens of millions</a> of UK voters ahead of the 2016 referendum.</p><h2>Undisclosed meetings – and ‘Target Audience Analysis’</h2><p>Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica held an introductory meeting on October 23 2015. The final meeting between the two camps took place on January 8 2016, according to a recent ICO report that found <a href="https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/2260271/investigation-into-the-use-of-data-analytics-in-political-campaigns-final-20181105.pdf">“no evidence</a> of a working relationship between CA and Leave.EU proceeding beyond this initial phase.”</p><p dir="ltr">But there were additional meetings between Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU that were not disclosed to the information regulator. </p><p>On October 30, 2015 a Cambridge Analytica staffer sent an email saying that “two members of your data team will be at our offices for an exchange session on Tuesday”. Among the email’s recipients were Arron Banks, his associate Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU chief Liz Bilney, Cambridge Analytica’s Alexander Nix and Steve Bannon.</p><p dir="ltr">On December 5 2015, Julian Wheatland, then chief operating officer of Cambridge Analytica’s UK parent company SCL group, wrote to Leave.EU’s chief Liz Bilney saying “thanks for coming in to see us yesterday.”</p><p dir="ltr">Wheatland says that Cambridge Analytica will conduct Target Audience Analysis (TAA) on behalf Leave.EU. TAA involves the identifying groups that exist in society, and targeting messages that resonate with them. Unlike traditional advertising, the key in TAA is that individuals self-identify their psychological traits, often through their online behaviour, says data expert Paul-Olivier Dehaye.</p><p dir="ltr">SCL and Cambridge Analytica were involved in TAA everywhere from <a href="http://www.jwc.nato.int/images/stories/threeswords/TAA.pdf">Afghanistan</a> to the successful 2016 Trump campaign. &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 2018-12-18 at 19.46.26.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 19.46.26.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Wheatland told Leave.EU CEO Bilney that Cambridge Analytica company would “start digital outreach and a program of voter engagement and fundraising,” primarily on Facebook.</p><p dir="ltr">“[F]ollowing our discussion yesterday on the way you are using Facebook… it occured to me that you may like us to take over you (sic) current list-building activity in the interim,” Wheatland wrote. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The email also suggests a meeting was due to take place “with Arron (Banks) on Tuesday”. The following Tuesday was December 8 2015.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">These were not the only proposed meetings discussed by Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica staff not disclosed to the Information Commissioner.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><h2>‘Staging the contract’</h2><p dir="ltr">On January 25 2016, Matthew Richardson, a lawyer and former UKIP party secretary with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/14/robert-mercer-cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-referendum-brexit-campaigns">links to the Mercers</a>, wrote to Wheatland saying that Banks and Wigmore have asked “if they can reschedule for Friday”. Steve Bannon is also included in this email.</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 2018-12-18 at 19.59.14.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 19.59.14.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="237" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33145753">Richardson</a>, a former executive director of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/mar/06/tory-madrasa-young-britons-foundation">rightwing Young Britons Foundation</a>, has been cited as the person who introduced Leave.EU to Cambridge Analytica. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/14/robert-mercer-cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-referendum-brexit-campaigns">According to the Guardian</a>, Andy Wigmore said: “We had a guy called Matthew Richardson who’d known Nigel for a long time and he’s always looked after the Mercers”.</p><p dir="ltr">Richardson also suggests that Leave.EU intended to hire Cambridge Analytica. “[Banks and Wigmore] would like to talk about using the service and staging the contract, so that the bulk of it is done after the Electoral Commission designation,” he wrote.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks and Wigmore have previously said that Leave.EU decided not to hire Cambridge Analytica and that only preliminary work was done, for free. Wigmore told the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr that the Mercers – who backed Trump and controlled Cambridge Analytica – had been “happy to help” Leave.EU.</p><p dir="ltr">There are hints of further meetings, too. On December 17, Leave.EU’s head of research Pierre Shepherd wrote to Cambridge Analytica staff asking “do you still plan to come next week?”. There was no record of a meeting around this time in the evidence given by Leave.EU to the Information Commissioner.</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 2018-12-18 at 20.02.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 20.02.56.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h2>The UKIP connection</h2><p><br /><span>Earlier this year, Brittany Kaiser, former Cambridge Analytica’s business development director, said the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/23/cambridge-analytica-misled-mps-over-work-for-leave-eu-says-ex-director-brittany-kaiser">work with Leave.EU involved analysis of data provided by UKIP</a>. Banks has denied this.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Emails seen by openDemocracy suggest Cambridge Analytica sought to access raw data about UKIP supporters collected by academics. On October 29 2015, a Cambridge Analytica staffer wrote to Matthew Richardson asking “if you can connect us to Matthew Goodwin, who is the academic that conducted the referendum survey with your members? He should have the raw data from that, which will be very helpful for us."</p><p>A few minutes later Richardson replied: "I have already spoken to Matt Goodwin and the data is incoming."</p><p>Goodwin told openDemocracy that the data referred to in this exchange was a UKIP membership survey included in a co-authored academic book. “To my knowledge this [data] was never shared although a presentation was given to the party, multiple academic conferences and then published in the book,” Goodwin said.</p><p dir="ltr">Separately, the Information Commissioner’s Office issued an information notice against UKIP for failing to hand over details of use of data analytics during the Brexit referendum.</p><h2>‘Questions that now need answering’</h2><p><br />Commenting on openDemocracy’s latest revelations, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “Once again it seems the Leave campaign has not been open about its activities, in this case the extent of its contacts with Cambridge Analytica. </p><p dir="ltr">“This strengthens the argument for the UK to have our own Mueller style judicial inquiry to examine and get to the bottom of all the allegations that have dogged pro Brexit campaigners.”<br /><br />Liberal Democrat Tom Brake said: “The evidence points very clearly to much more frequent contact between Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU than has been admitted. <br /><br />“The question that now needs answering is ‘why have the contacts between CA and Leave.EU been under-reported and what do they have to hide? This affair gets murkier and murkier, casting yet more doubt over the validity of the referendum result.” </p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore have so far not responded to openDemocracy’s request for comment. </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="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/brexit-bankroller-arron-banks-cambridge-analytica-and-steve-bannon-expl">Brexit bankroller Arron Banks, Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon – explosive emails reveal fresh links</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/revealed-arron-banks-s-staff-crunched-millions-of-voters-data-after-brexit-vote">Revealed: Arron Banks’s staff crunched millions of voters’ data after Brexit vote</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</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 Steve Bannon Cambridge Analytica Arron Banks Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Wed, 19 Dec 2018 11:34:24 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 121050 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Right-wing think tank accused of promoting tobacco and oil industry “propaganda” in schools https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/right-wing-think-tank-accused-of-promoting-tobacco-oil-indu <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Institute of Economic Affairs’ magazine distributed to tens of thousands of British schoolchildren promotes tobacco tax cuts, climate change denial, tax havens, and privatising the NHS – but doesn’t say where its money comes from </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/553846/11443527473_d1730c4b4e_o_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/11443527473_d1730c4b4e_o_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="337" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Economic Affairs” published an article arguing against the scientific consensus on climate change. Image, Quarrie Photography.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Institute of Economic Affairs has been accused of “pumping seemingly paid-for propaganda” into schools after analysis by openDemocracy found that its free magazine for A-Level students has carried articles arguing against tobacco taxes and climate change science, and in favour of NHS privatisation. The magazine does not tell readers who funds the IEA. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA, a registered educational charity, sends copies of the magazine <a href="https://iea.org.uk/ea-magazine/">EA</a> free of charge to every school teaching A-Level economics or business studies in the UK. </p><p dir="ltr">The influential ‘think tank’ does not disclose its funding but it has received money from <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jun/01/thinktanks-big-tobacco-funds-smoking">British American Tobacco</a>, <a href="https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/07/30/bp-funding-institute-of-economic-affairs-gambling/">oil giant BP</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/31/jersey-finance-paid-iea-to-trash-hotbeds-of-tax-evasion-claims">Jersey Finance</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/30/casino-owners-donated-iea-after-thinktanks-pro-gambling-report">gambling</a> lobbyists and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">right wing US foundations</a> pushing to privatise the NHS. While articles on many of these topics have appeared in the IEA’s schools magazine, it does not disclose these financial links. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA has also argued that Brexit could be a boon for Britain. Its head of international trade, Shanker Singham, recently accompanied pro-Brexit MPs including David Davis on a <a href="https://www.fginsight.com/news/ex-brexit-secretary-lobbies-washington-for-trade-deal-beneficial-to-us-farmers--74921">trade tour to the US</a>, talking up American access to UK markets. </p><p dir="ltr">A shadow cabinet minister has called for the Charity Commission to broaden its <a href="https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/charity-commission-assessing-concerns-over-think-thank-iea-after-guardian-investigation.html">ongoing probe of the IEA</a> to include the schools magazine.</p><p dir="ltr">Labour shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett said: “It is a debasement of both politics and education when an organisation, posing as a charity, pumps seemingly paid-for propaganda into our schools. </p><p dir="ltr">“In the interests of transparency and democracy, we need to know who funds these organisations and what exactly their purpose is. Because what they say, and what they actually do, too often simply doesn’t match up.” </p><p dir="ltr">Tamasin Cave from Spinwatch, which investigates the PR and lobbying industry, said "we are now awake to the fact that the IEA is not an independent think tank. It is a lobby group for private interests. Most are secret, but we know it is funded by oil giants, the tobacco industry and a tax haven. </p><p dir="ltr">“The IEA’s magazine provides a means for these people to feed their propaganda into schools, whether that’s climate change denial, or opposition to public health policies. Just as the public are exposed to it through the IEA appearing on the BBC.”</p><p dir="ltr">When asked by openDemocracy how the magazine was funded, the IEA would only say that the think tank covered the costs of the <a href="http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends51/0000235351_AC_20161231_E_C.PDF">47,000</a> copies sent to students every year. The think tank’s funders are not disclosed publicly, however it denies that its editorial content is driven by its donors interests.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Opposing tobacco taxes… and funded by a tobacco company</h2><p dir="ltr">Since 2013, the IEA’s magazine has frequently featured articles arguing in favour of positions supported by groups that have been shown to fund the right-wing think tank. The spring 2014 edition, for example, includes an article <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Spring-soundbite-SMALL_0.pdf">arguing against</a> “sin taxes", including those on cigarettes and alcohol. <br /><br />The magazine does not mention that the IEA receives regular donations from <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs#2015_.22Broadly_Similar_Basis_to_2014.22">British American Tobacco</a>, including roughly £40,000 <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs#2015_.22Broadly_Similar_Basis_to_2014.22">in 2014</a>. The group also has links with the <a href="https://iea.org.uk/events/exiting-the-eu-reclaiming-trade-sovereignty/">sugar industry</a>, and has argued against sugar taxes.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Climate change denial… and funded by BP </h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/8735887323_697b6d9039_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/8735887323_697b6d9039_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dust cloud. Image, Zooey, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In autumn 2013, the magazine <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Autumn-soundbiite-lores.pdf">ran an article by Roger Bate</a> entitled “20 years denouncing eco-militants”, in which he argued that “evidence of climate impact is still hard to prove, and harm even more difficult to establish”, and dismissed calls for a ban on the insecticide DDT as “green alarmism”. </p><p dir="ltr">These are not the only subjects in which Bate has swum against the tide of scientific consensus. In the late 1990s, while he was <a href="https://www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/tobacco/docs/#id=grfn0073">funded by the tobacco industry</a>, Bate argued against the science which shows that exposure to tobacco causes cancer. In the words of The Ecologist, he also “<a href="https://theecologist.org/2018/sep/19/secret-love-affair-between-roger-bate-and-big-tobacco">midwived British climate denial</a>”. </p><p dir="ltr">The magazine did not inform its student readers that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe that evidence of climate impact and harm are both proved. Likewise, the magazine did not inform the pupils that Bate’s employer, the American Enterprise Institute, has long been <a href="https://exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=9">funded by ExxonMobile</a>, while the Institute for Economics Affairs itself is funded by <a href="https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/07/30/bp-funding-institute-of-economic-affairs-gambling/">British Petroleum</a>. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Promoting privatisations and tax havens</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/Elizabeth_Castle_in_front_of_Noirmont,_Isle_of_Jersey_(2006)_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Elizabeth_Castle_in_front_of_Noirmont,_Isle_of_Jersey_(2006)_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'>Elizabeth Castle, Jersey. Image, Luc Van Braekel, wikimedia commons.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Articles written by IEA staffer Kristian Niemietz in several editions advocate privatisation of the NHS. But at no point does the magazine mention that in 2014, the think tank 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 promote privatisation of each of these areas, according to the Templeton Foundation's website. Niemietz was one of two project leaders for the grant.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/hzJiChO7ZTFsqLjy9DBAFbo8TAJIcCl5fwE82GwtMJzDSeYGXon8-pcH51E45-VunX1R44Cjsih60ZKrrK9Ov57z7yyGRXaYIJFrB6HC8q4GCqwk7lw26VK-1z9bVq-7WV-pK0o6" alt="" width="427" height="302" /></span></p><p dir="ltr">The glossy 64-page magazine has also called for the <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Spring-2015_CITY-VIEW.pdf">BBC</a> to be privatised.<br /><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/UNPsmHt7luGsfv64YcBIoMM7VWPrpIe8NEr_MUnLyiXDLNDWlg_Nu1lBCY2SgRvK1Xx4KwUuEYXDZn3jcfzOe6p_6mtDLRRtkT7hJwbFU5JmizuhUznlni51HT-g5CBW87E_iSiK" alt="" width="259" height="320" /></span></p><p dir="ltr">An autumn 2016 piece in the magazine’s Idealog section was labelled as a “defence of <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/EA-AUTUMN-2016_FOR-WEB.pdf">tax havens</a>”. The IEA has long promoted tax havens, and does not disclose how this work is funded. However, earlier this year, it was revealed that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/31/jersey-finance-paid-iea-to-trash-hotbeds-of-tax-evasion-claims">Jersey Finance</a>, which promotes Jersey as a financial centre, paid for an IEA report published in June this year that attacked the idea that offshore financial centres were “hotbeds of tax evasion”. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Pro-Brexit</h2><p dir="ltr">In 2015, before the European Union referendum, EA carried a double-page spread by economist Patrick Minford entitled ‘<a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Spring-2015_VIEWPOINT.pdf">Why Britain should leave the EU</a>’. The piece concluded that the case for Brexit was “overwhelming”. Minford’s modelling has since been described as “<a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2017/08/23/economists-for-brexit-predictions-are-inconsistent-with-basic-facts-of-international-trade/">inconsistent with the basic facts of international trade</a>” by fellow economists. </p><p><span><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/AHwP-ZI6kH5Lq-gRA3NPaEqa8KbHPbLoVZDIlJ4042q-4KzLZUYchSTkNx2XpiC-gkFj34hCoFBbvTEhEkAr0CA1LOpZjU-XAms0e82dP854AgGbpBLG44Byi_A6dq76KGTwTkAU" alt="" width="504" height="402" /></span></p><p dir="ltr">EA did not carry any article in favour of remaining in the EU before the referendum. The IEA has become a favourite think tank of many Brexiters, <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2018/09/28/the-ieas-plan-a-for-free-trade-is-the-product-of-fanaticism/">publishing papers arguing that Britain would benefit</a> from leaving the customs union and single market.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Under investigation</h2><p dir="ltr">In July, the Charity Commission announced that it was investigating the IEA after an <a href="https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/07/29/a-hard-brexit-think-tank-offered-a-prospective-us-agribusiness-donor-the-chance-to-influence-its-report-on-green-brexit/">undercover sting</a> by The Guardian and Greenpeace revealed the identity of a number of the IEA’s funders, ands that senior staff had offered potential US donors access to government ministers and civil servants in order to fund its work on post-Brexit trade deals.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA was recently named in <a href="https://www.bindmans.com/uploads/files/documents/17_July_2018_-_Particulars_of_Claim_(As_Lodged).pdf">court papers</a> as one of a number of “linked” right-wing think tanks which work closely together and operate out of offices a few metres from each other in Westminster. Other groups include the TaxPayers’ Alliance, <a href="https://www.desmog.co.uk/directory/vocabulary/14991">Civitas</a>, the Adam Smith Institute, Leave Means Leave, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Brexit Central, and the Centre for Policy Studies. </p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, shadow chancellor <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/11/brexit-whistleblower-shahmir-sanni-taxpayers-alliance-concedes-it-launched-smears">John McDonnell told The Guardian</a> that the IEA are lobbyists, not thinktanks”, and called on the BBC to reflect that when introducing their spokespeople.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Powerful friends</h2><p dir="ltr">The IEA, founded in 1955 by Anthony Fisher, describes itself as the "UK’s original free market think tank". It has the charitable objects of "the promotion and advancement of learning by research into economic and political science and by educating the public therein", according to its entry on the Charity Commission’s online register.</p><p dir="ltr">IEA representatives regularly appear in the news media, and the think tank has strong links with a number of senior Conservative figures, including <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/new-health-secretary-matt-hancock-12891819">Matt Hancock</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab</a>. The former Brexit secretary credits 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">The IEA regularly receives the <a href="http://whofundsyou.org/">lowest rating</a> for transparency from campaign group Who Funds You? The American Friends of the IEA, a US entity set up to allow US-based corporations and individuals to donate to the institute, raised at least $1.69m in the past decade, according to recent analysis by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/28/us-groups-raise-millions-to-support-rightwing-uk-thinktanks">The Guardian</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Asked who funded the schools magazine, the IEA’s director Mark Littlewood said: “EA is funded by the Institute of Economic Affairs. It is sent to over 99% of schools in the UK that teach economics – more than 1,300 schools across the country.”</p><p dir="ltr">EA is circulated to students in both private and state schools across the UK. Contributors include IEA staff and members of other prominent right-wing groups from both sides of the Atlantic, Including the Cato Institute and the TaxPayers’ Alliance. </p><p dir="ltr">As well as publishing the magazine, IEA research staff tour the UK <a href="https://iea.org.uk/list-of-sixth-form-events/">visiting schools</a>, hosting 20 conferences in the past financial year. Many of these conferences follow similar themes to the pages of EA. In February, lower-sixth economics students in Portsmouth listened to talks that included a discussion on “why the minimum wage may not necessarily help those it is intended to”. Another conference looked at “whether there really is sexist prejudice in businesses or whether campaigns manipulated stats for their benefit”.</p><p dir="ltr">Responding to a question from openDemocracy about how the IEA provides “balanced and neutral” information to students attending their talks, IEA executive director Mark Littlewood said:</p><p dir="ltr">“The talks given by the IEA provide an analysis of factual evidence and data.</p><p dir="ltr">“Furthermore, the teachings of free-market economics almost always relates to topical or ‘politically charged’ issues of the day. So does any lesson in any school about history: the political history of the UK, the advent of female suffrage, the founding of the National Health Service, the destruction of South African apartheid by Nelson Mandela and the ANC, and an endless list of other issues.</p><p dir="ltr">“We suggest this content should not be banned, and it would be unwise to believe that some ‘neutral’ state agency is best placed to determine the ‘truth’ as against ‘opinion’.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Responding to questions about the funding of the EA magazine, a spokesperson for the IEA said, “The Institute’s editorial and policy output – in both our reports and our educational material – is decided by its research team and Academic Advisory Council only. Any funding we receive does not, under any circumstances, influence the focus or conclusions of our research. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“Your insinuation is that we only purport certain analysis and views because we are paid to. This is categorically untrue. If you really believe that IEA authors and spokespeople are socialist, tax-loving, big-state advocates at heart, who only advocate free-market economics for a pay cheque, then you are badly mistaken”.</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/revealed-how-uk-s-powerful-right-wing-think-tanks-and-conse">Revealed: how the UK’s powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MPs work together</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/mapped-shanker-singhams-unparalleled-access-to-government-ministers-a">Mapped – hard Brexit guru Singham&#039;s &#039;unparalleled&#039; access to 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 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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk ourNHS Brexit Institute of Economic Affairs climate change Climate change denial tax havens tobacco American Enterprise Institute DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Wed, 28 Nov 2018 12:45:22 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 120732 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May accused of "major cover-up" over Brexit donor Arron Banks https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-and-jenna-corderoy/theresa-may-accused-of-major-cover-up-over-brexit-do <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Home Office refuses openDemocracy’s request for information about investigation into Banks – saying this “would impede the future formulation of government policy”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/PA-39816769_460.jpg" alt="Theresa May" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>May won’t say. Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Theresa May is under increasing pressure to clarify reports that she blocked an investigation into Brexit bankroller Arron Banks in the run-up to the 2016 referendum after the Home Office refused to reveal information about the controversial Leave.EU and UKIP donor.</p><p>In an “extraordinary” response to a freedom of information request from openDemocracy, the Home Office refused to confirm or deny whether it holds any material from 2016 about Leave.EU and Banks. The department said that doing so “would impede the future formulation of government policy”.</p><p>Opposition MPs have accused the Home Office of a “major cover-up” and called on the government to “ditch the obfuscation” and “come clean”, amid media reports that May, as home secretary, blocked a proposed probe into Banks ahead of the Brexit vote.</p><p>In a letter seen by openDemocracy, Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake has called on the prime minister to “clarify whether you were aware of any concerns regarding Arron Banks’s finances and alleged relationships with foreign states”. The Leave donor is currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency.</p><p>In an effort to ascertain whether there was any truth to the allegations that May vetoed a probe into Banks’s affairs, openDemocracy asked the Home Office for any communications from May’s time as home secretary that referred to Banks or Leave.EU. In response, the department said that even confirming or denying whether it held any information “would impede the future formulation of government policy”.</p><h2>Yes Minister, the Kafka version</h2><p>Responding to the Home Office decision – which openDemocracy is challenging – Tom Brake said: "The government's lame excuse for failing to respond to an FOI request from openDemocracy combines a touch of Yes Minister with a pinch of Kafka.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/Tom Brake letter 20 November 2018.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/Tom Brake letter 20 November 2018.png" alt="Tom Brake's letter to Theresa May, dated 20 November 2018" title="" width="460" height="525" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Banks, whose £8.4m gift to Leave campaigns was the single biggest donation in British political history, is facing a criminal investigation over concerns that he was not the “true source” of the money. Questions have also been raised about Banks’s links to Russia. Banks denies any wrongdoing.</p><p>The NCA probe followed an Electoral Commission investigation that found evidence that Bank’s Brexit funding had come “from impermissible sources”.</p><p>Last weekend, openDemocracy revealed that Banks raised the possibility of fundraising for Brexit in the US while emailing former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. Donations from outside the UK are illegal under British election legislation.</p><p>openDemocracy has also revealed that Banks lied to MPs about the political work that his insurance company did for his Leave.EU campaign.</p><h2>What did May do?</h2><p>After the NCA investigation was launched, a report in the Daily Mail suggested that Theresa May had previously vetoed a probe into Banks before the Brexit vote took place. “The topic was simply too explosive in the run-up to the referendum,” the newspaper wrote.</p><p>In the Commons last week, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw MP asked May whether she had told security services not to investigate Banks when she was home secretary. She replied: “We do not comment, in this House, on individual criminal investigations.”</p><p>Bradshaw, who wrote to May asking if she had ever declined a request from the security services to conduct a probe into Banks the day after it was announced that the NCA investigation had begun, said that the Home Office’s response to openDemocracy suggested that “the government is trying to hide behind the form of language usually used to avoid commenting on intelligence matters. This is not an intelligence matter.</p><p>“It is a question about whether the government blocked an earlier investigation into someone who, two years later, is finally under criminal investigation.</p><p>"This is an extraordinary response from the Home Office and points, I'm afraid, to a major cover-up. How can telling the truth about whether the Home Office blocked an investigation into Banks 'impede the future development of government policy'? It's got nothing to do with the future formulation of government policy,” Bradshaw said.</p><p>Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake added: "It is time the government and the PM ditched the obfuscation and came clean with what the PM knew about the Banks allegations when.</p><p>"Trust in both politicians and the EU referendum result depend on it.”</p><p>In September deputy Labour leader Tom Watson also asked whether May had blocked a possible investigation into Banks before the referendum.</p><p>“There is a suggestion that in the run-up to the referendum the prime minister – in her capacity at the time as home secretary – declined at least one application from the security services to mount a full investigation into Mr Banks and others suspected of Russian influence. We need to know if that is true,” Watson told an event at Labour conference sponsored by The Observer.</p><p>In May, Leave.EU was fined £70,000 following an investigation by the Electoral Commission into what the electoral watchdog called “serious offences”. Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney was referred to the police, but last month openDemocracy revealed that police had yet to open the investigation due to concerns around “political sensitivities”.</p><p>Earlier this month, the Information Commissioner’s Office announced that it intended to fine Leave.EU and Banks’s insurance company Eldon £135,000 for “serious breaches” of data laws around the Brexit vote.</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/brexit-bankroller-arron-banks-cambridge-analytica-and-steve-bannon-expl">Brexit bankroller Arron Banks, Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon – explosive emails reveal fresh links</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers</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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government Brexit investigations Arron Banks Theresa May DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Wed, 21 Nov 2018 13:12:18 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 120650 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit bankroller Arron Banks, Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon – explosive emails reveal fresh links https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/brexit-bankroller-arron-banks-cambridge-analytica-and-steve-bannon-expl <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brexit donor asked controversial Trump-linked data firm to 'come up with strategy' for fundraising in the US – and gave them access to personal information about British voters, according to new leaked emails</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/bannon.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/bannon.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'>Steve Bannon. Image, Gage Skidmore, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Brexit bankroller Arron Banks’s close relationship with the controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica – and the key role played by former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon in the early days of Banks’s Brexit campaign – have been laid bare in explosive new emails obtained by openDemocracy.<br /><br />Banks, who is currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency over the sources of his £8.4m Brexit donation, told&nbsp;<a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/oral/85344.html">parliament in June&nbsp;</a>that he had “initial discussions” with the controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica but “did not take up their services”.</p><p dir="ltr">Emails and documents obtained by openDemocracy show that:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Far-right guru Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chief, personally introduced Cambridge Analytica to Banks’s Brexit campaign, which is now under criminal investigation.</p></li></ul><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Banks asked Cambridge Analytica “to come up with a strategy” for his Leave.EU campaign to raise funds in the United States months before the Brexit vote. Donations from overseas are not permitted under British law.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Cambridge Analytica was given access to personal information about British voters from Banks’s Leave.EU campaign, including access to social media accounts and call centre data. Banks has previously claimed to parliament that "the only data that was ever sent to Cambridge Analytica was from UKIP”.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Cambridge Analytica discussed working with Bank’s Eldon Insurance company. Leave.EU had previously said “we never involved the insurance company and Cambridge Analytica ever.”</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr">The revelations come as Banks is poised to play a key role in pushing for a hard Brexit. On Twitter, Banks’s Leave.EU campaign has declared&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/LeaveEUOfficial/status/1063340316013588480">“May must go!”</a>&nbsp;and has encouraged supporters to join the Conservatives to force the prime minister out of office.</p><p dir="ltr">A number of the emails obtained by openDemocracy are expected to be published as evidence by parliament's inquiry into fake news this coming week. </p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on openDemocracy's revelations, Damian Collins, chair of the inquiry said: "This is more evidence that Arron Banks misled the select committee when he gave evidence to parliament.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">"Here we can glimpse how these secret connections were being planned and discussed; the incubation of a political virus involving key people, data, money and consultancies like Cambridge Analytica.</p><p dir="ltr">He added: "Why was (Banks) seeking support from Cambridge Analytica with fundraising in America if all the money for Leave.EU came from his own resources? These emails should form part of the NCA investigation into Arron Banks’s finances.<br /><br />"The emails also show that contact between key Trump aides like Steve Bannon, and men like Arron Banks, was not just passing, but that they were working together through and involving common businesses, like Cambridge Analytica."<br /><br />Dr Emma L Briant, who has submitted similar evidence to the parliamentary committee, said: "Leave.EU funder Arron Banks denies claims that he may have received Russian money for Brexit. This new evidence shows that Banks was seeking foreign funding for Brexit from the very beginning."</p><p dir="ltr">"The emails also reveal new evidence of what constituted Banks’s ‘two stage’ plans for LeaveEU involving Cambridge Analytica. If he did not need their services, why did he go to them? The Electoral Commission must re-open their investigation into Leave.EU, as this evidence reignites questions of whether undeclared services were part of the campaign."<br /><br />Cambridge Analytica, which initially came to prominence for its role in the 2016 Trump campaign, was wound up after the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/14/leave-eu-arron-banks-new-question-referendum-funded-brexit-cambridge-analytica">Observer newspaper revealed that</a>&nbsp;it had harvested data on tens of millions of Facebook users and engaged in ‘black ops’ political campaigns around the world.</p><div><p dir="ltr">The National Crime Agency announced that it was investigating Banks earlier this month after the UK elections watchdog reported concerns that the £8.4m Banks spent on the Brexit campaign – the biggest single donation in British political history – came from impermissible sources outside the UK. Banks has denied this.</p></div><h2 dir="ltr">The Steve Bannon connection </h2><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy recently&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">revealed that Banks misled parliament</a>&nbsp;by saying that Leave.EU and his Eldon insurance business were separate businesses. We also showed that his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/revealed-arron-banks-s-staff-crunched-millions-of-voters-data-after-brexit-vote">insurance staff had access to personal information on tens of millions of voters</a>&nbsp;of British voters gathered from electoral rolls from across the UK. Banks has denied misusing any data.</p><p dir="ltr">However the new emails leaked to openDemocracy provide a much clearer picture of the relationship between Arron Banks and Cambridge Analytica than has previously been known. </p><p dir="ltr">In August 2016, just a few weeks after the Brexit vote, Steve Bannon, then Donald Trump’s campaign chief, invited Banks to a political fundraiser in Mississippi. This was not Banks’s first engagement with Bannon. Almost a year earlier, it was Bannon who brought Cambridge Analytica and Banks’s Brexit campaign together. </p><p dir="ltr">Just a month after Leave.EU was founded, communications seen by openDemocracy indicate that the former Breitbart chief introduced Banks to Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica’s onetime CEO, and arranged a follow-up phonecall between Banks and Cambridge Analytica. Bannon and Nix were together in the US on this call, along with other staff from the data analytics firm.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">On 24 October, the day after the scheduled meeting with Cambridge Analytica, Banks, in an email sent to some of his closest associates, said that he “would like CA to come up with a strategy for fund raising in the States and engaging companies and special interest groups that might be affected by TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership)”. </p><p dir="ltr">Steve Bannon was among the email’s recipients.</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 2018-11-17 at 10.16.31.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.16.31.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Banks added that he would like Cambridge Analytica to help his Brexit campaign “connect to people with family ties to the UK and raise money and create SM [social media] activity.” </p><p dir="ltr">On 25 October, a senior Cambridge Analytica staffer wrote to Banks saying that the firm was developing a proposal that would “include our discussed targeted campaigns” and plans for “targeting businesses for support and US-based fundraising strategies.”</p><p dir="ltr">Donations to British political causes can only be made by individuals who are on the electoral roll or UK-based companies. </p><p dir="ltr">In early December 2015, Banks was quoted in <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-controversial-leaveeu-co-founder-arron-banks-on-why-hes-happy-to-put-noses-out-of-a6762806.html">the Independent</a> describing the proposed TTIP trade deal as “a disaster” and boasting that he was working with Cambridge Analytica to “boost Leave.EU’s social media campaign”.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has said that he did not sign a contract with Cambridge Analytica and that no work was completed, as Leave.EU did not win the official designation as lead campaign in the Brexit referendum. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Whose data?</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks came to prominence as a political donor in 2014 when he pledged to give £1 million to UKIP. The Eurosceptic party also had connections with Cambridge Analytica.</p><p dir="ltr">Not long after Steve Bannon introduced Banks to Cambridge Analytica, UKIP staff were being asked to provide the data analytics firm with political data, including information from the electoral roll. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Banks told MPs in parliament in June that "the only data that was ever sent to Cambridge Analytica was from UKIP”. But emails obtained by openDemocracy suggest that around the same time Cambridge Analytica was working with UKIP, the firm was also engaging in very similar contact with Leave.EU. </p><p dir="ltr">In October 2015, a Cambridge Analytica employee wrote to Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney asking for data about subscribers and donors, a database of calls from the Leave.EU call centre (“particularly with the ‘Notes’ included”) and login details for the group’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. </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 2018-11-17 at 10.18.42.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.18.42.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="377" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A Leave.EU employee responded to Cambridge Analytica with details of how all this data could be accessed. Internal Leave.EU workflow documents seen by openDemocracy also suggest that the data analytics firm was given access to this Leave.EU data.</p><p>The following month, Cambridge Analytica operations director Julian Wheatland wrote to Arron Banks and his spokesperson Andy Wigmore, citing “our proposal for Phase 1 support to the Leave.EU campaign”. Wheatland said that he would “meet with members of the UKIP data team tomorrow to understand and share available data and prepare to start analysis”.<br /><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 2018-11-17 at 10.19.48.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.19.48.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Once again, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon was among the recipients of the Cambridge Analytica email. The company’s <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/culture-media-and-sport/BK-Background-paper-CA-proposals-to-LeaveEU.pdf">initial proposal to Leave.EU</a> was published earlier this year in testimony given to parliament’s ‘fake news’ inquiry by CA whistleblower Brittany Kaiser. </p><h2 dir="ltr">“We never involved the insurance company and Cambridge Analytica ever”</h2><p dir="ltr">Questions have been previously raised about the relationship between Cambridge Analytica and Banks’s other business interests. <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/oral/85344.html">Banks told parliament’s inquiry into ‘fake news’</a>: “We did not use Cambridge Analytica.” At the same parliamentary committee meeting, Banks’s longtime confidante Andy Wigmore told MPs “we never involved the insurance company and Cambridge Analytica ever.”</p><p dir="ltr">The new emails suggest that there were discussions about how Cambridge Analytica could work with Banks’s insurance business. In November 2015, a Cambridge Analytica employee wrote to Banks saying that the company was drawing up project proposals for, amongst other things, “concurrent work on how we help the Party and your insurance company. We will have some documents to you before the end of this week."<br class="kix-line-break" /><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 2018-11-17 at 10.20.57.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.20.57.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="146" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">On December 5, Wheatland wrote to Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney saying “we will make sure that the Target Audience Analysis (TAA) suits the purposes of Leave as well as UKIP and we will try to seed some questions into the survey that will help inform future study of insurance risk profiling.”</p><p dir="ltr">Documents that we have seen confirm that Cambridge Analytica conducted its initial phase of data analytics, priced at £41,500, at the request of Leave.EU, although both they and Cambridge Analytica deny that final work products were provided, due to payment not being made. Cambridge Analytica later issued an invoice to UKIP for this work, and Banks made a donation to UKIP of a similar amount to the party months later, but UKIP have claimed that they never paid the invoice either.&nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Bad boys’ of Brexit</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks initially boasted of Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in his Brexit campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">In his book ‘The Bad Boys of Brexit’, Banks says that in October 2015 Leave.EU hired Cambridge Analytica, a company that uses “big data and advanced psychographics” to influence people. </p><p dir="ltr">In November 2015, Leave.EU said on its website that Cambridge Analytica “will be helping us map the British electorate and what they believe in, enabling us to better engage with voters”. In the same month, Cambridge Analytica director Brittany Kaiser spoke at a Leave.EU news conference. She said her organisation would be “running large-scale research of the nation to really understand why people are interested in staying in or out of the EU”.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />In February 2016, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix wrote that: “We have already helped supercharge Leave.EU’s social media campaign by ensuring the right messages are getting to the right voters online.” </p><p dir="ltr">A recent report by the UK Information Commissioner found that there was <a href="https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/2260271/investigation-into-the-use-of-data-analytics-in-political-campaigns-final-20181105.pdf">“no evidence</a> of a working relationship between CA and Leave.EU proceeding beyond this initial phase.”</p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore have so far not responded to questions from openDemocracy.</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/revealed-arron-banks-s-staff-crunched-millions-of-voters-data-after-brexit-vote">Revealed: Arron Banks’s staff crunched millions of voters’ data after Brexit vote</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers</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 class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-whistleblowers-say-arron-banks-misled-viewers-o">Whistleblowers say Arron Banks ‘misled’ viewers on BBC Andrew Marr show</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <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 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/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/what-we-learned-about-arron-banks-at-fake-news-inquiry">What we learned about Arron Banks at the fake news inquiry</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 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="/uk/brexitinc/how-arron-banks-campaign-ambassador-jim-mellon-made-millions-in-russia-nigel-farage">Revealed: How Arron Banks’s campaign ‘ambassador’ made his millions in Russia</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"> United States </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> </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 United States UK Democracy and government investigations Brexit Arron Banks Steve Bannon Nigel Farage Donald Trump Cambridge Analytica DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Sat, 17 Nov 2018 09:36:59 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 120594 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: Arron Banks’s staff crunched millions of voters’ data after Brexit vote https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/revealed-arron-banks-s-staff-crunched-millions-of-voters-data-after-brexit-vote <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whistleblower says Banks’s staff were told to ‘urgently’ process personal information on millions of voters after the referendum – and still had it months later. Why?</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/555700/banks.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/banks.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'>Arron Banks. Image, BBC.</span></span></span></p><span>Senior staff at Arron Banks’s insurance company had access to the personal information of millions of British voters months after the Brexit vote, according to a new whistleblower from inside Banks’s Brexit campaign.</span><p>Under UK electoral law, this data should have been securely destroyed after the referendum – and Banks has previously claimed to MPs that there was no data sharing between his insurance business and his Leave.EU campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has already <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">revealed</a> that Banks misled Parliament about how his Brexit campaign was run, and the role played by staff at his Eldon insurance business. He also failed to declare the part played by Eldon staff to the Electoral Commission, as is required by law.</p><p dir="ltr">Now further emails seen by openDemocracy reveal for the first time the scale of the data warchest that Banks, Brexit’s largest donor, has built. He has since pledged to use his Leave.EU campaign to unseat anti-Brexit Tories and encourage his supporters to take over the Conservative party.</p><p dir="ltr">Damian Collins, chair of the parliamentary inquiry into fake news, said that openDemocracy’s latest revelations about Leave.EU and Eldon “suggest that they were potentially holding data that they knew they shouldn’t have, which would be a clear breach of the law, as well as contradicting, once again, what Arron Banks said to Parliament”.</p><p>It is not clear whether the data was used or whether it has now been destroyed. Banks did not respond to questions from openDemocracy.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Snake in the grass’</h2><p dir="ltr">Last month, Arron Banks <a href="https://twitter.com/davidbenjyman/status/1057267255912882176">wrote to every household in Damian Collins’s constituency</a>, calling the MP a “snake in the grass” and a “disgrace” after the chair of the parliamentary inquiry in fake news called for a Mueller-style investigation into Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/01/arron-banks-referred-to-agency-over-suspected-offences-in-brexit-campaign">National Crime Agency</a> has since announced it is investigating Banks over his £8m Brexit donations, saying there were reasonable grounds to suspect Banks was “not the true source” of the money.</p><p>The Information Commissioner’s Office has also told Eldon Insurance and Leave.EU it will fine them £135,000 for “serious breaches” of data laws. In one instance, more than one million emails marketing Banks’s insurance business, Go Skippy, were sent to Leave.EU subscribers.</p><p>The ICO is currently investigating whether Eldon Insurance in turn shared the personal information of its customers with Leave.EU, which could be another breach of the law.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, new information obtained by openDemocracy suggests that senior Eldon staff had access to far more electoral data from Leave.EU than previously reported.</p><p dir="ltr">In the run-up to the Brexit vote, Leave.EU received electoral registers from councils across the UK. The registers contain a wealth of information about voters, includings names, addresses, and postcodes. Registered participants in an upcoming election are <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/162824/List-of-people-entitled-to-be-supplied-with-the-electoral-register.pdf">allowed</a> to request the registers.</p><p dir="ltr">Electoral Commission guidance states that registers “should be securely destroyed… once the purpose for which the register has been supplied has expired”. Failure to do “would ultimately be for the police to investigate”.</p><p>But in September 2016, three months after the Brexit referendum, a Leave.EU staffer wrote an email to campaign CEO Liz Bilney and a senior Eldon insurance staffer saying that “the electoral data hasn’t yet been deleted”.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/yO2-6Z8zP98KX-2RMYfWH1li98ZzDA30VF9K1p3UYQ6ipfYozuKsUmY_aU8S0lxTn85TKq73wdJSfb6O-lG035zEhwjSHZGD1dYWVJD-A0VM3q_HJUUQh5T_kZfmKbDZ5_xwH0p-" alt="" width="602" height="275" /></span></span></p><p>A later response said: “We have deleted that data that Ross used from \\SKIPPY\Electoral Registers$\”. This email was sent by a staffer at Southern Rock, Banks’s Gibraltar-based insurance firm. The file prefix – ‘Skippy’ – is very similar to Go Skippy, the brand name under which Eldon Insurance trades.</p><p dir="ltr">Why Southern Rock, a Banks-owned insurance company based in Gibraltar, would have access to personal information about tens of millions of British voters is not clear. Among the email’s recipients are staff with Rock Services email addresses. Banks has said that Rock Services provided the £8m that he gave to the Brexit campaign.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Personal data crunched</h2><p>Banks has maintained that there was no data sharing between Eldon and Leave.EU, telling Parliament previously that his insurance business had an “exceptionally strong data control culture to prevent any misuse of data”.</p><p>Last weekend, openDemocracy reported that Leave.EU received hundreds of electoral registers from across the UK.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/UUTCPCJLmlgTlbJ_cTQtrEO2uYbl5dylllfQFDWs0KJkK-2e5D9OC-iwCywoRHvvrzhp8LtsWoJfwcvNrk_MA3S6XpJd9-5qZ3gw_mj36tYl1VEXoxKHZwhY4lVsV2zC9nn0ope3" alt="" width="492" height="278" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In early June, a few weeks before the Brexit vote, Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney complained that the campaign had collected data on only 14.7 million voters. Around the same time, a small team was created inside Banks’s Bristol HQ to format the electoral registers. “Nobody was told what the point of doing all this was,” someone familiar with the process told openDemocracy</p><p dir="ltr">By referendum day, the huge task of formatting all the electoral registers was far from complete. But just days after the unexpected Brexit vote, a small group of Leave.EU employees began processing the rest of the registers at Lysander House, Banks’s Bristol HQ and home to both Eldon Insurance and Leave.EU, openDemocracy has been told.</p><p dir="ltr">Pressure was put on staff to process the electoral registers more quickly, even though the campaign was over. “There was a level of urgency with it. People were getting angry emails saying, ‘This must be done.’ I didn’t know what it was for,” the source said.</p><p>Once all of the electoral rolls had been formatted, the spreadsheets were sent to a senior Eldon employee, the source claimed. How the formatted registers – which would have contained detailed data about tens of millions of British voters – were then used is not clear.</p><p dir="ltr">“We would format the registers and then send them on to a guy at Eldon and he would do whatever they did with them,” a Leave.EU source told openDemocracy. “I asked them why we were still doing this [after the Brexit referendum] but nobody gave me answer.” Arron Banks has declined to answer openDemocracy’s questions.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has previously said that he believes big data is the future of both politics and business. In an email sent on 24 May 2016, an Eldon staffer says that “Arron [Banks] and Liz [Bilney]” want the website of the Go Skippy – the brand used by Eldon Insurance – “fit for purpose in line with the big data project”. There is no evidence that electoral roll information forms part of the “big data project”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/WHzmsGvYrJ15GiUy0x4wW9H3F_lwXFJrf2OQmOkWx0itI1S2Hk7HE_8Q25x1SbrF_7oQBTEXIJjMgC0UTO91TNdDSu5ShYYhjdWrR51i-WFNEqJdZ1NIDC5IwJli00C9TXZyGPEd" alt="" width="537" height="370" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In December 2016, Banks set up a data analytics company, <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/10529695">Big Data Dolphins</a>. The following year, Banks <a href="https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-4958846/Brexit-bad-boy-net-millions-insurance-float.html">told journalists</a> that Eldon was using the same “artificial intelligence experts” that Leave.EU had deployed to target swing voters during the Brexit vote.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Mueller-style inquiry’</h2><p dir="ltr">Commenting on openDemocracy’s story, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: "These further explosive revelations need to be examined as part of the ongoing investigations by the Information Commissioner, National Crime Agency and the police.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“It is becoming clearer by the day that multiple crimes were committed by the pro-Brexit campaign and we are only just beginning to understand the extent of these. That is why there are growing calls for a full Mueller-style inquiry like the one going on in the States to get to the bottom of whether the EU referendum was subverted."&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Kyle Taylor, of campaign group Fair Vote, said: "The scale of this illegal operation is even larger than perhaps anyone thought likely. </p><p>“It also offers yet another example of why there must be an independent public inquiry into the EU referendum. This is much bigger than Brexit. It's about the sanctity of and trust in our democratic system. Our very way of life is at stake."</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has so far not responded to openDemocracy’s requests for comment.</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/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-whistleblowers-say-arron-banks-misled-viewers-o">Whistleblowers say Arron Banks ‘misled’ viewers on BBC Andrew Marr show</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</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 class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <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 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/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/what-we-learned-about-arron-banks-at-fake-news-inquiry">What we learned about Arron Banks at the fake news inquiry</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> </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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government investigations Arron Banks Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Fri, 09 Nov 2018 08:47:25 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 120516 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Whistleblowers say Arron Banks ‘misled’ viewers on BBC Andrew Marr show https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-whistleblowers-say-arron-banks-misled-viewers-o <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brexit funder said staff working for his controversial Leave campaign were put on different contracts, and declared to elections watchdog. But evidence seen by openDemocracy tells a very different story.</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/screen-shot-2018-11-04-at-20-59-06-1024x565.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/screen-shot-2018-11-04-at-20-59-06-1024x565.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks on Marr, BBC.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks has been accused by MPs of “not telling the truth” after whistleblowers told openDemocracy that the Leave.EU founder misled viewers about his controversial Brexit campaign on Sunday’s Andrew Marr show. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Banks, who is now under criminal investigation over his £8m Brexit donations, told the BBC that staff at his Eldon Insurance company who worked on his Leave.EU campaign were put on separate contracts. Banks also claimed that this arrangement was declared to the UK’s electoral watchdog, as is required by law.</p><p dir="ltr">But interviews with former Eldon staff and documents seen by openDemocracy suggest that employees regularly worked on both Banks’s insurance business and his political campaign. “There were no separate contracts for the Leave work. None at all. You were just told to do that at the same time as working on the insurance business,” a former Eldon staffer told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission also said that it "has no record of Leave.EU reporting services it received from Eldon Insurance for the referendum." </p><p dir="ltr">Banks has been under pressure to explain the relationship between his insurance business and Leave.EU after <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit?fbclid=IwAR3RjxcG1fHEZ7ghlIC8iT9RaF3wc4dkDXTXMn7u9f3RtstBi1VIliw1XWA">openDemocracy revealed that staff worked for both organisations ahead of the Brexit referendum</a>. Any such work in the months before the election should be declared under electoral law, and Mr Banks has repeatedly denied any such work taking place. In June, he told parliament that there was no overlap between Eldon and Leave.EU. </p><p dir="ltr">Damian Collins MP, chair of parliament’s inquiry into fake news, said that openDemocracy’s latest revelations show that Banks is “not telling the truth once again”.</p><p dir="ltr">““[Banks] was really clear to the committee that Eldon was kept totally separate from Leave.EU but now we have former Eldon employees saying that they worked on both the referendum and for Eldon. Once again it appears that he has not been straight with the answers he gave at the committee,” Collins told openDemocracy. </p><p dir="ltr">Potential sharing of voters’ personal data between Leave.EU and Eldon insurance has formed part of an Information Commissioner’s Office investigation, which is due to report Tuesday.</p><p dir="ltr">“There are really important issues as well in terms of data protection law and electoral law if staff at an insurance company were simultaneously working on a political campaign which they should not have done. Banks, knowing that they shouldn’t do it, had said publicly that they hadn’t,” said Collins.</p><h2>'It's just what you were told to do'</h2><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has obtained a copy of a contract signed by an Eldon Insurance employee who often worked for Leave.EU. The contract, with a start date just weeks before the referendum, makes no mention of Leave.EU. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />The same employee was frequently asked to do Leave.EU work after the date that their contract with Eldon signed, according to emails leaked to openDemocracy. One email states that the employee spent half of their time in June on Leave.EU work.</p><p dir="ltr">Another former Eldon employee said that they had also only signed a contract with the insurance company, even though they were frequently asked to work on Leave.EU material in the run-up to the Brexit vote. An Eldon insurance contract signed by a third former staffer makes no mention of working for any Leave campaigns even though emails clearly show that they worked for Leave.EU and other Brexit groups.</p><p dir="ltr">“We worked for all the different groups. I worked for Leave and I never had a contract for Leave. It was just what you were told to do,” a source said. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Suspicion of donations from ‘impermissible source’</h2><p dir="ltr">Last week the National Crime Agency announced that it was investigating Arron Banks and his Leave.EU campaign after the Electoral Commission announced that it had found “reasonable grounds” to believe that Banks’s £8m donations had come from an impermissible source.</p><p dir="ltr">Media reports alleged that in early 2016, the then Home Secretary Theresa May declined a request by one of the security services to investigate Arron Banks. In response to a freedom of information request submitted by openDemocracy last month, the Home Office refused to confirm or deny whether they held any relevant material relating to Banks and Leave.EU. </p><p dir="ltr">“The most prominent reason to neither confirm nor deny that we hold the information requested is that doing so would impede the future formulation of government policy,” the Home Office said. openDemocracy will be challenging this. </p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on openDemocracy’s latest revelations, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “In his attempts to bluster and obfuscate, Banks only managed to tie himself up further in knots with his contradictory or evasive answers. That is why it is so important that we finally have a proper criminal investigation into this whole matter. It is vital that the NCA devotes sufficient resources to this investigation so it can progress quickly and reassure the public that the 2016 Brexit referendum was not subverted.”</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said: “During the EU referendum, campaign groups could accept donations – including of services – from permissible companies, and could pay for services.</p><p dir="ltr">“The Electoral Commission has no record of Leave.EU reporting services it received from Eldon Insurance for the referendum.”</p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks was approached for comment but has yet to respond.</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/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> <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> </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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government investigations Brexit Arron Banks DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Mon, 05 Nov 2018 18:12:44 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 120474 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Major Brexit bankroller, now under investigation by the National Crime Agency, “deliberately misled” parliament about his insurance company’s political work, and amassed campaign data ‘warchest’</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/arron banks_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/arron banks_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'>Arron Banks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Brexit donor Arron Banks lied to MPs about the political work that his insurance company did for his controversial Leave campaign, according to whistleblowers who worked at Banks’s Bristol headquarters during the Brexit vote.</p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of emails leaked by former employees of Eldon Insurance and Rock Services to openDemocracy show insurance staff frequently working on the Leave campaign in the run-up to the 2016 referendum. Banks, who was referred to the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/2401bf9a-ddd1-11e8-8f50-cbae5495d92b">National Crime Agency this week</a>, repeatedly told MPs that his insurance businesses and his political campaigning were separate. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Damian Collins, chair of parliament's inquiry into fake news and disinformation, said that the evidence appeared to "flatly contradict" what Banks told his committee in June and that Banks could have "deliberately misled the committee and parliament on an important point." </p><p dir="ltr">“If Eldon employees were being paid to work on the campaign, it should have been a declared expense. We asked him directly if he’d used his insurance employees to work on the campaigns and he said they didn’t,” Collins added. </p><p dir="ltr">Under British electoral law, campaigns cannot co-ordinate or ‘work together’ unless they declare their spending jointly. However, emails and testimony from insiders suggest that insurance staff in Bristol frequently worked not just for Leave.EU but also for other Brexit campaigns at the same time. This was not declared to the Electoral Commission, raising questions about whether Banks’s campaign could have breached electoral law (<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44080096">again</a>).</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy’s long-running investigation into Banks’s political and business interests, in collaboration with the Bristol Cable, also found that:</p><ol><li>Eldon Insurance employees were directed to work for Banks’s Brexit campaign, contradicting statements made by Banks and his colleague Andy Wigmore in parliament.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /><br /></li><li>Insurance staff were frequently assigned to work on material for Banks’s Leave.EU and other Brexit campaigns. This work was not declared on submissions to the Electoral Commission, despite being a requirement of UK electoral law.<br /><br /></li><li>Banks’s Brexit campaign amassed data from tens of millions of British voters through the UK electoral register. Former Leave.EU staff have raised questions about whether this data was destroyed after the referendum, as stipulated by British electoral law.<br /><br /></li><li>The NCA is investigating whether Banks is the “true source” of £8m he provided to Leave.EU and Better for the Country Limited. We can report for the first time that Better for the Country had spent £1.5m by December 2015, two months before the referendum date had even been announced.<br /><br /></li><li>Eldon and Leave.EU staff at Banks’s Bristol HQ also worked for UKIP at the same time, with Leave.EU’s office even depicted as a UKIP membership centre in a party magazine. Banks told parliament in June that he “never had a role” in UKIP.</li></ol><h2 dir="ltr">Mixing business and politics</h2><p dir="ltr">In June, <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/oral/85344.html">Arron Banks told the DCMS committee</a> that Leave.EU and his Eldon Insurance business were separate organisations with different staff. Leave.EU did not “use staff who had previously worked in the insurance business,” Wigmore told MPs.</p><p dir="ltr">But employees worked across different political campaigns at the same time as working for Banks’s insurance company, according to emails and interviews with former Eldon and Leave.EU staff. </p><p dir="ltr">An ex-Eldon insurance employee who worked at the company in the run-up to the referendum <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/03/arron-banks-faces-new-claims-of-misleading-mps-over-brexit">told the Observer today</a>: “I made it absolutely clear that I didn’t want to work on the political stuff. I wasn’t comfortable with it. I didn’t want to be complicit in it. Some of these images were really horrible. The immigrants and refugee stuff. But there were always these urgent requests coming in. You were told to stop what you were doing and do something for Leave.EU or Grassroots Out or the GO movement.</p><p dir="ltr">“There were quite a lot of spats about it. People were frozen out if they refused to work on it.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Calls for Mueller-style investigation</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks, the self-styled ‘bad boy of Brexit’, has already been found to have misrepresented his connections with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/08/revealed-leaveeu-campaign-met-russian-officials-as-many-as-11-times">Russian officials</a> and the value of his <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/.../not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-valu...">investments</a>. As openDemocracy has repeatedly shown, huge <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">question marks</a> hang over the true extent of his wealth.</p><p dir="ltr">This week the National Crime Agency announced it was investigating allegations of multiple criminal offences by Banks and his Leave.EU campaign. Banks has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/01/arron-banks-referred-to-agency-over-suspected-offences-in-brexit-campaign">rejected the allegations</a> and said that they are motivated by political bias.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has also recently boasted that he would <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/arron-banks-join-tories-and-unseat-the-traitor-theresa-6gdc8kqdn">use Leave.EU’s support base to unseat Conservative MPs </a>he believes are not committed to a hard Brexit. Last week, he <a href="https://twitter.com/davidbenjyman/status/1057267255912882176">wrote to every household in the constituency of Damian Collins MP</a>, calling the Tory chair of the parliamentary inquiry into ‘fake news’ a ‘snake in the grass’ and a ‘disgrace’, after Collins called for a Mueller-style investigation into Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Collins’s DCMS committee previously published evidence and testimony supplied by an ex-Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser about how Leave.EU employees used Eldon insurance data to target voters. Banks denied these claims. </p><p dir="ltr">The relationship between Eldon, UKIP and Leave.EU is one of the focuses of an investigation by the Information Commissioner into the use of data in the referendum. The final report will be published on Tuesday and the ICO head, Elizabeth Denham, will answer MPs inquiry in a hearing of the DCMS committee.</p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks has declined to answer any of openDemocracy’s or the Observer’s questions. Earlier this year, he denied to the Observer that any Eldon employees had undertaken any work for Leave.EU. </p><p dir="ltr">Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: "I hope that the National Crime Agency will consider these serious new findings as part of their investigations into Mr Banks and his financial affairs. It's already clear that parliament was misled on a number of central issues and that serious and growing concerns about the true source of Mr Banks's wealth remain unexamined.”<br /><br />Leave.EU has already been fined for <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44080096">breaking British electoral law</a> during the Brexit campaign, and has been referred to the police for potential criminal charges.<br /><br />However, openDemocracy recently revealed that the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">Met Police has yet to open an investigation</a> into either Leave.EU or Vote Leave. Conservative MP Anna Soubry said: “We need to have a full and thorough investigation into all these allegations and they must be completed as a matter of grave urgency”</p><h2 dir="ltr">'Propaganda' – and misleading parliament</h2><p dir="ltr">Without Leave.EU, according to Arron Banks, there would be no Brexit. In his autobiography, Banks claims that Leave.EU’s social media team was reaching almost 20 million people a week ahead of the 2016 referendum. </p><p dir="ltr">The campaign was run by only around 30 staff on the top floor of Lysander House, a boxy glass-fronted building on the edge of Bristol that is also home to dozens of Banks’s companies, including Eldon Insurance. Here, around 20 junior Leave.EU employees sat by rows of phones, calling potential donors and supporters. Separately, a ‘political team’, directed by Banks, orchestrated the creation of controversial content for social media that was produced by a small pool of designers.</p><p dir="ltr">When Banks appeared before parliament in June, he assured MPs that Leave.EU staff were “clearly demarked” in Lysander House and were separate from the Eldon insurance business based there. Banks’s sidekick Andy Wigmore told parliament that Leave.EU had not used “<a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/oral/85344.html">staff who had previously worked in the insurance business</a>”. </p><p dir="ltr">However, this supposed division between Leave.EU and Eldon insurance simply did not exist. Hundreds of emails and documents obtained by openDemocracy, and interviews with former Leave.EU staff, show that Eldon staff were intimately involved in the Brexit campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">A longtime Banks employee, Pamela Palmer, assembled and managed Leave.EU’s call centre. Palmer is listed on Eldon’s <a href="https://eldoninsurance.co.uk/careers/what-our-team-members-say/">website</a> as an operations manager, where she is quoted saying “I have been part of the Eldon team for a number of years.” Palmer was “in charge of all of us kids”, says one former Leave.EU staffer. </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 2018-11-03 at 20.30.26.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.30.26.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="680" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In March 2016, Palmer wrote that she had received “1 million phone numbers and the members data”. Palmer had email addresses for Leave.EU, Eldon Insurance and <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11717415/Millionaire-Jim-Mellon-backs-20million-anti-politics-campaign-to-leave-EU-as-name-revealed.html">theKnow.eu</a>, a forerunner to Leave.EU <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11717415/Millionaire-Jim-Mellon-backs-20million-anti-politics-campaign-to-leave-EU-as-name-revealed.html">bankrolled</a> by Banks’s close associate Jim Mellon. Liz Bilney was listed as theKnow.EU’s CEO, and the <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20150828053958/http://theknow.eu:80/">campaign’s website</a> encouraged supporters to enter their names, telephone numbers and addresses into theKnow.EU database. </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 2018-11-03 at 20.31.42.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.31.42.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Another Eldon veteran, Holly Gardner, described herself as “project manager on secondment to Leave.EU”, which she lists as being a part of the Eldon Group on her LinkedIn profile. Many of those working for Leave.EU had email addresses belonging to another Banks’s company, Rock Services, which also paid their wages. Leave.EU was, and still is, based within Eldon Insurance’s Bristol HQ.</p><p dir="ltr">A former Eldon employee who worked on Leave.EU material said the campaign was practically an extension of the insurance business: “It was the same people involved in everything. It was totally incestuous. They were all absolutely the same thing. Different heads but the same body. It was basically a giant Hydra.”</p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of emails show Leave.EU staff assigning political work to Eldon Insurance employees. Banks himself is included in some of this correspondence. </p><p dir="ltr"><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/1HBRZ1jwWKbRT0mRSoRcGbx93my4wiJDOzY1LzLOE2Hl5oD56OXzOHUl1Lfu4pzacD-hr9a2zVzUKOHyqRiMblt85Ha8arvy_VL8M-bnMD-sEGXRVH2nQTsPxXxq-AhK1Wvu-A7I" alt="" width="927" height="269" /></p><p dir="ltr">Under UK election law, participants in political campaigns must declare any services that they receive during the campaign. Although our evidence shows Eldon staff working on Leave.EU work, Banks’s campaign did not declare any services from Eldon insurance in its spending return.</p><p dir="ltr">“During the EU referendum, campaign groups could accept donations – including of services – from permissible companies, and could pay for services,” a spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said.</p><p dir="ltr">“The Electoral Commission has no record of Leave.EU reporting services it received from Eldon Insurance for the referendum.” </p><p dir="ltr">Banks’s insurance staff were involved indirectly in the Brexit campaign, too. A few weeks before the Brexit vote, Banks invited a small group of insurance employees to view an anti-immigration video before it was posted on Leave.EU’s Facebook channel. </p><p dir="ltr">“One of them commented ‘it wasn’t informative enough’,” a former Leave.EU staffer recalled. “Banks said ‘it isn’t meant to be informative. It’s propaganda’.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">Better for the Country?</h2><p dir="ltr">In late May 2015, Banks created a company called <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09609018">Better for the Country</a> Limited. Just weeks earlier, David Cameron’s Conservatives won a general election majority on a manifesto that included a commitment to hold a referendum on European Union membership. Better for the Country donated at least £2.3m to various Leave groups between February and June 2016, according to filings with the <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=better%20for%20the%20country%20&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">Electoral Commission</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">This week, the National Crime Agency launched an investigation into Better for the Country Limited and Leave.EU, after the Electoral Commission found that there were “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/01/arron-banks-referred-to-agency-over-suspected-offences-in-brexit-campaign">reasonable ground</a>s” to suspect that Banks was not the “true source” of cash he provided to both outfits.</p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission said that Better for the Country and Leave.EU spent at least £2.9m on Brexit, but our investigation suggests that the true figure could be much higher.</p><p dir="ltr">Under UK election rules, only campaign spending in the final ten weeks of the campaign – the “referendum period” – needs to be reported to the Electoral Commission. The campaign could only spend up to £700,000 during this period. Leave.EU declared spending £693,094. </p><p dir="ltr">But by December 2015 – six months before the Brexit vote and before the referendum date had even been set – Banks’s Better for the Country Limited had already spent more than £1.5m. In an email dated 11 December, Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney is told that Better for the Country has “spent £1,512,689 so far”. This spending was legal but did not have to be declared to the Electoral Commission so this is the first time detailed information has been published revealing exactly how much Banks’s campaign was spending long before polling day.</p><h2 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 2018-11-03 at 20.33.35.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.33.35.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>UKIP? Or Leave.EU? Or both?</h2><p dir="ltr">Before Brexit, Arron Banks was best known as UKIP’s biggest donor. In 2014, he pledged £1m to the party – although he ended up giving just over £400,000. During the ‘fake news’ inquiry in parliament, Banks distanced himself from UKIP. Asked in parliament how he demarcated his roles in UKIP and Leave.EU, Banks said that he “never had a role in UKIP”.</p><p dir="ltr">But UKIP appears to have been very much involved in Leave.EU’s organisation.</p><p dir="ltr">In February 2016, a UKIP magazine published a photograph of a visit to the party’s “Bristol membership office”. The photo is taken in Leave.EU’s office in Lysander House. Pamela Palmer is described as being the call centre manager. Another Leave.EU staffer is listed as “UKIP renewals leader”, according to emails obtained by openDemocracy. Her LinkedIn lists her employment at the time as a team manager at Eldon Insurance.</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 2018-11-03 at 20.35.04.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.35.04.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="569" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: UKIP magazine, February 2016</span></span></span> That same month an Eldon insurance employee emailed Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney asking whether “we will be sending out UKIP emails from our office.” Employees for Eldon and Rock Services worked on UKIP messaging materials, including mailshots to UKIP supporters, and messages from Nigel Farage.</p><p dir="ltr">In May, Bilney was <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/leaveeu-fined-70000-over-eu-referendum-funding-and-spending-11367242">reported to the Metropolitan police</a> for her role in Leave.EU’s numerous alleged breaches of electoral law. On Thursday, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-46065111/leaveeu-chief-executive-liz-bilney-welcomes-police-investigation">Bilney said she “welcomed”</a> the National Crime Agency investigation, saying she was confident she and Banks would be exonerated.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Data on ‘tens of millions of voters’ </h2><p dir="ltr">The source of all the personal information used by Leave.EU’s call centre to target voters from across the country is unclear. A former staffer said that the campaign had a database with names, phone numbers and emails. But Leave.EU team leaders seemed unsure of the source of the data. “You’d ask the team leader and they’d say Facebook or ‘I don’t know’,” an insider told openDemocracy. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In March 2016, a few months before the Brexit vote, Leave.EU staff began asking for copies of the electoral register across Britain. Electoral registers contain a wealth of information about voters, includings names, addresses, and postcodes. Registered participants are <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/162824/List-of-people-entitled-to-be-supplied-with-the-electoral-register.pdf">allowed</a> to request the registers ahead of an election. </p><p dir="ltr">Leave.EU received registers from at least 64 councils, according to documents released to openDemocracy under Freedom of Information laws, but a former staffer said that the campaign received data from every local authority in the UK, which would include tens of millions of voters.</p><p dir="ltr">In early June 2016, Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney sent an email complaining that the campaign had only gathered records of 14.7million voters. “I’m shocked, we need all the data in,” Bilney told Palmer.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/pFgw5XDzOBm7hkruvapEng3lxArm-w5-WhTptQ8c_4jspEyydiJ9qJxZj2Lld3e8BmK1AwrK-zVlQIT4KEiI656qOCJvSTN4fodkdmI7YcV2ZaIDnxRz1CIKELpopQpUyNFAATGn" alt="" width="430" height="662" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Staff from Banks’s other companies were brought in to help with the mammoth task of requesting the details of tens of millions of voters. An email released to openDemocracy following a Freedom of Information request shows an Eldon staff member chasing Runnymede council for its electoral register. </p><p dir="ltr">A junior Leave.EU staffer was tasked with formatting the electoral registers. &nbsp;A week before the Brexit vote, three Eldon temps were seconded to assist. All the data was entered into Excel and edited to ensure that it was all presented in the same format.</p><p dir="ltr">Leave.EU staff who worked with the electoral registers said they did not know what happened to the data after the Brexit referendum, leaving open the possibility that it could have been transferred to third parties, including Eldon Insurance. The Electoral Commission says this information “should be securely destroyed” once the purpose for which it has been supplied has expired. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.</p><p dir="ltr">In parliament in June, Jo Stevens MP asked Banks if any data gathered by Leave.EU was shared with his insurance companies. Banks replied: “I do not believe so”.&nbsp;<span>Adverts for Banks’s insurance firm GoSkippy have often been sent to people on Leave.EU’s mailing list. Banks has previously defended the practice, saying: “Why shouldn’t I? It’s my data."</span></p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy also discovered that Eldon staff requested electoral registers on behalf of both Leave.EU and other Brexit groups. Pamela Palmer sent numerous requests for registers to councils for the register on Leave.EU. In a letter dated 5 April 5 2016, Richard Murphy, of Grassroots Out, wrote that Palmer was authorised to accept electoral registers on behalf of his Brexit group.</p><p dir="ltr"><span><span><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/puXs3k-_z1ZA7fEosr76ljbUuOyIsLtAZvS_MRHOZ2yYz7nNVmEobXQXdsWpDWTxA69YtlQp9ZJsidFrxjjIn-C3YRMA_eEkoYTwZmL-w2Aks3rwMx3pJ638WiELLGm1hCRID8Hk" alt="" width="624" height="504" /></span></span></p><p>On 21 April, less than a week after the start of the official referendum period, Holly Gardner wrote to Pamela Palmer at Leave.EU with “attached GO data”. GO could refer to Grassroots Out or GO Movement, which were both registered Brexit campaigns that were led by Tory MP Peter Bone. Gardner’s email suggests that Leave.EU had access to, and was using, data collected by GO.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/Ec0NscW3vTER0gZ7bwP_TvD7djzxzIF875JchsQqHCnQRH15AHehiKAiQLmVcG_M6vDRd57biBBz9LiRdvoFp2jZ9IbINsGYabQjoE4vdNeQvrwfVnjtecxkW9-IRrDLEWrPdGjw" alt="" width="624" height="509" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">On May 6 2016, just weeks before the Brexit vote, a ‘creative team leader’ at Eldon wrote to Liz Bilney to discuss the ‘hand over’ of the Grassroots Out website which was controlled by Leave.EU staff. Insiders told openDemocracy that they were continually asked to work on material for Grassroots Out and other Brexit campaigns, including UKIP.</p><p dir="ltr">“I honestly couldn’t tell you what the differences were between the campaigns. We were just told to change the header or the footer depending on which campaign it was for but they were clones of each other,” the source said. </p><p dir="ltr">Under UK election law, different campaigns must declare if they are “working together” during the final ten weeks of the campaign. According to Electoral Commission filings, Leave.EU and Grassroots Out were registered as separate campaigns during the Brexit referendum, which means they could not coordinate campaign activities. </p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the official Vote Leave campaign was <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/vote-leave-campaign-eu-referendum-spending-limits-brexit-beleave-boris-johnson-a8430191.html">fined</a> for breaking its spending limit by coordinating with a smaller pro-Brexit campaign. </p><h2>Pushing Tories into a hardline Brexit</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks has recently pledged to use Leave.EU to push the Tories into a hardline Brexit position. "The best way to secure Brexit and our country's future is via the Conservative Party,” the Leave.EU chief wrote in the Times in August. "To that end, I am urging the 90,000 members of my Brexit campaign Leave.EU and the 1.4million who follow us on social media to join the Tories and have a say." </p><p dir="ltr">Banks has sent tens of thousands of Leave.EU’s supporters emails and social media messages telling them to join the Tories. Letters on Leave.EU headed paper were sent to constituents of the chair of Damian Collins MP – including people who were not supporters of Banks’s Brexit campaign. </p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy asked Arron Banks where the data used to target Collins’s constituents came from, as well as numerous other questions. So far we have yet to receive a response. </p><p dir="ltr">We also asked Andy Wigmore and Liz Bilney about the claims made in this piece. Neither have responded. </p><p dir="ltr"><em>Adam Cantwell-Corn of the Bristol Cable contributed additional reporting on this piece.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>This piece was edited on 4 November to reflect that Jim Mellon did not create theKnow.eu but donated a <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11717415/Millionaire-Jim-Mellon-backs-20million-anti-politics-campaign-to-leave-EU-as-name-revealed.html">reported £100,000</a> to the campaign in 2015 and had pledged to give more.&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/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 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/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/revealed-met-police-ignored-brexit-campaign-evidence-for-month">Revealed: Met Police ignored Brexit campaign evidence for months</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> </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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government investigations Arron Banks Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Sat, 03 Nov 2018 19:49:51 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 120439 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 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-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"> Northern 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> </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 Northern Ireland UK Democracy and government Brexit investigations Democratic Unionist Party 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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government investigations European Research Group Brexit Conservative Party 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 Conservative Party investigations Brexit European Research Group 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-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 Can Europe make it? uk UK investigations Conservative Party Institute of Economic Affairs 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 class="field-item even"> Northern Ireland </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 Northern Ireland UK Facebook Brexit Democratic Unionist Party investigations 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-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 investigations Institute of Economic Affairs 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-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 investigations Brexit Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan 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-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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government investigations Brexit 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-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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government investigations Brexit 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-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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </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 Civil society Democracy and government investigations Arron Banks Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. 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-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 Institute of Economic Affairs investigations Brexit Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy 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-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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government Conservative Party investigations Brexit European Research Group 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-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 investigations Brexit Institute of Economic Affairs 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-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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit investigations 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-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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </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 Civil society Democracy and government investigations Brexit Arron Banks 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-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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </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 Civil society Democracy and government Charities investigations Brexit 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-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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Can Europe make it? uk UK Democracy and government Cambridge Analytica Brexit investigations 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-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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government investigations Brexit 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-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"> Scotland </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 Scotland UK Cambridge Analytica investigations Brexit 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 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-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"> Northern 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> </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 Northern Ireland UK Democracy and government 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-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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government Arron Banks investigations Brexit 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 £435,000 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-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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government Cambridge Analytica investigations Brexit 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-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"> Northern Ireland </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 Northern Ireland UK Cambridge Analytica investigations Democratic Unionist Party Brexit 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