DUP Dark Money https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/24433/all cached version 19/09/2018 17:42:01 en The High Court case which could reveal the DUP's secret Brexit donors https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/high-court-case-which-could-reveal-dups-secret-brexit-donors <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Good Law Project is taking the Electoral Commission to court to find out who was behind a huge donation that paid for Leave campaigning.</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/_90045432_metro_split_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/_90045432_metro_split_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'>The DUP Brexit advert in the Metro</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Someone gave the Democratic Union Party £435,000 before the Brexit referendum in 2016. But we don’t know who. Now a campaigning barrister is taking the Electoral Commission to court to force out the truth. </p><p dir="ltr">Last week in the High Court, senior barrister Jolyon Maugham won a case against the Electoral Commission and Vote Leave – one of the two official campaigns in the referendum. The court ruled that a donation from Vote Leave to Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes should have been counted as expenditure for Vote Leave and not Grimes’ independent campaign. This is because the money was paid directly to AggregateIQ, a political data marketing company that was supposed to be working for Grimes’ campaign. The extra expenditure means that Vote Leave broke the laws relating to how much the campaigns were allowed to spend.</p><p dir="ltr">Now Maugham’s non-profit organisation, the Good Law Project, is arguing that the same logic must also apply to the Constitutional Research Council, the body that gave the £435,000 donation to the Democratic Unionist Party, as revealed here <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">on openDemocracy</a>. More than half the money went on a DUP advert in the Metro newspaper, which ran in England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland – and earlier this year, an investigation by BBC Northern Ireland revealed that Richard Cook, the chairman of the CRC, had personally placed that advert. </p><p dir="ltr">Maugham will argue that because the CRC placed the advert directly themselves, the DUP ‘donation’ ought, in fact, to be counted as expenditure by the CRC, in the same way that Vote Leave's gift to Grimes has now been counted as expenditure. And while the DUP has been allowed to hide behind Northern Irish donor secrecy laws, Richard Cook lives in Glasgow. </p><p dir="ltr">If the Good Law Project wins its case, the CRC will be legally required to publish all donations it has received of £7,500 or above. The Good Law Project <a href="https://goodlawproject.org/expose-the-dup/">is crowdfunding to bring this case</a>, and has so far raised £17,000 out of the £30,000 needed.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Jolyon Maugham said:</p><p dir="ltr">“It seems pretty obvious to me that if you pass money to someone else and you dictate what they do with that money, you’re as good as incurring the expenditure yourself and that’s what the court has now held.</p><p dir="ltr">“There’s an awful lot of material that’s yet to emerge into the public domain but as I look at that material, it seems pretty obvious to me that both the CRC and the DUP have probably broken the law.”</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 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/adam-ramsay/high-court-found-that-vote-leave-broke-law-in-different-way">The High Court found that Vote Leave broke the law in a new way</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £425,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 18 Sep 2018 14:49:22 +0000 Adam Ramsay 119707 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Major Scottish Tory funders fined over illegal donation https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/major-scottish-tory-donors-fined-over-illegal-donation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">The Irvine Unionist Club donation funded 10% of Ruth Davidson’s campaign spending in 2016</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/Ruth_Davidson_parliamentary_oath_2016.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ruth_Davidson_parliamentary_oath_2016.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'>Ruth Davidson. Image, Scottish Parliament</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A major donor to the Scottish Conservatives ahead of their 2016 Scottish Parliament election has been fined on the back of an openDemocracy investigation. </p><p dir="ltr">As part of our investigation into the dark money driving the Scottish Conservatives, we <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dark-money-driving-scottish-tory-surge">wrote last year</a>: “In April 2016, a group called the Irvine Unionist Club gave the North Ayrshire Conservative and Unionist Association £100,000. In order for a group like the Irvine Unionist Club – an Unincorporated Association – to give a donation of more than £25,000, it has to be legally registered<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/political-parties-campaigning-and-donations/donations-and-loans-to-other-individuals-and-organisations/registers-unincorporated-associations"> with the Electoral Commission</a>, and declare any donations to it of more than £7,500. The Irvine Unionist Club doesn’t seem to appear on the<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/excel_doc/0020/223643/Register-of-Unincorporated-Associations-Public-2017.xlsx"> list of registered donors</a>, and Googling it reveals almost nothing, meaning that we don’t know where their money came from.”</p><p dir="ltr">The treasurer of the North Ayrshire Conservatives, the former Scottish rugby international Bryan Gossman, told us that the cash had in actual fact been transferred to “the central party in Edinburgh”. However, the Scottish Conservative Party, led by Ruth Davidson (pictured), is not registered as an accounting unit with the Electoral Commission, meaning the donation was hidden in the local party's accounts. Ruth Davidson's party spent <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=conservative&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;open=filter&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;includeOutsideSection75=true&amp;evt=scottishparliament&amp;ev=2508&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid">£980,000</a> during the campaign, meaning the donation made up more than 10% of their funding. In the previous Scottish Parliament election, the party only spent £275,000 and, with the extra money in 2016 came their best ever election result.</p><p dir="ltr">We reported the Irvine Unionist Club to the Electoral Commission, and heard nothing for more than a year. However, the latest<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/monthly-update-concluded-investigations4"> monthly update from the Electoral Commission</a> says that they have fined the Irvine Unionist Club £400 for “Failure to provide notification of gifts to a political party exceeding £25,000, and notification of gifts received by due date”.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to <a href="https://theferret.scot/tories-dark-money-donor-fined-electoral-commission/">the Ferret</a>, the SNP MP Pete Wishart said:</p><p dir="ltr">"The dark money net is now closing in on the Tories as their dodgy and cavalier financial dealings become further exposed and punished. This is probably just the first of many examples where the Tories will be found short of what is permissible by the Electoral Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">"Last week I wrote to the Electoral Commission for an update on my complaint about the transfer of property to the Scottish Unionist Association Trust in flagrance of the Commission’s rules on exempt trusts under section 162 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. I hope that the Electoral Commission now make speedy progress with this investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">"Some £318,000 of unaccountable money has been swirling about in Conservative coffers supporting a number of candidates and MPs. The Conservatives need to start to come clean on where this money comes from and how it was acquired."</p><p dir="ltr">Also speaking to the Ferret, the Scottish Conservatives said that trustees had accepted the fine, and stressed that the party was not under investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">"The Electoral Commission has investigated the donation, and has concluded that the Trust was not exempt in terms of the 2000 Political Parties Act’s reporting requirements.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The Trustees have accepted that they were at fault in failing to register the donation, and have paid the £400 fine. The Conservative Party was not investigated nor subject to any fine."</p><p dir="ltr">Commenting to the Ferret on the fines, an Electoral Commission spokesperson said: "Unincorporated associations, such as the Irvine Unionist Club, must register with the Electoral Commission when they make political contributions of more than £25,000 in a calendar year and must report any relevant gifts that they have received.</p><p dir="ltr">"This ensures there is transparency about funding of political campaigning. Irvine Unionist Club failed to comply with these rules and the Electoral Commission has fined them £400."</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/dark-money-driving-scottish-tory-surge">The dark money driving the Scottish Tory surge</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 18 Sep 2018 14:06:12 +0000 Adam Ramsay 119704 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Second’ bank account: MPs demand probe into Rees-Mogg’s Brexit group https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick/second-bank-account-mps-demand-probe-into-rees-mogg-s-brexit-group <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Cross-party demands for an urgent investigation into the financial affairs of the European Research Group follow openDemocracy’s investigation.</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/564976/PA-35723513_460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/PA-35723513_460.jpg" alt="Jacob Rees-Mogg in front of a sign saying "Leave Means Leave"" 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: we're still waiting for answers. Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Senior MPs are calling for a deep investigation of the ‘second’ bank account and undisclosed funding held by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s group of hard-line anti-EU Conservatives.</p><p>They want full public scrutiny of the financial operations and shrouded membership list of the European Research Group (ERG). Their demands follow the latest <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/parliament-watchdog-probes-rees-mogg-s-hard">disclosure</a> in openDemocracy’s ongoing investigation into the ERG’s affairs, which revealed an undisclosed second bank account with unknown “sources of funding”.</p><h2>“Transparent as mud” </h2><p>Details of the accounts held by the ERG were branded a political “scandal” by the Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesman, Tom Brake. He called the activities of the ERG as “transparent as mud” and said the group’s reluctance to accept full public scrutiny of its accounts showed it had “something dubious to hide”.</p><p>Brake added: ”This scandal involving the finances of a hard-right Brexit group is, however, all too reminiscent of the dodgy and unscrupulous deals by the Leave campaign [during the EU referendum].”</p><p>John Trickett, Labour’s shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) must now reopen its investigation into the ERG and “provide the public with much-needed answers to a long list of questions: how do the ERG use their public funding, and what is the source of their private funding and the identity of their members?”</p><h2>A “circus”</h2><p dir="ltr">Trickett said the continued lack of clarity over the ERG’s affairs and operations “carries the risk that this circus starts to make a mockery of our entire political system”.</p><p>The ERG, chaired by Rees-Mogg, but still effectively run by the former Brexit minister, Steve Baker, is thought to number close to 80 Tory MPs. It has been regularly dubbed a party within a party, recently dominating <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/12/pro-brexit-tory-mps-openly-discuss-how-to-get-rid-of-theresa-may-michael-gove">headlines</a> over its manoeuvres to oust Theresa May as prime minister unless she abandons her ‘Chequers’ plan for the UK's future relationship with the EU.</p><p>IPSA, which regulates MPs’ expenses and business costs, raised concerns with the ERG earlier this year about its bank accounts. The watchdog asked for clarification from the ERG about “other sources of funding”, seeking assurances that public money was not being misused.</p><p>Before publishing our article this week, openDemocracy sent Rees-Mogg’s office all details of a disclosed email exchange between IPSA and the ERG outlining concerns about a second bank account and other funding. The group made no reply and has continued to remain silent.</p><p>Since 2011 the ERG has received over £300,000 in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">public funds</a>. The money is paid to MPs for supposedly neutral, non-party-political pooled research. Current and former cabinet members who have channelled <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">funds</a> to the ERG include Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling, David Gauke and David Davis.</p><p>One ERG bank account is designated for the funds it receives from IPSA. A second account, not known to IPSA in previous reviews of the group’s activities, held other sources of funding. The discovery of a second account prompted IPSA to seek clarification from the ERG about how the “separation” of private and public funding was maintained and whether appropriate rules had been followed.</p><h2>Taxpayers footing the bill</h2><p>The People’s Vote campaign, which are seeking to ensure the government’s Brexit deal is put to a full national vote, said the new revelations about the ERG’s accounts and funding “raised serious questions that had to be answered”. A campaign spokesperson said: “This is a group that receives taxpayers’ money. So the parliamentary authorities must now rightly investigate whether the taxpayer is footing the bill for a thinly veiled Brextremist lobbying organisation.”</p><p dir="ltr">Brake also said that the lack of transparency of the ERG, a group that could be critical to the outcome of an approved deal with the EU, was “yet another reason why the people should have the final say on Brexit”.</p><h2>A deplorable silence</h2><p>Ben Bradshaw, a former Labour cabinet member and a long-term critic of the ‘dark money’ used to fund the campaigns of anti-EU groups in the 2016 referendum and beyond, told openDemocracy that the ERG’s silence over democratic accountability was “deplorable”.</p><p>He added: “If, as the ERG now claim, they are interested in policy and not leadership issues, then they should publish their full membership list and open their account to full public scrutiny. Anything less will show they have something to hide. So far all they have revealed is disdain for the electorate, who they supposedly regard as simply an administrative inconvenience.”</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-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/parliament-watchdog-probes-rees-mogg-s-hard">Parliament watchdog probes Rees-Mogg’s hard Brexit lobby group over “other sources of funding”</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/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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government accountability Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. James Cusick Sat, 15 Sep 2018 16:11:57 +0000 James Cusick 119671 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The High Court found that Vote Leave broke the law in a new way https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/high-court-found-that-vote-leave-broke-law-in-different-way <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>England &amp; Wales's High Court has ruled that Vote Leave broke campaign spending limits in addition to the way that the Electoral Commission previously said they did.</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/553846/640px-Royal_Court2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Royal_Court2.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'>By sjiong - https://www.flickr.com/photos/sjiong/109817932/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6380215</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The High Court has ruled today that Vote Leave did break their spending limit and so the law when they gave £625,000 to the young Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes ahead of the European Referendum. However, people have got confused about how this relates to the Electoral Commission’s decision to fine both Vote Leave and Grimes back in July. So I've read the whole ruling to work out what's going on.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s important to understand that there are three separate but related issues in play here.</p><p dir="ltr">The first is the fact, in itself, that Vote Leave paid £625,000 to Darren Grimes for his BeLeave campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">The second is the fact that Vote Leave didn’t actually pay this money to Grimes himself. Rather, all but £1,000 of it was paid on his behalf to AggregateIQ, the online comms firm which ran much of the Brexit campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">The third is the question of whether or not the money was paid to Grimes as part of a ‘joint plan’ with Vote Leave.</p><p dir="ltr">The short explanation is that the court ruled today on the first two questions. The Electoral Commission ruled back in July on the third.</p><p dir="ltr">The case itself followed the publication by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">openDemocracy</a> and the Ferret of a cache of internal Electoral Commission emails (after Carole Cadwalladr, Buzzfeed and Private Eye had written about the affair). This correspondence – obtained under Freedom of Information legislation by my colleague Jenna Corderoy – showed that the regulator was concerned about Vote Leave’s donations to Grimes but had decided not to launch an investigation. This prompted Jolyon Maugham QC of the Good Law Project to launch a crowdfunder to support a legal challenge to the Electoral Commission in the High Court to review the decision not to probe the Grimes case further.</p><p dir="ltr">Once the case was launched, two things happened.</p><p dir="ltr">First, the Electoral Commission decided to reopen the issue, and to look, specifically, at my third question above: whether Leave and Grimes had a joint plan. The regulator maintained that the donation from Vote Leave to Grimes shouldn’t be counted as Vote Leave expenditure, unless Grimes and Vote Leave spent the money as part of a ‘joint plan’. If they did, then under election law, that the money should count towards Vote Leave’s expenditure. And that would mean it broke its £7 million spending limit. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />In July this year, the Electoral Commission <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">ruled on this matter</a>, concluding that there was “significant evidence of joint working” between the lead campaigner, Vote Leave, and BeLeave. The Commission also found that Grimes had broken a related rule (he’d registered his campaign as himself, rather than under the name “BeLeave”, while the donation went to “BeLeave”). They fined both Vote Leave and Darren Grimes, and referred both to the Met Police.</p><p dir="ltr">Second, before that ruling from the Commission, judges heard the first round of the Good Law Project’s argument. They resolved that they wouldn’t look at the question of whether there had been a ‘joint plan’ – which the Electoral Commission was already investigating. This, they said, was a matter of fact, while it was their job as the High Court to rule when there are disagreements about the law. They would, however, rule on whether the donation itself should have been counted as expenditure by Vote Leave, irrespective of whether there was a ‘joint plan’ between Grimes and Vote Leave. </p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave has worked hard to conflate these two seperate question in the last few hours. But ultimately, the court ruling today is a separate matter from the fine and police referral in July.</p><p dir="ltr">The ruling today consists of 25 pages of legalistic pondering on what it means for an expense to be incurred, by whom it is conferred, and similar questions. And ultimately, it concludes that the donation should have been counted as expenditure by Vote Leave, because it was a donation for a particular thing, rather than simply a donation for Grimes to use however he pleased. Key to this ruling was the fact that the money was paid by Vote Leave to AggregateIQ, rather than simply paid to the BeLeave account with no strings attached: a fact first revealed <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">here on openDemocracy</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Both the Leave and the Remain campaigns have some legitimate grievance here. If Leave was, as it claims, told by the Electoral Commission that their donation to Grimes was allowed, then they have now been told by the High Court that it was not. However, the breach of the rules for which they were fined earlier this year was a slightly different question: it is absolutely clear in the published <a href="http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/194621/Working-together-for-EU-referendum-campaigners.pdf">Electoral Commission guidelines</a> that spending on “joint campaigns” will all be counted against the lead campaign’s expenditure. </p><p dir="ltr">Likewise, if the Commission’s incorrect interpretation of the law effectively allowed the official Leave Campaign to spend more than the official Remain campaign, then Remainers have significant grounds for grievance.</p><p dir="ltr">At the centre of all of this sit the Electoral Commission, who do seem to have blundered. There have been some loud calls for a serious shake up there from both sides of this quarrel today, and I have some sympathy for that. I was on a ferry to Belfast when they rang me back last year, and explained to me why they had decided that the donation to Grimes was fine. I spent the rest of the journey baffled: it seemed to me then, and has done ever since, that this had to either be bad law, or a bad interpretation of it. </p><p dir="ltr">However, I think it’s important to think a little harder about what’s going on here. As I <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/platform-parties-vs-plutocrat-pr-welcome-to-future-of-uk-politics">wrote last week</a>, the Conservatives, with collapsing membership, are relying ever-more on a small pool of large donors, many of whom have offshore connections which merit investigation. Likewise, without party activists, they are likely to rely ever-more on companies like AggregateIQ to get their messages to voters. The Commission is seriously underfunded and struggles to keep on top of the huge workload (this was all unfolding at the same time as the Channel 4 revelations about Conservative election spending in 2015). The oligarchs who wish to control our politics would love nothing more than a de-fanged and degraded Electoral Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">The response to this error shouldn’t be to denigrate a regulator our democracy relies upon. Instead, this should be a prompt to give the Commission the cash and power it needs to properly police our politics.</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/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 odd"> <a href="/peter-geoghegan/vote-leave-trying-to-bury-bad-news">Vote Leave is using media to bury bad news</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Fri, 14 Sep 2018 16:20:22 +0000 Adam Ramsay 119664 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Parliament watchdog probes Rees-Mogg’s hard Brexit lobby group over “other sources of funding” https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/parliament-watchdog-probes-rees-mogg-s-hard <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>EXCLUSIVE: Emails released by UK parliamentary standards watchdog reveal a ‘second’ bank account held by the powerful ERG group of Tory MPs, as they pressure May to abandon Chequers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Official_portrait_of_Mr_Jacob_Rees-Mogg_crop_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Official_portrait_of_Mr_Jacob_Rees-Mogg_crop_1.jpg" alt="Jacob Rees-Mogg, official portrait" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jacob Rees-Mogg. Image: UK Parliament,&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/">Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)</a> </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The UK parliamentary standards watchdog is probing the financial affairs of a group of Tory ultra-Brexiteers, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Brexit Minister Steve Baker, openDemocracy can reveal today.</p><p dir="ltr">The European Research Group (ERG) has dominated news headlines this week, with reports of plots to oust prime minister Theresa May if she does not abandon her Chequers plan, and putting forward <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/12/eurosceptic-group-paper-on-irish-border-offers-no-breakthrough-ideas-erg">heavily criticised proposals for the Irish border</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">In June, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) wrote to the ERG seeking clarification about how it uses taxpayer money – and other unknown “sources of funding”. &nbsp;IPSA was reacting to concerns about public money being misused to support the ERG’s high-profile political campaign for a hard-line, uncompromised Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">The ERG has received ‘research funds’ (<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">paid out of MPs’ expense claims</a>, and therefore ultimately funded by the taxpayer) from the offices of key current and former cabinet ministers such as Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling, David Gauke and David Davis. The group uses one bank account to lodge the funds received from IPSA for parliamentary ‘research’ services.</p><p dir="ltr">However in June this year the ERG confirmed to IPSA that it holds a second bank account for paying for drinks, MPs’ breakfasts and other expenses. The existence of the second account was not referred to in IPSA’s initial review of the group’s research output, which was conducted last year. At the time, IPSA concluded that “the ERG was found to have noticeably less formal governance structure and internal controls… which could present a risk to compliance.”</p><p dir="ltr">IPSA has subsequently requested assurances from the hard-Brexit group about the way different income streams are managed through the two bank accounts. IPSA told the ERG it required “further conversation with you about how this separation [of accounts and funds] is maintained.” Groups are not allowed to use parliamentary funding for “party-political purposes.”</p><p dir="ltr">The ERG responded by saying that the second bank account “pays for occasional functions, MPs’ breakfasts, drinks, etc. That’s it really.” </p><p dir="ltr">IPSA met the ERG in early July to discuss the matter. openDemocracy have requested further information from IPSA about this meeting and the ERG’s second bank account. </p><p dir="ltr">The ERG is highly secretive about its membership list, even though its activities are taxpayer-funded. The group is thought to include 80 Tory MPs, and it is currently under no obligation to publish its accounts. </p><p dir="ltr">The result is that the British public is entitled to very little information about the financial and political activities of a key group of Tory MPs which colleagues say operates as a “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">party-within-a-party</a>”, and which stands accused of <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-customs-union-rules-brexit-brexiteers-tory-conservatives-a8332101.html">holding Theresa May hostage</a> over the final deal with Brussels.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Political neutrality a “bad joke”, says Tory MP</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 15.55.10.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 15.55.10.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="436" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Email from IPSA to the ERG, asking them to provide materials on which they will be assessed, obtained by openDemocracy under the Freedom of Information Act.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">According to emails obtained by openDemocracy, one ERG bank account lodges the funds received from MPs who claim taxpayers cash for so-called “pooled research.” Since 2011 this has amounted to at least £300,000 – but, as the ERG refuses to publish its full membership list of MPs, the true figure could be far higher. </p><p dir="ltr">However in emails exchanged between the ERG and IPSA, the parliamentary watchdog states that the ERG has “other sources of funding” which “presumably can be used for campaigning/party political activity”. </p><p dir="ltr">IPSA told the ERG that they had a responsibility to “seek assurances” that funds were being properly used. </p><p dir="ltr">In another email sent to IPSA in June this year, the ERG states that it does not, as a research group, “do political campaigning.” This assurance followed an openDemocracy investigation last year which revealed that taxpayer cash was being used to fund what many Tory and Labour MPs saw <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-demand-full-investigation-of-hard-brexit-backing-tory-party-within-par">as partisan political activity.</a> &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">After openDemocracy’s reporting on this issue last year, IPSA said it “examined” the ERG’s research output and concluded it was largely “factual and informative” and not “party-political”. However, the extent of the review appears to have been limited to a basic request to the ERG to submit a selection of “briefing material”. &nbsp;<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />The review had limited concerns over only one ERG document, which said that Labour’s decision to vote against the Withdrawal Bill in 2017 was “irresponsible, a breach of trust with their voters and a vote to create chaos.” IPSA told the ERG that it should “avoid using similar language in the future.”</p><p dir="ltr">One Tory MP familiar with the output of the ERG questioned whether the group’s output could be seen as not party-political: “IPSA must have been handed a nicely filleted folder of safe stuff if it reached the conclusion that all was fair and balanced. ERG activities of the last week alone show the idea of party political neutrality to be a bad joke,” the MP told openDemocracy.</p><h2 dir="ltr">“Alternative solutions” to Chequers</h2><p dir="ltr">The lobbying company headed by Lynton Crosby, CTF Partners, were reported by The Sunday Times to be working with the ERG to derail Theresa May’s proposed deal with the EU worked out at Chequers in July. The CTF-ERG tie-up is thought to be targeting May with the aim of replacing her with Boris Johnson before all the strands of any Brexit deal are formally secured. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The ERG were also reported to have hired Hans Maessen, the former president of the Dutch customs association, to help them compile alternative solutions to the Chequers plan. </p><p dir="ltr">It is not clear if CTF Partners are charging the ERG their usual retainer fee, regarded as being among the highest in the UK lobbying industry. Maessen has also refused to comment on the veracity of the ERG link, or if he is working with Rees-Mogg on a pro bono basis. </p><p dir="ltr">This week a private meeting of the ERG with more than 50 MPs attending reportedly discussed ways of ousting the prime minister. The gathering, in the Thatcher Room at Portcullis House, considered the timing of a possible confidence vote against the PM if she did not ditch the Chequers plan. </p><p dir="ltr">Under current parliamentary funding rules, MPs must not use IPSA funding for party political purposes. In another email sent to the ERG in September last year, IPSA make it clear that “party political briefings are not eligible for IPSA funding.”</p><p dir="ltr">One Tory MP who has previously been outspoken about the influence of the ERG told openDemocracy that the immediate unity of the Conservative party was now in the hands of “a few historically blind and economically innumerate ideologues.” They added: “Both IPSA and the Electoral Commission should do all they can to make public everything they know on this group of MPs."</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘No comment’ on other sources of Brexit cash</h2><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission (EC) is legally entitled to be informed of donations above £7,500 to the ERG. One donation of £10,000 was lodged with the commission in March last year. The name ‘Paul Dyer’ is listed by the regulator. No further details are given. </p><p dir="ltr">Additionally, in 2016 £6,500 was given to the ERG by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">the obscure Glasgow-based Constitutional Research Council (CRC)</a>, the organisation responsible for channelling the controversial £435,000 pro-Brexit donation to Northern Ireland’s DUP ahead of the 2016 EU referendum. Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, then chair of the ERG, said the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/01/brexit-minister-linked-to-group-that-used-loophole-to-channel-435000-to-dup">CRC cash</a> was used to fund a Christmas 2016 hospitality party for ERG members. </p><p dir="ltr">The CRC’s chair, Richard Cook, has refused to comment on where the money given to the ERG originated, just as he has refused to divulge where the controversial DUP donation came from. He is not required by law to do either.</p><p dir="ltr">As no accounts are published by the ERG, there is no way of verifying if other donations of under £7,500 have been received and lodged in the non-IPSA bank account. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Theresa May’s gamble</h2><p dir="ltr">The ERG’s power as a group of unified Brexiters who want a clean, no-ties break with Brussels will be crucial to the outcome of the UK parliament’s vote on whatever Brexit deal Britain makes with the European Union.</p><p dir="ltr">Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister credited with transforming the ERG from quiet irrelevance into a forceful, secretive unit that Downing Street cannot ignore, told a private meeting in Westminster this week that 80 Tory MPs would vote against the prime minister’s Chequers’ plan. </p><p dir="ltr">Whether Baker is overplaying the influence of MPs under his control is unclear, but it remains a risk Number 10 has not yet been prepared to take. It is understood that the current Brexit minister, Dominic Raab, conducts a daily telephone update call to either Baker or Rees-Mogg on the state of negotiations with Brussels. </p><p dir="ltr">Full details of the information contained in the IPSA emails seen by openDemocracy were put to Rees-Mogg’s ERG office. The group was asked to comment on its accounts, on any financial relationship with Sir Lynton Crosby and Hans Maessen, and on the research material it sent to IPSA. </p><p dir="ltr">At the time of publication no reply had been received. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">Revealed: The Tory MPs using taxpayers’ cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">Six of Theresa May’s cabinet are paid up “members” of secret group demanding a total break from the European Union </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">UK Government minister hides leading role with hard Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/tory-ministers-taxpayer-cash-hard-Brexit-erg">MPs demand ‘urgent investigation’ into Cabinet ministers&#039; support for hard-Brexit lobby group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy James Cusick Thu, 13 Sep 2018 14:44:00 +0000 James Cusick, Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghegan 119641 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Opposition MPs call on PM to investigate former minister over hidden links to Tory ultra-Brexiteers https://www.opendemocracy.net/james-cusick/opposition-mps-call-on-pm-to-investigate-former-minister-over-hidden-links-to-tory-ultr <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>After openDemocracy revealed how former Brexit minister Steve Baker continued to work with the secretive European Research Group despite being in government, demands for Downing Street to investigate.</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/564976/Steve Baker Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 13.47.41_460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/Steve Baker Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 13.47.41_460.jpg" alt="Steve Baker MP" title="" width="460" height="257" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Steve Baker: from the ERG to Brexit department. Image: BBC, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Senior opposition MPs have called on the prime minister to launch “an immediate investigation” into a former Brexit minister for potential breaches of the ministerial code. They say Steve Baker should be investigated for using civil servants to organise secretive meetings with the European Research Group and for keeping a lead role with the influential group of hardline anti-EU Conservative MPs after becoming a minister. </p><p dir="ltr">An <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/ex-brexit-minister-steve-baker-remained-in-">investigation</a> by openDemocracy revealed how Baker continued to meet with and influence the ERG after he was appointed as a minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union in 2017. The ERG, a group of ultra-eurosceptic Tories said to include as many as 80 MPs, has consistently pressured Theresa May to adopt a hard Brexit.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Now leading Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs responsible for Brexit policy have called on Number 10 to investigate Baker and the “dirty and secretive” games that are steering the UK towards a ‘no deal’ Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">Cabinet Office</a> investigation previously examined Baker’s regular attendance at ERG meetings throughout his time as a minister. The probe, prompted by an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">openDemocracy</a> investigation, accepted Baker’s explanation that he was merely attending the gatherings in his personal capacity as a constituency MP.</p><p dir="ltr">However, emails obtained by openDemocracy show Baker’s DExEU officials organising his attendance at an ERG meeting just weeks after he became a minister. He also offered the group private briefings on critical government policy. None of the meetings were officially listed, as transparency rules require.</p><p dir="ltr">Conservative party sources with knowledge of Baker’s relationship with the ERG said he had remained “their lightly-detached chief executive” while serving as a minister. The <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 code</a> prohibits MPs from “being associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with government policy”.</p><h2>Misuse of ministerial position</h2><p dir="ltr">John Trickett, Labour’s shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, told openDemocracy: “The revelation that Baker used civil servants to contact the ERG undermines his claim to have only interacted with this secretive group in a personal capacity.”</p><p dir="ltr">Trickett said Baker was using his ministerial position to “push an extreme free-trade agenda that is at odds with his own government’s policy and the great majority of the British public.”</p><p dir="ltr">Baker took over as chair of the ERG in 2016 and is credited with moulding it into the powerful group it is today. Though funded by taxpayers’ cash, the ERG refuses to make its <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">membership</a> list public. Current and former <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">cabinet</a> ministers are understood to be paid-up members.</p><p dir="ltr">Appointed a minister by Theresa May after the 2017 general election, Baker resigned on 9 July this year, the same day as his boss at DExEU, David Davis, also left. Baker said he was unable to back the compromises of the plan the prime minister had brokered at Chequers two days earlier. He later accused May of being involved in a “cloak and dagger” <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/07/14/theresa-mays-secret-cloak-dagger-plot-foil-brexit-revealed-minister/">plot</a> to foil Brexit and said Downing Street, not DExEU, had control over negotiations with Brussels.</p><p dir="ltr">Baker is on record stating that the EU needs to be “wholly <a href="blank">torn down</a>” and that it remains “an obstacle to free trade and peace”.</p><h2>Worse than Game of Thrones</h2><p dir="ltr">Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson, said the “dirty and secretive” games being played by the Tories in their “embittered civil war” made Game of Thrones look tame in comparison. However Brake said it was “no laughing matter” because the UK was “being pushed over a ‘no-deal’ Brexit cliff edge”.</p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on Baker’s links with the ERG, Brake told openDemocracy: “It would appear a now former minister broke the ministerial code while in office. The prime minister cannot ignore this. There should be an immediate investigation.”</p><p dir="ltr">Brake said Baker’s connections to the ERG while holding a senior role in a government department critical to the UK’s future relationship with the European Union “revealed the extent to which Theresa May’s government have been driven by this ragtag group of MPs. These politicians cannot be trusted.”</p><p dir="ltr">May’s fate as prime minister is often described as being in the hands of the ERG, now chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg. A hard-line Brexit <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rees-mogg-tories-draw-up-their-own-blueprint-for-a-hard-brexit-r7b53s355">policy paper</a>, co-authored by Baker and Rees-Mogg, is to be published before the Conservative Party conference in early October. The blueprint is expected to be part of a wider assault on the Chequers deal, which will be painted as a sell-out keeping the UK shackled to Brussels’ rules.</p><p dir="ltr">The ERG’s votes in Parliament on any agreement with Brussels will be critical to the outcome and therefore to May’s immediate future.</p><p dir="ltr">Since his resignation, Baker has slotted back into a leadership role among his ERG colleagues. In a <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/brexit-steve-baker-theresa-may_uk_5b4f79dfe4b0de86f4891341?guccounter=1&amp;guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvLnVrLw&amp;guce_referrer_cs=CyOGpjZCEMf960Cm__JMlw">speech</a> to the House of Commons shortly before the summer break, Baker used barely coded language to threaten May, saying there were 40-plus Brexiteers – a reference to the ERG – who would vote with the SNP and Labour to kill off the Chequers plan.</p><p dir="ltr">The effective deputy prime minister, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/29/no-deal-brexit-is-only-alternative-to-chequers-plan-says-lidington">David Liddington</a>, said this week that if the Chequers compromise failed, the only option left was a ‘no deal’ Brexit.</p><h2>PM held hostage</h2><p dir="ltr">A former Labour cabinet minister, Ben Bradshaw, who is a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, told openDemocracy: “These new revelations about Steve Baker highlight how the government, and by extension the country, are effectively being held hostage by a Brextremist minority within the Conservative Party.”</p><p dir="ltr">Bradshaw added: “Everyone else has to follow the rules, but Steve Baker and his merry band of Brexiteers march to the beat of their own drum. It is outrageous that our country may end up being forced to endure a destructive Brexit because of the ideological obsessions of a relatively small number of back-bench MPs operating in secrecy.”</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-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/ex-brexit-minister-steve-baker-remained-in-">Ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker remained in charge of secretive Tory ultra faction </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/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-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 DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. James Cusick Fri, 31 Aug 2018 11:55:10 +0000 James Cusick 119498 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Truly Project Hate: the third scandal of the official Vote Leave campaign headed by Boris Johnson https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/martin-shaw/truly-project-hate-third-scandal-of-official-vote-leave-campaign-headed-by- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Look at the Vote Leave Facebook adverts alongside their more public propaganda, and you see quite how much it promoted racist ideas.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave Turkey immigration ad_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave Turkey immigration ad_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'>Vote Leave Facebook ad, fair use</span></span></span></p><p class="BodyA">Boris Johnson’s weaponisation of the burqa came on the heels of new revelations about the propaganda strategy of the Vote Leave campaign which he fronted in the 2016 referendum. I <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/martin-shaw/brexit-is-r-for-racism">argued here at the time</a> that Vote Leave’s official television advertisement, the most high-profile item of Leave propaganda, was a skillful racist amalgam. </p> <p class="BodyA">During the referendum, we knew that Vote Leave was sending a huge number of targeted social media messages. Its strategist Dominic Cummings now says there were 1.5 billion, with a large number directed at just 7 million voters in the final days of the campaign, but these were under the radar for pro-EU observers in 2016.&nbsp; </p><p class="BodyA">However, following the twin scandals around Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ, and Vote Leave’s breaches of election spending laws, Facebook supplied <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/culture-media-and-sport/Fake_news_evidence/Ads-supplied-by-Facebook-to-the-DCMS-Committee.pdf">Vote Leave’s advertisements</a> to Westminster’s Media, Culture and Sport committee. It is now possible to see that the TV ad was the centrepiece of a vast multimedia effort centred on a nuanced orchestration of racism to swing the Brexit vote. </p> <h2 class="BodyA"><strong>How racism in the Leave campaign has been misunderstood</strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">This third scandal is possibly the most serious of all for British democracy, yet to appreciate it we must revise our ideas on the role of racism in Brexit. During and after the referendum, pro-EU politicians and commentators largely identified racism with the UKIP-linked Leave.EU, which was responsible for what became an emblematic moment, the unveiling by Nigel Farage – just after the assassination of the Labour MP Jo Cox – of the notorious ‘Breaking Point’ poster which used a photograph of Syrian refugees to represent migration into Britain. Vote Leave distanced itself from the poster: the co-convenor of its campaign committee, Michael Gove (then as now a cabinet minister), <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36570759">said that he ‘<span>shuddered</span>’</a> when he saw it. </p> <p class="BodyA">Moreover, Leave.EU attacked Vote Leave for giving insufficient priority to immigration and critics have largely taken their attacks at face value, accepting the idea that Leave.EU was racist, Vote Leave not. When <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/brexit-hate-crime-racism-immigration-eu-referendum-result-what-it-means-eurospectic-areas-a7165056.html">a wave of physical and verbal aggression</a> erupted, political blame focused on the secondary campaign fronted by Farage and funded by Arron Banks. Indeed Tim Shipman recounts that Leave.EU advertisements were ‘deliberately sent to supporters of the British National Party and Britain First’, the racist group to which Thomas Mair, Cox’s murderer, was linked because he cried ‘Britain first’ as he killed her (<a href="https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008215170/all-out-war/">All Out War</a>, p.408). </p> <p class="BodyA">However the focus on Leave.EU, the extreme right and hate crimes misses the role of the campaign which was officially recognised by the Electoral Commission and led by Conservative ministers and Labour MPs: Vote Leave. In the biggest TV debate on 20 June 2016, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, accused Vote Leave leaders of <a href="https://www.indy100.com/article/sadiq-khan-called-out-the-leave-campaigns-project-hate-and-got-the-biggest-cheer-of-the-bbc-eu-debate--ZkM5b5Hc4W">‘Project Hate’</a>, a rare calling-out of their campaign at the time. We can now see how right he was.</p> <h2 class="BodyA"><strong>How Vote Leave’s TV and Facebook propaganda combined</strong></h2> <p>&nbsp;By then Vote Leave had shown its <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36367247">TV election</a><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36367247"> broadcast</a> repeatedly on different channels over four weeks, starting on 23 May. Beginning with lurid graphics representing the immigration threat of Turkey and Balkan countries joining the EU and the £350 million the UK allegedly paid the EU each week, it climaxed with split screen film showing (staying within the EU) a surly foreign man elbowing a tearful elderly white woman out of the queue in an Accident and Emergency department, while (leaving the EU) the woman is contentedly treated without having to wait. This film was on YouTube as recently as the spring of this year, but appears to have been removed since the scandals of the Vote Leave campaign were exposed. The importance of this broadcast is that it was shown, as law required, on all terrestrial public channels and therefore accessible to almost all the electorate, including older voters, a major target audience many of whom did not use social media. </p><p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave TV ad still_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave TV ad still_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'>A still from Vote Leave's TV ad. Fair use.</span></span></span></p> <p class="BodyA">The new information published by the DMCS committee shows how Facebook propaganda complemented this broadcast. While Vote Leave’s hundreds of Facebook advertisements <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44966969">included a wide range of issues</a>, the largest cluster focused on immigration, Turkey and the linked £350 million claim, and widely re-used graphics and images from the broadcast in material posted to targeted subsets of users. Images of Johnson (the only featured politician) were used with apparently liberal, democratic slogans such as ‘I’m pro-immigration, but above all I’m pro controlled immigration. In the EU the system has spun out of control. Join Me, Vote Leave’, and ‘Immigration must be controlled by those who the public elected and not the EU! On the 23 June they will get their chance to take back control.’&nbsp; </p><p class="BodyA">However alongside these were lurid advertisements like: ‘5.23 MILLION MORE IMMIGRANTS ARE MOVING TO THE UK! GOOD NEWS???’ (the viewer was invited to press a ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ button, and presumably ‘no’ respondents were targeted with further advertisements reprising the theme in one of many variations now revealed) and ‘Reason No. 8’ to leave the EU, ‘‘To stop convicted criminals from countries like Latvia and Romania coming to the UK’ (the button was: ‘YES, I VOTE LEAVE’). </p> <p class="BodyA">In this differentiated propaganda, on the one hand immigration was presented as an example of ‘taking back control’ with the abstract theme of excessive numbers of migrants, and on the other as the threat of large numbers of new migrants arriving from undesirable places like Turkey and the equally distant, barely known Balkan states of Serbia, Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. Each of these countries featured separately in mutually reinforcing advertisements, which may well have been posted sequentially to susceptible Facebook users. </p> <h2 class="BodyA"><strong>‘Abstract stuff’ and emotive propaganda </strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">The combination of an emphasis on numbers with more emotive, targeted tropes is not new. In his <a href="https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/enoch-powell-what-rivers-blood-8945556">notorious 1968 speech</a>, Enoch Powell asserted: ‘numbers are of the essence: the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 per cent or 10 per cent.’ Powell always claimed to be ignorant of the term ‘race’, and in remarks around the same time which seem prophetic of contemporary Europhobic concerns, even suggested around the same time that clusters of Italians or Germans in British cities would constitute the same sort of ‘alien’ presence as large numbers of blacks. </p> <p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave Johnson immigration ad_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave Johnson immigration ad_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Nevertheless, just as Vote Leave named Turks, Albanians and others, Powell made it very clear that he was talking about ‘Negroes’, evoking the fate of the sole ‘white (a woman old-age pensioner)’, living in a street taken over by these ‘aliens’: ‘She is becoming afraid to go out. Windows are broken. She finds excreta pushed through her letter-box. When she goes out to the shops, she is followed by children, charming, wide-grinning piccaninnies.’ </p> <p class="BodyA">The key here was that Powell needed to give the ‘abstract stuff’ about numbers, as the historian <a href="http://www.oupcanada.com/catalog/9780199240548.html">Randall Hansen calls it</a>, human form to make it the emotional stuff of effective propaganda. It is difficult not to see Vote Leave’s broadcast with its focus on the plight of a vulnerable older white woman as homage to Powell’s exposition, and curious that Johnson, having notoriously also <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2008/jan/23/london.race">prattled about ‘piccaninnies’ and ‘watermelon smiles’</a>, should now have referred to ‘letter-boxes’ in his attack on Muslim women. Whether or not they are consciously referencing Powell, they are following his playbook remarkably faithfully considering the changed circumstances.</p> <h2 class="BodyA"><strong>Strategic role of immigration in Vote Leave’s campaign</strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">More important than these historical parallels is the incontrovertible evidence that Vote Leave attached as much strategic importance to immigration politics as Leave.EU. Shipman demonstrates, using comprehensive interviews with leading participants, that the differences between the campaigns concerned strategy and timing rather than the principle of weaponising immigration. He shows that Cummings always understood that Leave could not win without making immigration a crucial plank, and that his aim was to establish Vote Leave’s respectable credentials by focusing on sovereignty and ‘taking back control’ before the official campaign, and then to introduce immigration in that final month as the killer argument which would concretise ‘control’ and widen Leave’s appeal. </p> <p class="BodyA"><a href="https://dominiccummings.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/on-the-referendum-21-branching-histories-of-the-2016-referendum-and-the-frogs-before-the-storm-2">Cummings himself writes</a>: ‘Would we have won without immigration? No’, and confirms that the key argument was: ‘Vote Leave to take back control of immigration policy. If we stay there will be more new countries like Turkey joining and you won’t get a vote. Cameron says he wants to “pave the road” from Turkey to here. That’s dangerous. If we leave we can have democratic control and a system like Australia’s. It’s safer to take back control.’ He adds, ‘It is true that we did not do much on immigration before the 10 week official campaign. That is because ... we did not need to. It was far more important to plant other seeds and recruit support that would have been put off if we had focused early on immigration. Immigration was a baseball bat that just needed picking up at the right time and in the right way.’ </p> <p class="BodyA">However this ‘stagist’ characterisation is only half the story. Vote Leave also had in effect a two-<em>level</em> campaign, in which often lurid propaganda, much of it undercover, ran alongside the campaign figureheads’ abstract arguments about sovereignty and global Britain in their televised speeches for respectable audiences, and too much media coverage took the latter as representative. Yet with Vote Leave’s mainstream credentials and more nuanced range of material, its emotive propaganda is likely to have had a wider influence on voters than Leave.EU’s. </p> <h2 class="BodyA"><strong>The allegation of racism </strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">As the debate on antisemitism has emphasised, racism does not necessarily involve expressing explicit hostility to specific groups or a desire to harm them. Often it is implicit in the imagery used and the ‘smell’ of a certain kind of propaganda, as Jewish groups sometimes put it. Moreover while some people <em>are </em>racists, in an existential sense, today’s politicians are more usually involved in exploiting (or condoning) policies, propaganda and images which create hostility towards groups in society for their electoral purposes. The <a href="http://natcen.ac.uk/our-research/research/racial-prejudice-in-britain-today/">British Social Attitudes</a> survey shows a stubborn persistence of racial prejudice in about a quarter of the population, a sizeable reservoir of support for any campaign which is tempted. The Tories, advised by Lynton Crosby, had already dabbled with dog-whistle politics in their ill-fated London Mayoral campaign earlier in 2016.</p> <p class="BodyA">Vote Leave’s leaders were doubtless not personally hostile to Turks or Albanians, let alone Europeans as a whole. Nor will they have wished to cause hate crimes, which in any case would have rebounded on their campaign (as they feared had happened when Jo Cox was murdered). Their promise that EU citizens’ rights would be unilaterally guaranteed might even have been honestly intended, although in that case one would have expected more protests when Theresa May unceremoniously ditched it (neither Johnson and other Leave cabinet ministers in her government, nor Vote Leave’s co-convenors, Gove and the Labour MP Gisela Stuart, stood up for their campaign’s commitment when the matter was voted on in Parliament).</p> <p class="BodyA">The decision to attack mostly hypothetical migrants rather than existing residents from EU states (except in material like the Romanian/Latvian criminals ad) showed what Vote Leave was trying to achieve. It fed the trope of excessive numbers without directly targeting people in UK society, which respectable Leave voters might have been uncomfortable with; it also minimised the danger of a powerful backlash from EU citizens and Remain. It was a neat way of conjuring an imaginary threat of a massive new wave of immigration which would play into fears which had been fanned over the years by the tabloids, Migration Watch, the Tory right and UKIP.</p> <p class="BodyA">However this was not just about numbers. The image of the tearful old woman, which could be picked up even with the sound off, was more powerful than any figures. The focus on Turkey and the Balkan countries played into racist stereotypes: the otherness of people from distant, poor (and in Turkey’s case) Muslim-majority countries hardly needed labouring. It implied hostility towards Turks and Albanians in the UK, who had already experienced racism. It also implied hostility towards more than three million EU citizens by creating a threat to their residence rights and exposing them to the ‘hostile environment’ which May had created for migrant.</p> <p class="BodyA">When Brexit led, predictably, to a large spike in racist abuse and violence against Europeans and ethnic minorities, the leaders of Vote Leave as well as Leave.EU must have had a pretty good idea of where it came from. Yet as they survey the mess Brexit is making of our country, it seems the lesson they are learning is: more of the same. Johnson’s doubling down showed that his offensive comments on burqas were no casual mistake, and the abuse faced by ordinary Muslim women was priced into the tactic. We must fear that there is more to come.</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/martin-shaw/brexit-is-r-for-racism">BREXIT: the R is for Racism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Martin Shaw Thu, 30 Aug 2018 10:39:01 +0000 Martin Shaw 119484 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker remained in charge of secretive Tory ultra faction https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/ex-brexit-minister-steve-baker-remained-in- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Under the ministerial code, Baker was supposed to cut his ties with the European Research Group when he joined the government in 2017. But newly released emails show that as Brexit minister, he offered them private briefings on critical government policy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 19.02.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 19.02.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Steve Baker MP, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Control and influence over a hard-line Brexiteer group of Conservative MPs remained in the hands of Steve Baker throughout his time as a Brexit minister, according to new documents obtained by openDemocracy. Jacob Rees-Mogg was merely the public face of the secretive group.</p><p dir="ltr">Baker led the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">taxpayer-funded</a> European Research Group (ERG) of pro-Brexit MPs until being appointed a minister in 2017. But while in office he offered to address the ERG privately on government policy. These briefings were not recorded in transparency data from Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU).</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/672633/2018-01-08_MINISTERIAL_CODE_JANUARY_2018__FINAL___3_.pdf">Official rules</a> bar ministers from “being associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with government policy.” Although the ERG has often clashed with the government over Brexit, Baker continued to “act as though he was just the lightly-detached chief executive of the ERG”, according to a senior Conservative source with knowledge of the group’s activities. </p><p dir="ltr">Baker resigned his ministerial post last month at the same time as his boss at DExEU, David Davis, complaining he had been “blind-sided” by Theresa May’s ‘Chequers’ plan. </p><p dir="ltr">Since that resignation, Baker has re-emerged as a leading voice in the powerful ERG lobby, which some <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/16/theresa-may-narrowly-avoids-defeat-after-caving-in-to-rees-mogg">believe</a> controls the short-term future of May’s premiership. The ERG is set to unveil an alternative blueprint for a hard Brexit ahead of September’s Conservative party conference. The paper has been jointly written by Baker and Rees-Mogg.</p><p dir="ltr">In July 2017, just weeks after Baker became a minister, officials acting for him were in direct contact with the ERG. The correspondence included arrangements for Baker to give private briefings to the group about the so-called Great Repeal Bill.</p><p dir="ltr">One redacted email, sent from a DExEU mailbox, states that “Steve (Baker) would like to brief interested ERG members on the Repeal Bill, at a convenient time next week”. </p><p dir="ltr">The ERG does not publish lists of its members—thought to include more than 80 MPs—but another email notes that there is a “larger group” and “a smaller more senior one" within the ERG. Baker is invited to choose which group to address. A subsequent email, with an ERG email signature, remarks, “Steve Baker has kindly offered to brief the group on the contents of the Great Repeal Bill.” </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.09.09.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.09.09.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The Repeal Bill, formally known as the EU Withdrawal Bill, is a critical piece of legislation which has the primary aim of ensuring EU law will no longer be applied in the UK after exit from the European Union. It aims to also end the power of the European Court of Justice.</p><p dir="ltr">Baker publicly left the ERG when he was promoted into May’s administration following the 2017 general election. But Baker’s severing of formal ties with the ERG appears to have been merely an administrative gesture. </p><p dir="ltr">One Whitehall official with DExEU connections told openDemocracy: “Those close to Mr Baker regarded him as never really leaving the ERG. He clearly saw the group as a necessary powerbase and these emails show how keen he was [to] remain a general rather than the observer he should have been.”</p><p dir="ltr">Previously openDemocracy and others have revealed that Baker held other meetings with the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">ERG</a> and lobbyists that were not recorded in transparency logs.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Baker “untouchable”</h2><p dir="ltr">Baker’s use of DExEU civil servants to contact a secretive group that some regard as a ‘party within a party’ could merit investigation by the Cabinet Office. But pro-EU Tory backbenchers believe such complaints are currently pointless. One told openDemocracy: “Baker in many respects is untouchable. His lead role in the ERG, and the damage he could inflict, gives him political armour.”</p><p dir="ltr">Despite taking taxpayers’ money to fund their operations, the ERG has repeatedly refused to make public the names of its members. In the correspondence released to openDemocracy, DExEU has redacted all the email addresses of those expected to attend Baker’s briefing, citing data protection rules. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.14.26.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.14.26.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="216" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Since his resignation last month, Baker has quickly slotted back into a leadership role among ERG MPs. He has publicly <a href="https://twitter.com/SteveBakerHW/status/1034054316938747904?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet">dismissed fears</a> over a ‘no deal’ Brexit. </p><p dir="ltr">The ERG’s <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/conservatives-brexit-theresa-may-chequers-deal-tory-party-erg-a8491256.html">hard-Brexit policy paper</a> by Baker and Rees-Mogg is expected to attack May’s Chequers plan and question the merits of any ties with the EU. Rumours of its content have suggested it will describe May’s plan as continuing to honour rules handed down by Brussels.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Marshalling his troops</h2><p dir="ltr">In a speech to the Commons in July, Baker threatened to scupper any “high-alignment” deal with the EU when it came to the Commons. He offered a barely-coded warning that there were 40-plus hard-Brexiteers—seen as a reference to the ERG—who would vote with the SNP and Labour to kill off the Chequers plan.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">previously revealed</a> that Baker was a regular attender at ERG meetings in the House of Commons during his time as a minister. Despite criticism from Labour MP Ben Bradshaw that his failure to publicly list such appearances contravened ministerial rules, Baker claimed his attendance at ERG gatherings was only on a personal, rather than a ministerial, basis.</p><p dir="ltr">A Cabinet Office examination accepted Baker’s reassurance that his attendance at ERG meetings which discussed Brexit policy could be put down to a “personal” interest as a constituency MP rather than ministerial interest. </p><p dir="ltr">Baker took over as chair of the ERG in 2016 and is credited with a relaunch that turned it from a largely ignored backwater of euro-scepticism into an effective 80-strong gathering of MPs aiming to end the “<a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/tory-euroskeptic-brexit-rebellion-cameron-eu/">EU’s despotism</a>”. He is on record stating that the entire EU needs to be “wholly torn down” and that it was a barrier to international “free trade and peace”.</p><p dir="ltr">When Baker was promoted into the government after the June 2017 general election, the chair of the ERG passed to Suella Braverman. Her promotion into DExEU alongside Baker later that year saw the chair pass to Rees-Mogg.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/braverman.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/braverman.jpg" alt="" title="" width="300" height="168" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suella Braverman. Image, Channel 4 News, fair use.</span></span></span></p><h2 dir="ltr">Lack of transparency</h2><p dir="ltr">Baker has been criticised previously for failing to respect ministerial rules in office. Earlier this year, <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.jnY9EV5z9#.xdBk6EXDk">Buzzfeed</a> reported that Baker had a series of undisclosed meetings with Shanker Singham, formerly of the Legatum Institute and now at the Institute of Economic Affairs.</p><p dir="ltr">More recently, Baker was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/brexit-influencing-game-iea-us-rancher-tucker-link">in the spotlight</a> after it emerged that Singham had introduced the Brexit minister to controversial US agribusinesses to discuss opportunities that might arise from a deregulated post-Brexit UK.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA denied that the meetings with Baker, along with others arranged with the then foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the then Brexit secretary, David Davis, and the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, were part of an elaborate ‘cash for access’ programme.</p><p dir="ltr">An aide working for Baker told Greenpeace—which had been investigating the IEA’s US donor connections—that any suggestion the then Brexit minister attended meetings because “access” to him had been sold “is entirely false”.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, Baker was again in the news when it emerged that he had invested £70,000 in a company that is encouraging investors to buy gold to <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/steve-baker-glint-pay-buy-gold-to-avoid-impact-of-brexit-no-deal-sterling-2018-8">avoid the hit of a no-deal Brexit</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">The allegations in this piece were put to Steve Baker’s office. He has yet to respond.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Correction, 31 August 2018: When this article was first published, it mistook the status of Steve Baker's ministerial position. This has now been corrected.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">Revealed: The Tory MPs using taxpayers’ cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">Six of Theresa May’s cabinet are paid up “members” of secret group demanding a total break from the European Union </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy James Cusick Wed, 29 Aug 2018 05:00:00 +0000 James Cusick, Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghegan 119465 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: how the UK’s powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MPs work together https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/revealed-how-uk-s-powerful-right-wing-think-tanks-and-conse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Institute of Economic Affairs, accused of offering US donors access to government ministers, is among right-wing think tanks meeting monthly. Conservative MPs have attended, too.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_3385.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_3385.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>55 Tufton Street, where many of the meetings take place. Image, Adam Ramsay, CC2.0.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The UK’s leading right-wing think tanks discuss strategy and tactics at regular monthly meetings that have been attended by Conservative MPs, openDemocracy has learned. Among those in attendance are the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), which has been accused of offering donors access to government ministers and civil servants.</p><p dir="ltr">Politicians and campaigners say the meetings raise concerns about transparency in British politics. Separately, openDemocracy can reveal today that the IEA also receives regular funding from British American Tobacco. The IEA does <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-charity-watchdog-probes-pro-brexit-anti-nhs-think-tank">not declare its funders</a>,</p><p dir="ltr">The regular think tank meetings are chaired jointly by staff from the pro-Brexit website Brexit Central and low-tax campaigners the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA). Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, chair of the Tories’ policy commission, recently tweeted his thanks to both Brexit Central editor Jonathan Isaby and TPA campaign manager James Price “for their invitation to speak at Tuesday meeting of think tanks”. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 18.05.02.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 18.05.02.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="120" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The think tank meetings have taken place at 55 Tufton Street, home to numerous think tanks and lobbying outfits. Among them are the TPA, until 2015 the pro-Brexit group Business for Britain, and the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which denies the overwhelming scientific consensus around humans causing climate change. </p><p dir="ltr">Monthly meetings are regularly attended by at least 30 people including representatives from free-market think tanks the Adam Smith Institute and the Centre for Policy Studies, and news site Brexit Central, as well as the IEA and the TPA. A source familiar with the meetings said that it was an opportunity “for everyone to convene together and align their messaging towards the same goal” on everything from Brexit to Labour party policy announcements.</p><p dir="ltr">Meetings are said to include a number of guest speakers and updates from each think tank, as well as planning of future activities. “You would divvy things up, sometimes might say, ‘The IEA would do that,’ or, ‘The TPA should so this,’” the source added. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Ministerial access</h2><p dir="ltr">The TPA, Brexit Central and the IEA have all confirmed to openDemocracy that they participate in the monthly meeting. Some of these groups had <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/18/vote-leave-whistleblower-sues-taxpayers-alliance-for-unfair-dismissal">previously dismissed</a> reports that they attended fortnightly meetings involving various right-wing think tanks. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA’s access to government ministers and senior officials have been in the spotlight this week after an investigation by Greenpeace and The Guardian secretly filmed the think tank’s director Mark Littlewood telling <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/brexit-influencing-game-iea-us-rancher-tucker-link">undercover reporters</a> that his organisation was “in the Brexit-influencing game” and that US donors could get to know ministers on “first name terms”. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA is a registered charity. The Charity Commission is currently investigating the think tank over <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-iea-thinktank-over-cash-for-access-claims">concerns about its political independence</a>. Separately, questions have been raised over whether the IEA should be registered as a lobbyist. The IEA said that the Guardian story was “incorrect”, adding, “We have put in a complaint calling for a retraction.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the think tank hired Shanker Singham, whose work on trade for another think tank, Legatum, proved controversial. The Charity Commission later <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">concluded a report he had co-written</a> on the benefits of Brexit had “failed to met the required standards of balance and neutrality”.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/mapped-shanker-singhams-unparalleled-access-to-government-ministers-a">unparalleled access</a>” to the Brexit process, including regular meetings with a host of ministers. Singham’s contact with Steve Baker, a former minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, came under particular scrutiny after <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.tskv2xp0V#.pc1bznqBj">BuzzFeed reported</a> that Baker had failed to declare frequent meetings with the adviser. Baker told BuzzFeed that they had not discussed government business and so there was no requirement to register the meetings. </p><p dir="ltr">Dominic Raab, the new Brexit secretary, is also one of the IEA’s most vocal supporters, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">crediting its founders</a> with inspiring deregulations, union reforms and business tax cuts that “saved Britain”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Revolving door’</h2><p dir="ltr">Commenting on openDemocracy’s revelations about the regular think tank meetings, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “This raises further concerns about the role and influence of the IEA and other shady, non-transparent lobby groups.</p><p dir="ltr">“It seems as if there is a revolving door between right-wing lobbyists, undisclosed donors and senior hard Brexiters expressing undue and unaccountable influence on this extremely important area of public policy.”</p><p dir="ltr">Till Bruckner, advocacy manager for transparency advocates Transparify, said: “Politically influential nonprofits that take money from hidden hands behind closed doors raise red flags because it is completely unclear who funds their operations, and for what purposes. Democracy is undermined when political agendas and discourse are influenced by dark money groups. For this reason, elected representatives and the media should steer clear of them."</p><p dir="ltr">After responding to openDemocracy’s queries earlier today, James Price of the TPA published some of his responses on the campaign group’s <a href="https://www.taxpayersalliance.com/tpa_confirms_that_people_can_meet_in_room_and_disagree_in_good_faith">blog</a> confirming that the meetings take place. </p><p dir="ltr">“The meeting is an opportunity for people to let others know what research they are working on; what public events they are holding—which is useful information to avoid diary clashes, as I’m sure you can understand; and to hear from interesting speakers from the worlds of politics and the media (shocker, given that we work in the worlds of politics and the media),” Price told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">IEA communications officer Nerissa Chesterfield said that the regular meetings “involve like-minded groups, the purpose of which is to update each other on the reports and research they have published or are currently working on. Yes, the IEA is among the regular attendees and we attend to outline and explain our latest research.”</p><p dir="ltr">Brexit Central editor Jonathan Isaby said: “In a personal capacity I chair a monthly meeting of individuals on the broad centre-right with an interest in public policy.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">Tobacco cash and ‘astroturfing’</h2><p dir="ltr">The Greenpeace/Guardian investigation revealed for the first time that the IEA has long received funding from the oil company BP. openDemocracy can reveal today that the group also receives regular funding from British American Tobacco. In a letter to the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, which holds shares in the company, BAT confirmed that it contributed “circa £40,000” to the think tank in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017, and expected to do so again in 2018. </p><p dir="ltr">The website <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs#2016_.22Broadly_Similar_to_2015.22_and_.22Likely_be_the_Same_in_2017.22">Tobacco Tactics </a>has previously revealed donations from British American Tobacco up to 2016, and that the think tank has worked with Phillip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International within the last five years. The current status of these relationships is unknown.</p><p dir="ltr">Asked about these donations, Chesterfield commented: “We respect the privacy of our donors and don’t place a list of them in the public domain; a cornerstone of a free society is being able to associate freely and we want to uphold that. However, our donors are free to make their donations known if they wish to.”</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">previously revealed</a> that in 2014, the IEA received a grant of $155,000 from the US-based Templeton Foundation to “<a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">seek alternatives</a>” to “public, pay-as-you-go financed systems of pensions, disability insurance, healthcare and long-term care”, and to promote privatisation of each of these areas. </p><p dir="ltr">Chesterfield rejected allegations that funders influenced IEA publications. “We make independent editorial decisions and then seek funding. The work we undertake is work we will do regardless of whether it raises donations,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">The extent to which the TPA, the IEA and others appear in the media has also attracted attention. A <a href="https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/The_DirectorGeneral_of_the_BBC_Tony_Hall_BBC_Stop_giving_airtime_to_organisations_whose_funding_is_not_transparent/?aglhIab">campaign has been launched</a> by South West England Green MEP Molly Scott Cato calling on the BBC not to invite guests who do not divulge their organisation’s funders. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Scottish National Party MP Martin Doherty-Hughes said: “The more we understand about the activities of these groups, the more it becomes apparent that we’re dealing with ‘astroturfing’ on an industrial basis, with big-money donors hiding behind a veneer of legitimacy to push their own narrow agenda. We need a clear and unambiguous picture of who is behind this model, and a ban on them appearing in the media until we have this transparency.”</p><p dir="ltr">Many of the groups involved in the monthly think tank meetings had strong links with the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum. Former Vote Leave boss Matthew Elliott founded the TPA and is ‘editor at large’ at Brexit Central.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave's treasurer <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-jon-moynihan-obe-to-its-board-of-trustees/">Jon Moynihan</a> was appointed to the IEA’s board earlier this year. The think tank also hired <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-new-digital-manger-darren-grimes/">Darren Grimes</a> as its digital manager. Grimes, whose BeLeave campaign received more than £600,000 from Vote Leave in the final weeks of the referendum, had previously worked for Brexit Central. Grimes was recently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/17/darren-grimes-the-student-pro-brexit-activist-fined-22k-vote-leave">fined £20,000</a> by the Electoral Commission for breaking electoral law over donations to BeLeave, the campaign that he headed.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>On August 1 this piece was amended to reflect that Business for Britain is no longer based at 55 Tufton Street and that James Price corresponded with openDemocracy as well as publishing portions of this correspondence on the TPA website.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab: is he the IEA’s man in government?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal">Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 31 Jul 2018 17:26:36 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 119082 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The DUP’s Facebook ads for Brexit targeted voters outside Northern Ireland https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dup-s-facebook-ads-for-brexit-targeted-voters-outside-north <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Information released by Facebook shows the DUP said Brexit would be “better for our borders”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.56.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A DUP Facebook advert, as released by Facebook.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">New Facebook data released by the parliamentary inquiry into Fake News shows that online adverts from the Democratic Unionist Party during the Brexit referendum campaign were targeted overwhelmingly at England, Scotland and Wales, rather than at the DUP’s home territory of Northern Ireland, openDemocracy can reveal.</p><p dir="ltr">The Facebook data also shows that the DUP adverts included an image saying a Leave vote would be “better for our borders”— a claim that has proven controversial in Northern Ireland, where many voters have expressed concern about what Brexit will mean for the borders with Ireland and with the rest of the UK. The other adverts said “better for jobs”, “better for family budgets” and “better for security”.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP adverts were arranged by the firm AggregateIQ and funded with a £435,000 donation from an unknown source. They were seen by up to 4.7 million times in England, Scotland and Wales, but only up to 860,000 times in Northern Ireland itself, according to openDemocracy’s calculations.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.31.57.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.31.57.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span> openDemocracy first started investigating the DUP’s Brexit campaign after coming across pro-Brexit posters in Scotland funded by the party, and a wrap-around advert in Metro newspaper, which appeared across England, Scotland and Wales. Metro isn’t distributed in Northern Ireland. </p><p dir="ltr">The £435,000 donation to the DUP came to the party via a group called the Constitutional Research Council, which is chaired by Richard Cook, former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservatives party. Speaking about Cook at Prime Minister’s Questions, Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons, described Cook <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-07-04/debates/4FEC9C7F-CFE0-4CC0-8B98-58927A0A54E2/PrimeMinister">as having</a> “a trail of involvement in illegal activities and foreign money”.</p><p dir="ltr">The new information from Facebook, released by the Fake News Inquiry, also included adverts from Vote Leave and from the BeLeave campaign. The two groups were recently fined by the Electoral Commission who found that BeLeave’s campaign was co-ordinated with Vote Leave, and therefore that its expenditure on these advertisements should have been counted as Vote Leave expenditure, which took Vote Leave over its £7m spending limit by more than £500,000.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Naomi Long, leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party, raised concerns about the revelation. She said:</p><p dir="ltr">“These figures raise further questions as to whether there was any co-ordination of campaigns throughout the EU referendum in order to get around legal spending limits.</p><p dir="ltr">‘With the DUP’s messaging in this social media campaign, particularly around "securing borders" and their targeting strategy geared more towards a GB rather than NI audience, questions must be asked as to why precisely these were chosen and whether the large campaign donation which they received from the shadowy Constitutional Research Council came with any direction as to how the money should be spent and where. </p><p dir="ltr">‘This is just one of many concerns which have been aired around the DUP’s alleged conduct during the referendum, as well as the wider campaign. The Electoral Commission should be looking closely at these figures and following up to ensure full transparency.’</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP did not respond to our request for a comment.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.32.15.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.32.15.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.44.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.44.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">Meet the Soopa Doopa branding agency that delivered Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Facebook Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Sat, 28 Jul 2018 11:29:46 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 119050 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The laws protecting Britain's democracy from big money are broken https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/laws-protecting-britains-democracy-from-big-money-are-broken <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>You can be fined more for touting football tickets than you can for subverting Britain's democratic process.</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/Dr Evil_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Dr Evil_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="336" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p dir="ltr">In Mike Myers’ 90s classic ‘Austin Powers’, Dr Evil, the baddie transported from the 1960s, threatens to blow up the world unless he’s paid a ransom. Confused by inflation, however, he only demands “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKKHSAE1gIs">one million dollars</a>”, much to everyone’s mirth.</p><p dir="ltr">In related news, the Electoral Commission has fined Vote Leave, Darren Grimes and Veterans for Britain for breaching a string of laws during the European referendum. The amounts they will have to stump up, respectively, are £61,000, £20,000, and £250.</p><p dir="ltr">We’ll come back to Grimes, let’s focus on the big player. Vote Leave had a spending limit of £7 million during the final ten weeks of the referendum. The organisation is being fined for breaching that limit by nearly half a million pounds – it spent, according to the Electoral Commission, £7,449,079. This means that the fine is only 0.8% of their expenditure during the final sprint of the referendum. It’s the sort of amount that a future campaign could write off at the outset as ‘the cost of doing business’. It’s not even a very big cost of doing business: it’s less than they spent on one batch of materials on the <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Api/Spending/Invoices/18316">13th of June 2016</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">And the £61,000 fine is not, in fact, just for one breach of the rules, but for four separate breaches. For three of these, Vote Leave incurred the maximum fine of £20,000, while the fourth – not filing all the correct invoices – is only seen as worthy of a £1,000 fine.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s right. The maximum fine for breaking the laws of our democracy is £20,000. Partly, of course, this is an anachronism. £20,000 was written into election law in the year 2000. If it had kept up with inflation, it would be around £32,000 today. Partly, it’s about politicians looking out for their own: the maximum fine for a ticket tout at a football match <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/unlimited-fines-for-serious-offences">is unlimited</a>. The maximum fine for anyone caught making a false statement while trying to navigate the labyrinthine benefits system <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/unlimited-fines-for-serious-offences">is unlimited</a>. Politicians trust our judicial system to impose a fair penalty on other people. But when it comes to the kinds of crime that they might commit themselves, there are careful safeguards to stop things getting out of hand.</p><p dir="ltr">As the Electoral Commision pointed out to me today, their maximum fine isn’t even equivalent to other similar regulators. A spokesperson said: “Our powers to fine should be commensurate with those of comparable regulators. The Information Commissioner’s Office is a relevant example. They have been able to fine up to £500,000 for breaches of data protection rules, and shortly that level is to significantly further increase. For serious breaches of Parliament’s rules on the funding of and spending that influencing elections and referendums, the Commission should be enabled to impose a significant level of fine.”</p><p>Then there’s the question of who is held to account by our laws. Vote Leave was run by one of Britain’s best known political operators, Matthew Elliott. It was fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. Yet the two people left holding the baby are, as openDemocracy has previously revealed, a former pram-maker called Alan Halsell and Darren Grimes, who was a 21 year old fashion student at the time.</p><p dir="ltr">Grimes appears at every moment to have done roughly what he was told by his older colleagues - apart, perhaps, from messing up some forms. And yet he’s being fined, personally, £20,000 (unless those older colleagues have the good grace to help him out). Halsell is a businessman, lawyer and former chairman of Silver Cross, the company that makes those posh prams. He was the ‘responsible person’ for Vote Leave, and, as the Commission report outlines, knew or should have known what was going on, and knew or should have known better. But it’s hard not to feel like he’s being left holding the baby. It’s hard not to feel that the people who really ran the campaign are getting away with it.</p><p dir="ltr">The reason that Grimes and Halsall are in the firing line is that the Commission is only allowed to pursue those listed as the ‘responsible person’. Any attempt to investigate any of the other characters who may or may not have been involved would be the responsibility of the police.</p><p dir="ltr">And so what will the police do? We don’t yet know how the Met will respond to the information they have been given today about Vote Leave. However, they have had more than two months now to respond to a similar case: on 11 May, the Electoral Commission found that Leave.EU <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/243009/Report-on-Investigation-Leave.EU.pdf">breached election law</a>, and referred their responsible person, Liz Bilney, to the Metropolitan police. We haven’t heard anything since. So I rang the Met press office to ask what has happened since. The press officer went away to check their system. He said nothing came up, and he’s passed me to the special investigations team, who got back this evening with one line: “still under referral so no update”.</p><p>Perhaps most confusingly for many people, it’s easy to feel like all of this will amount to nothing. If an MP is believed to have broken election laws to win their seat, then an election court will sit. If they are found guilty, there will be a rerun - remember <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2010/dec/03/woolas-analysis-election-court-judgment">Phil Woolas</a>, whose election as an MP was declared void after an election court ruled that he <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2010/dec/03/woolas-analysis-election-court-judgment">had lied about his opponent</a> in his leaflets. This law also applies if a local authority runs a referendum, as lawyer <a href="https://twitter.com/AdamWagner1/status/1019114112276750336">Adam Wagner</a> points out. However, because the European referendum was non-binding, and the result didn’t produce a legal outcome (we are leaving the EU not because Britain voted Leave, but because MPs voted to trigger article 50), the result of the referendum cannot be challenged in court.</p><p dir="ltr">This is post-modern Britain at its best. Vote Leave broke the law, but its victory in the referendum can’t be challenged in an election court because the vote wasn’t legally binding. There is a regulator, but it can only issue piddling fines to fringe figures. The police seem to have little interest in policing the powerful, and the rules, ultimately, are for losers.</p><p dir="ltr">If one thing has become clear from spending a year investigating the money behind the Brexit campaign, it's this: the rules of British democracy are utterly broken. And until we mend them, the rich and powerful will run amok.</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/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> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 17 Jul 2018 20:42:42 +0000 Adam Ramsay 118909 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trump's visit marks the start of shock doctrine Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/trumps-visit-marks-start-of-shock-doctrine-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The radical right want a no-deal Brexit so they can force Britain into a disaster capitalist trade deal with the USA.</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/Trump baby.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Trump baby.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'>Image: Trump Baby, Twitter, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Trump landed with a negotiating position. If Theresa May’s Brexit plan goes ahead, it would probably “kill the deal”, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44815558">he told</a> The Sun, referring to the trade agreement he’s here to discuss.</p><p dir="ltr">To understand what’s really going on here, we need to rewind by a week, to a tweet from the man who funded Brexit, Arron Banks: “In Bermuda with @Nigel_Farage, saying he will come back as UKIP leader if Brexit not back on track, Tories in marginally seats watch out! Lightening storm hit studio shortly afterwards - omens…”</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">In Bermuda with <a href="https://twitter.com/Nigel_Farage?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Nigel_Farage</a> saying he will come back as UKIP leader if Brexit not back on track , Tories in marginally seats watch out! Lightening storm hit studio shortly afterwards - omens... <a href="https://t.co/h3EZwGT8nO">https://t.co/h3EZwGT8nO</a></p>— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) <a href="https://twitter.com/Arron_banks/status/1016396021172236291?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote> <p> Perhaps the most apt of omens we could ask for, the prospect of two of the men who delivered Brexit returning from a tax haven to take their country back. Because whatever “Leave” meant to the millions who voted for it, it has always been about something else for the elite who pushed it – and for Donald Trump more than any of them.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The term “Shock Doctrine” was first used by Naomi Klein in her 2007 book of the same name. With the subheader “The rise of disaster capitalism”, she outlined her thesis: while advocates of neoliberal capitalism said it would dance hand in hand with democracy as these ideologies encircled the world, in fact neoliberalism marches in step with violence and disaster.</p><p dir="ltr">In Chile, the dictator Augusto Pinochet delivered the radical right plans concocted by economist Milton Friedman on the back of his 1973 military coup and aided by the torture and murder of thousands, often using electronic batons to literally shock people into acquiescence. Throughout the late 20th century, the International Monetary Fund came into former colonies when they faced crises and used the leverage of much-needed loans to force mass privatisations, tax cuts for the rich and public spending cuts for the rest.</p><p dir="ltr">After the tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean in 2004, beaches were privatised by hotels. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Klein has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/06/naomi-klein-how-power-profits-from-disaster">since written</a>, “I watched hordes of private military contractors descend on the flooded city to find ways to profit from the disaster, even as thousands of the city’s residents, abandoned by their government, were treated like dangerous criminals just for trying to survive.”</p><p dir="ltr">From the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/06/naomi-klein-how-power-profits-from-disaster">privatisation of war</a> in Iraq and Afghanistan to the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/nov/13/exxon-mobil-kurdistan-exploration">divvying up</a> of oil contracts afterwards, the rich and powerful and their pet governments have become expert in using crises to ensure that they continue to profit as ordinary people lose everything.</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps the most important example of disaster capitalism is what happened as the former<a href="http://shockdoctrinesummary.blogspot.com/2009/04/1990s-russia.html"> Soviet Union fell apart</a> in the 1990s. While President Boris Yeltsin bumbled on the international stage, Russia was plundered. Powerful men took control of key economic assets, moving billions of dollars offshore and turning themselves into oligarchs overnight.</p><p dir="ltr">In the midst of all of this, Britain has played an important role. The vestigial empire – &nbsp;Overseas Territories like Bermuda, Gibraltar, and the Cayman and Virgin Islands; and Crown Protectorates the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey – transformed themselves, along with London, into the planet’s most important network of tax havens and secrecy areas. When the world’s oligarchs asset strip countries in crisis and move the plunder offshore, they are usually placing it under the protection of Her Majesty’s Navy.</p><p dir="ltr">As Peter Geoghegan and I have followed the dark money that funded the Brexit campaign, there is one consistent factor: almost all of it has been funnelled through these quirks in the British constitution. Whether it’s Northern Ireland with its secrecy laws or Arron Banks’ use of Gibraltar and Mann as shelters for his cash, the people who funded the drive to pull Britain out of the EU certainly know how to navigate the dark corners of the country's constitutional cave network.</p><p dir="ltr">This, surely, is the easiest way to understand the various connections between Brexit and Russia. The Kremlin is no longer the heart of the Soviet Union. It’s at the centre of a network of billionaire power built by Russia’s disaster capitalist-in-chief: Vladimir Putin, <a href="http://time.com/money/4641093/vladimir-putin-net-worth/">sometimes said to be</a> the richest man in the world. It’s no surprise that this vortex of neoliberal plunder would want to use crisis to influence the management of their preferred money laundry.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s not just Russians. Britain’s role for many of the world’s richest lies in our skill in cleaning up their questionable money. But the EU is endlessly threatening to regulate, to force more transparency, to make it harder to stash their cash in the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/series/global-laundromat">world’s laundromat</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">And it’s not just about tax havens and their users: look at the fortunes made on the money markets as the price of the pound <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-06-25/brexit-big-short-how-pollsters-helped-hedge-funds-beat-the-crash">crashed around</a> on referendum night, or the high-risk corners of the City of London which seemed much more likely to support Brexit than their more conventional banking neighbours. Or look at the mercenaries.</p><p dir="ltr">Over the past fifteen years, a key part of disaster capitalism has been the increasing privatisation of the military. “Security firms” have emerged, and taken on work once done by armies and police forces. And again, Britain is at the centre of this: as the NGO War on Want <a href="https://waronwant.org/Mercenaries-Unleashed">has documented</a>, since the invasion of Iraq, Britain has become the world leader in this mercenary industry. Once again, the links between the Brexit elite and the world of privatised security are everywhere we turn in our investigations: Cambridge Analytica is the wing of privatised <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">defence contractor SCL</a>. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Veterans for Britain</a> – one of the campaign groups investigated by the Electoral Commission – has a string of connections to the private security industry.</p><p dir="ltr">With every industry comes a lobby, and both the money-laundering lobby and the mercenary lobby have a strong interest in the UK slipping outside the common rules and regulations of the EU. It’s no surprise that they came in behind Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">This week has been bookended by two key moments for these groups. On Monday, Dominic Raab was appointed as Brexit secretary. Perhaps most famous for saying British workers are too lazy, Raab has been nurtured by the Institute for Economic Affairs, the UK’s original radical right think tank, which refuses to say how it’s funded, but which has published more than one ‘<a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/clamping-down-on-offshore-financial-centres-would-not-raise-tax-revenue/">report</a>’ on the <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/tax-havens-are-a-force-for-good/">advantages of tax havens</a> since the Brexit vote. It seems likely he’ll end up essentially as the IEA's man in government.</p><p dir="ltr">The week ends with the arrival of Trump in the country. Protests will largely focus on his racism and misogyny, but it’s important that we also remember the reason that the government tells us he’s here: for talks on a trade deal.</p><p dir="ltr">Here we will finally get to the main point of Brexit, for those who led the charge. Last autumn, the IEA published two sides of A4 – tweeted again this week – arguing ‘<a href="https://iea.org.uk/publications/lets-get-ready-for-no-deal/">let’s get ready for no deal Brexit</a>’. “A ‘no deal’ scenario in which the UK simply leaves the Single Market and Customs Union in 2019, does not have to be the ‘catastrophe’ that many fear.” they say in their summary “...the UK would be able to crack on with its own trade deals with the rest of the world”.</p><p dir="ltr">Read between the lines, and I’d argue they are saying what Klein would predict: in the crisis of a cliff-edge Brexit, people will be forced to accept the kind of trade deal that groups like the IEA dream about.</p><p dir="ltr">Its brief note focuses largely on the most obvious question of any trade deal: tariffs. It will come as a surprise to no one to hear that a free-market think tank is against them. What it doesn’t talk about is what will likely be most of the content of any major trade deal with the US: what’s normally known as ‘non-tariff barriers’. These can include regulations which protect our food, our hedgerows, our hedgehogs, our education system, our air and our water from whatever scheme businesses might concoct to profit from them. They can include many of our basic rights as workers, students, consumers and citizens. The ownership of British healthcare – as my colleague Caroline Molloy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/nhs-theresa-mays-dowry-gift-to-donald-trump">has explained</a> – will be up for grabs, as will any other corner of life currently protected from the profiteering of big business.</p><p dir="ltr">During the vast fight over <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ttip">the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership</a>, we saw how far the Obama administration tried to force the EU to kneel before American capital. We saw how they wanted any disputes to be arbitrated in corporate courts. Many of the worst of those proposals were stopped by the strength of the left across Europe uniting to resist them.</p><p dir="ltr">A cliff-edge Brexit would leave the British left standing alone against our own, bespoke, Trumpian redraft of TTIP. We won’t have Belgian parliaments to hold up the process, or German NGOs to interpret the text, or the combined trade power of Europe to stand up to the White House.</p><p dir="ltr">Watch their speeches and read their reports, and it’s increasingly clear that this is what Britain’s hard Brexit elite want. The crisis of a no-deal Brexit is the disaster they seek to force through a US trade deal which will turn Britain into a deregulated offshore haven for the rich, and a service economy workhouse for the rest, just as they’ve long proposed.</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/brexit-negotiations-why-is-liberal-media-accepting-first-lie-of-nationalism">Brexit is the home-coming for the shock doctrine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 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/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Fri, 13 Jul 2018 12:57:04 +0000 Adam Ramsay 118854 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Former Legatum trade chief Shanker Singham takes role with commercial lobbying firm – while also advising key Brexit minister Liam Fox.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Liam_Fox_with_Air_Marshal_Stuart_Peach.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Liam_Fox_with_Air_Marshal_Stuart_Peach.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Liam Fox. Image, Tech. Sgt. Michele A. Desrochers, public domain</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Transparency campaigners have accused international trade minister Liam Fox of “having trouble again seeing the line between adviser and privately-backed lobbyist” after openDemocracy learned that one of Fox’s “committee of experts” has become an advisor to one of the UK’s biggest corporate lobbying firms.</p><p>Former <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum</a> trade chief Shanker Singham, described by a former Labour minister as a ‘hard Brexit Svengali’, <a href="http://publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">is now advising</a> PR and lobbying agency Grayling on Brexit and trade. Singham, who has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">unparalleled access</a>” to government ministers, has told openDemocracy that there is “no conflict” between his role as an adviser to trade minister Fox and his new position.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham is a member of trade minister Liam Fox’s ‘committee of experts’, a five-person group advising him on trade deals. Singham, a one-time Washington lobbyist, is also a director of the International Trade and Competition Unit at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), a position he took after he left the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">controversial think tank Legatum</a> earlier this year.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham told openDemocracy that he would be remaining on the Brexit minister’s advisory committee and at the IEA.</p><p dir="ltr">Grayling is one of the UK’s leading PR and lobbying firms. The client it lists most regularly in its entry in the official register of lobbyists is the <a href="https://registerofconsultantlobbyists.force.com/CLR_Public_Profile?id=00124000006byHIAAY">National Casino Forum</a>, and the company also represents a number of major <a href="https://www.appc.org.uk/register/profile/?company=Grayling">sugar manufacturers</a>, and has previously worked for the arms companies <a href="https://www.prweek.com/article/1163654/grayling-appoints-former-uk-ceo-loretta-ahmed-middle-east-head">BAE Systems</a> and <a href="https://www.prweek.com/article/1299327/lockheed-martin-looks-man-bites-dog-integrated-uk-brief">Lockheed Martin</a>. Speaking to openDemocracy, Singham said that he was advising Grayling itself, rather than any of its clients.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33122986_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33122986_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shanker Singham, Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Singham will also assist Grayling’s stablemates Citigate Dewe Rogerson and Quiller, <a href="https://www.publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">reports said</a>. Quiller’s past clients include the <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uae-paid-pr-firm-millions-brief-uk-journalists-qatar-muslim-brotherhood-attacks-1058875159">United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, openDemocracy revealed the extent of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Singham’s access</a> to government ministers since the Brexit vote, showing that he has held dozens of meetings with figures including foreign secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit minister David Davis, as well as Liam Fox. Singham also had<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X"> undeclared meetings with another Brexit minister</a>, Steve Baker.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" width="100%" src="https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1qxJiprTABHrdoQOcIBtXWqFM0o3eXl3L2Ow9iXPcupA&amp;font=Default&amp;lang=en&amp;initial_zoom=2&amp;height=650"></iframe></p><h2>“Glaring conflict of interest”, say campaigners</h2><p dir="ltr">Singham told openDemocracy that he saw no reason that his access to government officials would diminish now that he’s paid by a corporate lobbying firm and that he sees “no conflict” between his various roles. But transparency campaigners warned of “a glaring conflict of interest”.</p><p>Tamasin Cave from Spinwatch, which monitors the lobbying industry, compared Singham’s role to the scandal that led to Liam Fox being forced to resign as Defence Secretary in 2011, when it transpired that one of Fox’s closest advisers – Adam Werritty – was being <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15302045">paid by private businesses</a> for his time advising Fox.</p><p>Cave said: “Singham is simultaneously advising Liam Fox, and has unrivalled access to many other ministers, while at the same time working for a firm that is paid to influence the decisions of ministers. That’s a glaring conflict of interest.</p><p dir="ltr">“Grayling is employing Singham for his insider knowledge and the fact that he has a seat at the table steering the direction of Brexit. Of course their corporate clients are going to benefit from this hire. That's how the commercial lobbying business operates.</p><p dir="ltr">“That this doesn’t strike the Department of International Trade as a clear conflict of interest is worrying. It is reminiscent of another adviser to Liam Fox that was also funded by an opaque web of private money. The resulting scandal surrounding the then defence secretary's adviser, Adam Werritty, led to Fox’s resignation (in 2011). Is Fox having trouble again seeing the line between adviser and privately-backed lobbyist?”</p><p dir="ltr">Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK said: “Whilst this does not appear to break any formal rules, there are ethical considerations a UK government adviser should take into account on how the privileged information and access they enjoy in a public role may unfairly benefit themselves and potential clients in their private role.”</p><p dir="ltr">Scottish National Party MP Neil Gray said that the revelation reflects flaws with the Brexit process more generally: “There has been an effective sub-contracting of the hard thinking normally undertaken by government to a series of 'thinktanks' who refuse to reveal where their funding comes from and whose proposals seem coincidentally to reflect the narrow interests of a small group of private companies. Singham’s appointment is simply the most obvious example of this government’s fox-in-the-henhouse approach.”</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"There has been an effective sub-contracting of the hard thinking normally undertaken by government to a series of 'thinktanks' who refuse to reveal where their funding comes from and whose proposals seem coincidentally to reflect the narrow interests of a small group of private companies"</p><p dir="ltr">In a statement on the Singham signing last week, <a href="https://www.publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">Grayling chairman</a> Richard Jukes said: “Brexit and trade are knotty areas, and there is no one better placed than Shanker to help our clients cut through the noise and articulate a considered position that stands up to scrutiny. He is an outstanding addition to Grayling’s award-winning Brexit and trade offer that extends from London to Brussels and across Europe.”</p><p dir="ltr">Singham also leads the trade team at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA). Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: "The Institute for Economic Affairs has long acted as a paid lobbying agency for the tobacco industry. It's very worrying to see one of their staff playing such a key role in shaping Britain's trade deals as we leave the EU."</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA didn’t respond to a request for comment, and didn’t answer our question about who pays for Singham’s work on trade.</p><p>A spokesperson for the Department of International Trade said:</p><p dir="ltr">“It is only correct that the department engages a variety of stakeholders from across the UK, to discuss opportunities arising from Britain’s departure from the European Union. The department regularly engages think tanks and campaign bodies on all sides of the political spectrum as well as leading thinkers, businesses and civil society groups."</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;“The committee was set up to provide expert advice and challenge to department officials and is not led by ministers. Members are invited to only express their views as individuals and not on behalf of their affiliated organisations.”</p><p dir="ltr">Other than Singham, the trade ministry’s committee of experts comprises prominent Brexit supporting economist Ruth Lea, who is an adviser to the Institute for Economic Affairs; Sunday Telegraph columnist and Brexit supporter Liam Halligan, Xavier Rolet, former CEO of the London Stock Exchange, and the former Tory MP and Brexit supporter Peter Lilley. </p><p>In January, the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/andrew-lansley-peter-lilley-and-andrew-mitchell-ride-brexit-gravy-train-mgh6c2z28">Sunday Times </a>reported that Lilley was “willing to approach key ministers” on behalf of a fake Chinese company offering him cash in exchange for access to government and information about Brexit. The paper reported that Lilley described how he attended two advisory groups with influence over the Brexit ministers” – one of which was the Department for International Trade advisory committee of experts.</p><p dir="ltr">Lilley said he had not been asked and nor did he agree to have private conversations with any ministers on behalf of the Chinese company. He said any suggestion that a private company would get access to privileged information was “wholly misplaced”, and he remains a member of the committee, according to a department spokesperson.</p><p dir="ltr">When the Sunday Times also reported that “sources within Whitehall and the Conservative Party... told this newspaper that Brexit had triggered a lobbying frenzy as businesses attempted to acquire intelligence about the negotiations.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month the Charity Commission ruled that Legatum, Singham’s previous employer, had “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">crossed the line</a>” and failed to meet its charitable objectives in its pro-Brexit coverage.</p><p><em>Additional reporting by Jenna Corderoy.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">Legatum breached charity regulations with Brexit work, Charity Commission finds</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Thu, 21 Jun 2018 09:16:50 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 118529 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Labour’s Liam Byrne says former Legatum trade advisor’s influence over Brexit policymakers ‘beggars belief’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-33122986_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-33122986_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image:&nbsp;</em><span><em>Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment</em></span></p><p dir="ltr">The pace of the British government’s Brexit progress seems to be frustrating even the most enthusiastic supporters of life outside the European Union. At an event in Glasgow last week, Shanker Singham, billed by the organisers as “one of the world’s leading trade lawyers”, complained that the UK’s “lack of clarity” over Brexit was causing “confusion”.</p><p dir="ltr">But what he didn’t talk about was his own role in the middle of this muddle: Singham himself has continued to enjoy unrivalled access to Brexit ministers and officials. The trade advisor, whose work for the Legatum Institute has attracted significant media attention, had repeated private meetings with the highest official in the Department for Exiting the European Union (DexEU) according to new information released to openDemocracy.<br /><br />Singham, a former Washington lobbyist - who has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/18/brexit-british-business-leaders-legatum-eu">unparalleled access</a>” to senior government figures - left Legatum earlier this year to head up a new trade unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs. Earlier this month, the charity regulator ruled that Legatum’s Brexit work had ‘crossed the line’ and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">did not meet its charitable objectives</a>. <br /><br />In March and May this year, just after he left Legatum, Singham met with Philip Rycroft, permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union. Both meetings took place at DExEU’s Whitehall offices.<br /><br />Data compiled by openDemocracy also shows that since the Brexit vote in June 2016, Singham has also had dozens of meetings with British government ministers including Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox. The meetings and events were either unminuted or information relating to them was withheld by government departments. Singham also had<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X"> undeclared meetings with Brexit ministers</a>.<br /><br />Former Labour minister Liam Byrne called for more transparency from government over Singham’s contact with ministers and senior officials.<br /><br />“It beggars belief that ministers and officials are spending hour after hour with Hard Brexit svengali, Shanker Singham. He may have ditched his Legatum badge but I suspect his views are as hard line as ever, and as bad for Britain as ever,” the MP said.<br /><span class="mag-quote-center">“I hope we can meet frequently and monthly is a good objective”&nbsp;</span><br />Singham has also had extensive contact with Brexit trade minister Greg Hands. The pair met at least half a dozen times in the space of a few months at the end of last year. “I hope we can meet frequently and monthly is a good objective,” Hands wrote to Singham in October, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit">according to emails obtained by openDemocracy</a>.<br /><br />In December alone Singham had two meetings with Hands, two meetings with Rycroft from DExEU, and a meeting with Michael Gove and Antonia Romeo, a senior civil servant at Fox’s Department for International Trade.<br /><br />Singham told openDemocracy that “you can find information about my meetings in the transparency register.”<br /><br />Singham is also very close to Brexit minister Steve Baker. An investigation by Buzzfeed found that <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X">Singham had multiple undeclared meetings with Baker</a>, and former Legatum trade advisor Crawford Falconer, who now works at the Department of International Trade. These meetings were not recorded in official government transparency records.</p><p dir="ltr">Documents released following Freedom of Information requests from openDemocracy show Singham had a one-on-one meeting with Philip Rycroft on March 13, just days after it was announced that he would be <a href="https://www.li.com/media/press-releases/shanker-singham-to-leave-the-legatum-institute-for-new-role-at-the-iea">leaving the Legatum Institute</a> to take over the trade unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs. On May 10, Singham met with Rycroft and Eoin Parker, director of market access and budget at DExEU.</p><h2>Unlikely Brexit trade influencer</h2><p>Singham, who argues that Britain needs to leave the single market and customs union to maximise opportunities outside the EU, has emerged as an unlikely trade voice for Brexiters. His name has been <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">cited in Parliament</a> and his trade papers held up as evidence that Britain should leave the customs union and single market.</p><p>The recent proposal that the UK could create a ten-mile wide <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/border-buffer-zone-could-be-solution-to-irish-border-problem/">‘buffer zone’</a> along the Irish border originated from a paper published by Singham and the Legatum Institute.</p><p>Earlier this month, the Charity Commission ruled that Legatum’s work on Brexit “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">failed to meet the required standards of balance and neutrality</a>”. A Legatum reported entitled, Brexit Inflection Point, did not present “balanced, neutral evidence and analysis” and was “not consistent” with the charity’s objectives to promote education, the regulator found.</p><p>Former Charity Commission board member <a href="https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/voices/andrew-purkis-why-the-charity-commission-s-decision-on-legatum-raises-further-questions.html">Andrew Purkis </a>has said that the regulator’s ruling on Legatum also raised questions about the Singham’s new employers, the Institute of Economic Affairs. The IEA, which also has charitable status, also recently appointed <a href="https://order-order.com/people/darren-grimes/">Vote Leave donor</a> Jon Moynihan to its board.</p><p>The IEA has also hired Darren Grimes as its digital manager. Grimes, who had worked for Brexit Central, is subject of an Electoral Commission investigation in relation to a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">£675,000 donation</a> from Vote Leave during the Brexit referendum. A judicial review into the Electoral Commission’s handling of Vote Leave spending is due to be heard on June 19.</p><p>The Legatum Institute announced that it would be <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/09151308-23b9-11e8-ae48-60d3531b7d11">ending</a> its Brexit work following public scrutiny of the think tank’s work and its funding. Christopher Chandler, Legatum’s main funder, has been the subject of <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/143bb08e-4d5d-11e8-97e4-13afc22d86d4">extensive coverage </a>with MPs alleging that the billionaire had links to Russian interests. Chandler, a former major shareholder in Gazprom, has strenuously denied all allegations.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">Legatum breached charity regulations with Brexit work, Charity Commission finds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit">Revealed: Legatum’s “extraordinary” secretive monthly meetings with Brexit minister</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Thu, 14 Jun 2018 07:00:17 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 118382 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What we learned about Arron Banks at the fake news inquiry https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/what-we-learned-about-arron-banks-at-fake-news-inquiry <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>And what we didn’t</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 13.54.14.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 13.54.14.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks at the Fake News Inquiry. Image, Parliament.tv, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In many ways, Arron Banks’s appearance today to answer MPs’ questions was in keeping with character. By turns the biggest donor in British political history was garrulous, boastful and contemptuous. And, after three hours – when he and his wingman Andy Wigmore walked out, ostensibly to keep “a luncheon appointment” with <a href="https://twitter.com/andywigmore/status/1006541298281611264">two DUP MPs</a> – Banks had generated far more heat than light.</p><h2>What we found out </h2><p dir="ltr">The Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s questions covered everything from Leave.EU’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica to Banks’s own dealings with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/10/arron-banks-mps-call-for-police-investigate-russia-links">Russia</a>. But there was one area that Banks seemed particularly keen not to talk about.</p><p dir="ltr">Just before he spent more than £8m on Brexit, his Southern Rock insurance firm was in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">financial trouble</a>, and got a £77m <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373714177/Southern-Rock-Insurance-Company-Ltd-2015-accounts">bail-out</a> from the Isle of Man-based <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373714177/Southern-Rock-Insurance-Company-Ltd-2015-accounts">ICS Risk Solutions</a>. When MP Rebecca Pow asked about this cash injection, Banks implied that this was simply him shuffling money between two companies he owns, and accused them of trying “to create some shadiness around my businesses".</p><p dir="ltr">However, our friends at <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">SourceMaterial</a> have pointed out that Banks doesn’t actually own all of ICS Risk Solutions, but only somewhere between 50% &amp; 75%, according to filings of <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/06334001/persons-with-significant-control">one of its subsidiaries</a> at Companies House. Who owns the rest of the company? We don’t know. </p><p dir="ltr">But around the time ICS was bailing out Southern Rock, the wife of one of Banks’s associates <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717866/ICS-directors-2015">joined the ICS board</a>. This associate has been accused of breaching money laundering rules in Jersey, Malta and Gibraltar. The following year, the day after the Brexit vote, he joined the ICS board <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717784/ICS-directors-2016">himself</a>, along with two of his close business partners. </p><p dir="ltr">However this associate was involved, Banks wasn’t just shuffling around his own money. ICS has at least one unknown owner, who helped prop-up Banks’s ailing insurance empire just as he was pouring cash into Brexit.</p><h2>‘Insurance Millionaire?’ What we missed</h2><p dir="ltr">The key question hanging over the Commons committee today but never directly asked: what is Arron Banks actually worth? &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Figuring out the value of Banks’s wealth is tricky. In media reports the Leave.EU backer is frequently referred to as a <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6500163/arron-banks-net-worth-russia-links-brexit-ukip-nigel-farage/">‘millionaire businessman’</a>. Published estimates of his worth vary from <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8cddfeea-5c02-11e7-b553-e2df1b0c3220">£100m</a> to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/mp-calls-for-inquiry-into-arron-banks-and-dark-money-in-eu-referendum">£250m</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">But a major openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">investigation</a> last year raised serious questions about the true extent of Banks’s wealth, particularly in the insurance businesses that are frequently held up as the main source of his fortune.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks became a major political donor overnight, in November 2014. Previously he had been a virtual unknown – a one-time estate agent who had moved into insurance, and had failed to be selected as a Conservative local election candidate. Then he promised £1m to Ukip apparently after <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/01/tory-donor-arron-banks-increases-ukip-donation-william-hague">William Hague</a> described him as ‘a Mr Nobody’. </p><p dir="ltr">The million pounds to Ukip never fully materialised – Banks drip fed the party around £400,000 in cash installments over six months, mostly in the name of his companies – but the self-styled ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ was in the game. Then he plunged an eye-watering £8m into campaigning to leave the European Union.</p><p dir="ltr">But at the very moment Banks was pouring millions into Brexit, his insurance companies were in fact in real <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">financial difficulty</a>. Authorities in London and Gibraltar found that Banks’s insurance underwriter, Gibraltar-based Southern Rock, had been trading without sufficient reserves.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has maintained that his insurance business is in rude health. Last October <a href="https://www.insuranceage.co.uk/insurer/3156951/eldon-insurance-set-for-ps250m-float-reports-say">he boasted</a> that he was in line to make millions of pounds from floating Eldon Insurance - which uses the brand Go Skippy – on the London Stock Exchange in early 2018. So far this has not happened.</p><h2>Gold digger</h2><p dir="ltr">Insurance isn’t Banks’s only business interest. In his book, <a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/arron-banks-brexit-diaries">The Bad Boys of Brexit</a> – ghost written by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott – Banks says that in 2015 he decided to spend millions of pounds on influencing British politics because “my businesses in this country and overseas, where I own a number of diamond mines, were doing really well.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Reports over the weekend suggested that Banks had conversations with Russian officials about potential investments in gold mines. (The ‘Bad Boys of Brexit’ is peppered with references from Banks to wanting to invest in gold.) So maybe all the money came from minerals?</p><p dir="ltr">We know that by February 2015, Banks was the owner of four diamond mines in South Africa. But there is little sign that any of these holdings are lucrative. There has been no report of major finds in Banks’s South African mines.</p><p dir="ltr">Not so for Banks’s Lesotho holdings. In September 2017, the Ukip backer announced a “<a href="https://www.economicvoice.com/brexit-businessman-arron-banks-in-major-lesotho-diamond-find/">significant find</a>” in this mountainous Southern African kingdom. Newspaper reports at the time suggested that he was poised to use the windfall to <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nigel-farage-poised-to-form-ukip-splinter-party-v5dvxq7sr">bankroll a new political party</a> for his friend Nigel Farage.</p><p dir="ltr">But another recent openDemocracy investigation <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">cast major doubt on these claims</a>. We found that the area of the “significant find” in Lesotho had produced only a few hundred pounds’ worth of diamonds in the two decades before Banks bought it. A leading expert on Lesotho diamonds told us that it was “geologically impossible” to find commercial quantities of diamonds in the mine.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s not all. When we looked into Banks’s business dealings in Lesotho we found even more surprising things. We found that a political consultancy owned by Banks – Chartwell – had been advising a local political party called the Basotho National Party (BNP) that Banks had business links to.</p><p dir="ltr">Rather than the Lesotho party paying Chartwell for its advice, we discovered that Banks was actually transferring money to the BNP: at least £65,000, a significant sum in one of the poorest and smallest countries in Southern Africa. Chartwell has never recorded a profit. </p><h2>Russia connections</h2><p dir="ltr">Much has been made of Banks’s links to Russia. His wife is Russian. On social media, he often speaks positively of Vladimir Putin and his post-Brexit news site Westmonster often carries coverage that chimes with dominant Russian worldviews.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has <a href="https://www.neweurope.eu/article/leave-campaign-donor-aaron-banks-denies-new-allegations-russian-collusion/">denied</a> receiving any funding from Russia, accusing the Remain campaign of trying to discredit everyone involved in Brexit. He previously claimed that he’d just had one lunch with the Russian ambassador, but reports this weekend showed that he had at least “two boozy lunches” and another cup of tea.</p><p dir="ltr">But we have found some other links between Banks and Russia. Just two months after the referendum, another Banks associate <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">James Pryor</a>— a Brexit ‘bad boy’ and former campaign manager to Ukip — was in Moscow, a Red Square selfie from his Facebook feed shows. During the hearing, Wigmore said that it was Pryor, “the happy hippy” who had introduced him to Banks. </p><p dir="ltr">Yesterday, Pryor told openDemocracy that his trip wasn’t connected to Banks’ activities: “I have other clients”, he said, and denied any wrongdoing.</p><p dir="ltr">For almost a year, openDemocracy has been looking into where Arron Banks – the biggest political donor in British history – got his money from. This morning, we pointed out that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">£11m of donations</a> to the two main Brexit campaigns he’s associated with are unaccounted for: we don’t know how it was spent.</p><p dir="ltr">After nearly three hours of watching Banks and Wigmore in front of a parliamentary committee today, we still have more questions than answers about the ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">Arron Banks and the missing £11m for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 12 Jun 2018 18:17:09 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 118365 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arron Banks and the missing £11m for Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>His pro-Leave lobby groups raised nearly £12m – but claim they spent less than £1m during the ‘official’ Brexit campaign. So where did the rest go? Andy Wigmore says he has "no idea"</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33531217_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33531217_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>Nearly £11 million of donations to major Brexit campaign groups funded by Arron Banks has not been accounted for publicly, according to new analysis from openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">British election laws are supposed to provide transparency on how campaign groups spend their money during elections and referendums. However, Grassroots Out and Leave.EU – the two main groups funded primarily by the self-styled ‘bad boy’ of Brexit Arron Banks – have not disclosed what happened to £10.8 million of the money they received.</p><p dir="ltr">In total, the two groups declared that they were given £11.7 million in the first half of 2016 – with Mr Banks the main donor to both, including making loans worth £6m to Leave.EU. Yet referendum rules only required them to disclose how they spent money during the ten weeks between 15th April 2016 until the day of the vote on 23rd June. In that ‘controlled’ period, strict spending limits apply: each group was only legally allowed to spend up to £700,000.</p><p dir="ltr">From 9th March until polling day, Leave.EU received <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=leave.eu&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">donations</a> and <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Loans?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=leave.eu&amp;sort=StartDate&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;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;loanStatus=outstanding&amp;loanStatus=ended&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=RateOfInterestDescription&amp;optCols=AmountRepaid&amp;optCols=AmountConverted&amp;optCols=AmountOutstanding&amp;optCols=EndDate&amp;optCols=DateRepaid&amp;optCols=DateEcLastNotified&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">loans</a> worth £9.2 million. The group claims that it only <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=leave.eu&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;includeOutsideSection75=true&amp;evt=ukparliament&amp;evt=nationalassemblyforwales&amp;evt=scottishparliament&amp;evt=northernirelandassembly&amp;evt=europeanparliament&amp;evt=referendum&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid">spent</a> £693,000 of this during the ‘controlled’ campaigning period – although it has since been <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/leave.eu-fined-for-multiple-breaches-of-electoral-law-following-investigation">fined for multiple breaches of the law by the Electoral Commission</a>, which found that Leave.EU “failed to include at least £77,380 in its spending return, thereby exceeding the spending limit”. The Commission also stated that the “unlawful overspend may have been considerably higher”, and that “it has reasonable grounds to suspect that the responsible person for Leave.EU committed criminal offences". The Commission said it was referring <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-uk-watchdog-fines-leave-eu-for-breaking-spending-rules/">Leave.EU CEO</a> Elizabeth Bilney to the Metropolitan Police.</p><p dir="ltr">A second campaign group funded by Banks, Grassroots Out, received donations worth<a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Grassroots%20Out&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"> £2.5 million</a> in the early months of 2016 – most of which was a single ‘in kind’ donation of £1.9 million from an Arron Banks-owned company on 31 March. However, the group claims to have only <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Grassroots%20Out&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;includeOutsideSection75=true&amp;evt=ukparliament&amp;evt=nationalassemblyforwales&amp;evt=scottishparliament&amp;evt=northernirelandassembly&amp;evt=europeanparliament&amp;evt=referendum&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid">spent £232,000</a> (which would include using any of &nbsp;the ‘in kind’ donation) between 15 April and the referendum on June 23.</p><p dir="ltr">The gap between the amounts the groups raised and the amount of spending they declared amounts to £10.8 million – more than the Labour Party spent on its 2010 election campaign.</p><p>openDemocracy asked Andy Wigmore, communications director of Leave.EU, how the rest of the £10.8 million was spent and also why a loan of £1m was made by Arron Banks on 21st April even though the spending limits were £700,000. He claimed to have “no idea”. Banks has previously described the Electoral Commission fine and possible criminal <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-leave-eu-fine-electoral-commission-arron-banks-response-second-referendum-vote-a8346776.html">charges as a</a> “politically motivated attack on Brexit and the 17.4 million people who defied the establishment to vote for an independent Britain”.</p><p>Speaking to openDemocracy, the Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: "The idea that you can spend £10 million on swaying a democratic process, but not have to declare what you did with any of it, is deeply worrying. The Electoral Commission should open a new inquiry into whether Leave.EU and Grassroots Out broke any rules, and if not, what new rules are needed to close this loophole in the future".</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/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-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 12 Jun 2018 07:58:34 +0000 Adam Ramsay 118357 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scotland in Union held talks with Cambridge Analytica https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/scotland-in-union-held-talks-with-cambridge-analytica <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The vice-chair of the campaign against Scottish independence met with the controversial data firm months after revelations about their involvement in Trump’s campaign came out.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytica/SCL's Alexander Nix. Image, Sam Barnes. CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A prominent campaign against Scottish independence, Scotland in Union, had talks with the controversial data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, openDemocracy can reveal.</p><p dir="ltr">William Ramsay, deputy chair of Scotland in Union, boasted to diners at an exclusive fundraising dinner in London last year that the pro-union group had been in talks with Cambridge Analytica. </p><p dir="ltr">Ramsay also said that Cambridge Analytica had told him about the Scottish National Party’s “army of supporters” and “sophisticated database” and joked about hacking SNP data.</p><p dir="ltr">Ramsay made the comments last November during a Scotland in Union fundraising dinner in the Caledonian club in London’s upmarket Belgravia. The £150 a head event was attended by a number of key Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat figures, including former Scottish deputy first minister Jim Wallace, Labour peer George Foulkes, and Jacob Rees Mogg’s wife, Helena. </p><p dir="ltr">During a speech after the dinner, Ramsay said: "The SNP have an army of supporters, and a sophisticated database - I know that from speaking to Cambridge Analytica the other day, who are not working for them, thank goodness.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica has been accused of illegally accessing data of 87m Facebook accounts during president Trump’s election campaign and of engaging in ‘dirty tricks’ in elections around the world. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to an undercover openDemocracy reporter after his speech at the Scotland in Union fundraising dinner, Ramsay confirmed that Scotland in Union was in talks with the group, but was unsure whether they would be able to afford to employ the firm. However, he later said in a phone call that his organisation had decided not to use Cambridge Analytica because of the controversy around the firm’s use of data in both the US and the UK.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time of SiU’s announcement, the firm was best known for running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, for which it has been accused of stirring racism and Islamophobia.</p><p dir="ltr">But Ramsay said that Scotland in Union was interested in data analytics and even joked about hiring “a hacker to get into the SNP’s data.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica has dominated headlines in Scotland in recent weeks. Last week Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted the SNP had met the company in 2016 but decided not to use them. In <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-43822311">a testy debate</a> in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused the SNP leader of looking “pretty shifty” in her party’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica. </p><p dir="ltr">Davidson has lent her support to Scotland in Union, and was one of dozens of MSPs that <a href="https://www.scotlandinunion.co.uk/manifesto_pledges">signed the pro-union groups ‘charter’</a> ahead of the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. </p><p dir="ltr">Shortly after the London dinner, Scotland in Union was plunged into <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pro-union-donors-named-in-data-leak-xbc2sh25h">crisis</a>, as someone <a href="http://www.thenational.scot/news/15811372.Scotland_in_Union_face_questions_as_we_reveal_foreign_billionaire_s_donation/">leaked</a> their whole database to a group of pro-independence news outlets, revealing among other things that they had received £15,000 from a foreign national. </p><p dir="ltr">As a result of the leak, the organisation was investigated by the <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15920822.Unionist_campaign_accused_of_trying_to__intimidate__watchdog/">Electoral Commission</a> for a potential breach of election law – though it claimed the money wasn’t included in the £100,000 they have spent on Scottish elections in recent years.</p><p dir="ltr">It is understood that Scotland in Union’s Will Ramsay was introduced to a representative from Cambridge Analytica at a business mentoring event in London but the pro-union outfit says it rebuffed later requests for a meeting with chief executive Pamela Nash because of concerns about Cambridge Analytica and their work.</p><p dir="ltr">“We have never worked with Cambridge Analytica or any other organisation of its kind,” a spokesperson for Scotland in Union said. </p><p dir="ltr">An SNP spokesperson said that the revelations about Scotland in Union having talks with Cambridge Analytica were “serious”, adding,</p><p dir="ltr">“CA have also spoken about meetings they have had in Scotland. These weren’t with the SNP, so who were they meeting and did anyone hire them? Pro-Brexit campaigners in Scotland need to say whether they were involved, as this comes on top of the murky donations funnelled to the Leave campaign through the DUP by the Scottish Tory-lined Constitutional Research Council.”</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives said: “The Scottish Conservatives have never had any contact with Cambridge Analytica, and don’t work with Scotland in Union.”</p><p dir="ltr">Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said:</p><p dir="ltr">"The hypocrisy here is really quite galling. The same politicians who have spent a week attacking another party for meeting Cambridge Analytica before deciding not to work with them are themselves closely associated with another organisation which has done exactly the same thing. </p><p dir="ltr">“Given the strong links between Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians and Scotland in Union, I am sure they will now make the same demands of 'disclosure' from SiU that they have of others. And I'm sure we'd all appreciate some clarity from Labour and the Conservatives as to their links while they're at it, given that they are the only parties who have failed to clarify whether or not they have ever used Cambridge Analytica's services."</p><p dir="ltr">At a separate press conference in London yesterday, Cambridge Analytica spokesperson Clarence Mitchell said that “the SNP were very keen to work with Cambridge Analytica” but the Brexit referendum got in the way.</p><p dir="ltr">“There were a series of contacts,” Mitchell said. “The SNP were happy to have those discussions.”</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nathan-oxle/cambridge-analytica-hacked-our-social-lives-to-win-elections-but-more-is-at-stake-than-v">Cambridge Analytica hacked our social lives to win elections - but more is at stake than votes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/marcus-gilroy-ware/cambridge-analytica-outrage-is-real-story">Cambridge Analytica: the outrage is the real story</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Tue, 24 Apr 2018 17:30:15 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 117470 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In 2015, Arron Banks’s insurance business was bailed out. Where the rescue money came from is unclear—but as the Electoral Commission probes the sources of the Leave donor’s campaign contributions, a group of accountants who specialise in offshore “wealth preservation” may hold the key.</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-26717630_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-26717630_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks (left) with Nigel Farage (centre), the day after the UK voted to leave the EU. Image, Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">On 19 October 2017, Alan Kentish was arrested.</p><p dir="ltr">The chief executive officer of STM Group, which specialises in offshore “wealth preservation”, was detained by the Royal Gibraltar Police under the Proceeds of Crime Act. They were investigating whether he had failed to notify the authorities of potential money-laundering by one of STM’s clients. </p><p>Following his arrest, Kentish, who was released on police bail but remains a suspect in Gibraltar, resigned his directorships of two companies linked to multimillionaire Brexit donor Arron Banks.</p><p>Closely associated with Banks for more than a decade, Kentish and STM have drawn attention from authorities in several of the offshore tax havens where they operate. Kentish is appealing a directorship ban in Malta, while regulators in Jersey censured STM after probing its efforts to procure a St Kitts and Nevis passport for a Ukrainian politician on Interpol’s wanted list.</p><p dir="ltr">Now an investigation by SourceMaterial reveals that Kentish and other STM-linked directors were key figures in a bailout of Banks’s Gibraltar-based insurance business Southern Rock that began in 2015, just months before Banks began bankrolling the Leave.EU referendum campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">The mystery cash injection was critical to the survival of Banks’s insurance empire, the foundation of his wealth. Without it, it is hard to see how he could have funded his political donations while keeping the business afloat.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has declined to answer questions about the origin of the bailout funds, while a spokesman for STM said the company did not supply the money or have any direct connection with the rescue.</p><p dir="ltr">As the Electoral Commission <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/electoral-commission-statement-regarding-better-for-the-country-limited-and-mr-arron-banks">examines</a> the source of Banks’s £8.4 million in donations to the Leave campaign, the role of Kentish and other STM-linked figures—who presided over the bailout and were in a position to know where the money came from—may offer new clues to how Brexit was financed.</p><p dir="ltr">Andrew Wigmore, a spokesman for Banks, said our emailed questions were “baseless” and evidence of a “biased hatchet job” but declined to go into further detail. He said in an interview with <a href="https://www.byline.com/column/67/article/2073">Byline</a> in March that Banks paid for his Brexit campaign with proceeds of the sale of NewLaw Group, a law firm Banks partly owned. Wigmore did not elaborate on how Banks was able to bail out Southern Rock.</p><p><a href="https://investegate.co.uk/stm-group-plc--stm-/rns/director-declaration/201711141146274660W/">STM has said</a> the Gibraltar investigation relates to a client company of STM and it expects Kentish to be exonerated.</p><h2>Mister Big</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks, the man behind the GoSkippy car insurance brand, has never been shy about his wealth, often using an internet chatroom to brag about racehorses, diamond mines and jet-setting holidays. His username: Mister Big.</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“When I last looked I had”—reads a typical post from April 2014—“a direct insurance group, a gold mining operation in Ghana, four diamond mines in Kimberley (one in Lesotho), a country park complete with beautiful wedding venue, classic car collection, numerous land holdings (including building land acquired at the bottom of the market), a modest art collection and horrendous insomnia brought on by too much port, cigar and a seafood salad last night.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">But much of the image was a mirage. As he lavished cash on Brexit, a series of offshore manoeuvres was underway to save a key company in his empire, Southern Rock Insurance, from bankruptcy.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, when a spectacular £1 million pledge to Ukip signalled his arrival in British politics, Banks was already firmly on the radar of authorities in Gibraltar. Finances at his Southern Rock Insurance Company had been shaky for years and now regulators feared a meltdown.</p><p dir="ltr">As the underwriter for policies sold by Banks’s UK insurance broker Eldon, Southern Rock was the cornerstone of his insurance empire. If it folded, Eldon would be crippled too, leaving hundreds of thousands of UK customers with car insurance not worth the paper it was written on. </p><p dir="ltr">Southern Rock’s accounts from as far back as 2011 had warned that it was “<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373954159/accounts-2011-technically-insolvent-pdf">technically insolvent</a>” and by the following year it was such dire straits that Banks had <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373954218/List-of-assets-assigned-by-Rock-Holdings-to-Southern-Rock">pledged land and sold shares</a> to shore up its capital. The company’s own auditors made clear in 2013 that it was <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373954156/auditors-going-concern-12-pdf">dependent on the mercy of the watchdog</a> for survival. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the regulators made Southern Rock <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373954154/Amendment-to-Southern-Rock-s-articles-of-association">promise not to make any payments</a> to Banks without their prior written consent and hired accountants PwC to assess the company’s vulnerability to shocks.</p><p dir="ltr">When in 2014 PwC’s findings confirmed their fears about Southern Rock’s fragility, Banks was pushed to <a href="https://www.globalreinsurance.com/gibraltar-based-southern-rock-directors-step-down-after-regulatory-probe-/1409043.article">resign</a> as chief executive officer, along with another director and longstanding associate—Alan Kentish.</p><h2>Dramatic rescue</h2><p dir="ltr">By 2015, as the Brexit referendum neared and Banks’ political fortunes went from strength to strength, Southern Rock was teetering on the edge. The rescue, when it came, was dramatic.</p><p dir="ltr">ICS Risk Solutions, a holding company on the Isle of Man, <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373714177/Southern-Rock-Insurance-Company-Ltd-2015-accounts">agreed</a> to pump £77.7 million into Southern Rock to save it from collapse. In return, ICS would take a slice of the Gibraltar company’s future income. </p><p>The capital injection allowed the loss-making Southern Rock to meet new EU solvency regulations for insurance companies, described by Banks as “a good example of something no one really wants” being imposed by Brussels.</p><p dir="ltr">Because Banks owned both ICS and Southern Rock, it is not clear where the new money came from. But the arrival of the funds coincided with changes to the management of ICS.</p><p dir="ltr">Corporate records show that in April 2015, the day before the initial rescue deal, Louise Kentish, the wife of STM’s boss, <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717866/ICS-directors-2015">joined the ICS board</a>. On 24 June 2016, the day after the referendum, Alan Kentish <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717784/ICS-directors-2016">followed</a>, along with two other new directors—the former and current chairmen of STM. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Banks’s ties to Kentish and STM go back to at least 2004, when Kentish became a founding director of Southern Rock. Banks in turn invested in STM and was its largest shareholder before selling his stake in early 2015. More recently, Kentish, Banks and another STM founder co-invested in Legal Protection Group, a broker of insurance for lawyers and doctors that operates from Banks’s Bristol headquarters.</p><p dir="ltr">The arrival of Banks’s longstanding STM contacts at ICS at the time it found the money to save Southern Rock suggests they may hold the secret to the real source of the bailout funds that ensured Bank’s financial survival as he pumped millions into Leave.EU.</p><p dir="ltr">Public records suggest there may be an undeclared shareholder in ICS. Banks has said he owns 90 per cent of the company, with management and staff holding the rest. But the filings state he owns less—between 50 per cent and 75 per cent—with no information on the remainder. Banks declined to answer questions about the holdings.</p><p dir="ltr">SourceMaterial understands that Gibraltar’s Financial Services Commission is closely monitoring the arrangement between ICS and Southern Rock. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">STM’s spokesman, who also responded on behalf of Kentish and the other STM directors, said the rescue “did not involve STM in any way”. He also suggested the bailout was spread over several years to mend the balance sheet without a single large cash injection. He did not address the origin of the funds.</p><h2>Offshore controversies</h2><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/Alan Kentish.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Alan Kentish.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'>Alan Kentish with colleague Therese Neish. Image, YouTube, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Kentish and STM specialise in keeping secrets. A core line of STM’s business is setting up offshore trusts, opaque financial structures that make it difficult to trace who ultimately owns the assets in them.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2002 STM was sued by the UK tax authorities after it set up a trust for an alleged fraudster suspected of masterminding a £100 million VAT scam. Kentish’s arrest in Gibraltar, after which he resigned as a director of Legal Protection Group and ICS, is one of several subsequent brushes with the authorities.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Early in 2017, STM’s Gibraltar offices received a visit from local regulators, who didn’t like what they saw. Later that year they told STM they were “fundamentally concerned” about its compliance with anti-money-laundering rules, according to Gibraltar court filings. STM tried to block publication of the proceedings, the documents show.</p><p dir="ltr">Particularly worrying to the regulators was the use of STM services to invest pension savings in the Trafalgar Multi Asset Fund, which collapsed in 2016 and is now <a href="https://www.collascrill.com/news/updates/suspicious-minds/">under investigation</a> by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office.</p><p dir="ltr">Angie Brooks, a director of Pension Life, an advocacy group for pension holders, said that STM should have spotted the red flags in the pension debacle. “It was the most toxic mix imaginable. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and it should have been prevented."</p><p dir="ltr">STM denies any wrongdoing and is not under investigation itself. Liquidators are attempting to salvage the funds but savers have potentially lost millions.&nbsp;</p><h2>Ukrainian politician</h2><p dir="ltr">It wasn’t just Gibraltar. In 2015, STM became the <a href="https://www.collascrill.com/news/updates/suspicious-minds/">first company in Jersey</a> to be prosecuted for money-laundering compliance failures.</p><p dir="ltr">STM was managing operations for Henley &amp; Partners, whose business includes helping rich foreign nationals acquire citizenship of tax havens in return for investment—and whose chairman reportedly has <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/cambridge-analytica-british-data-firm-offered-1m-bribe-to-turn-election-psmv359vh">ties to Cambridge Analytica</a>, the election advisor accused of misusing Facebook data and entrapping politicians to skew elections around the world.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2010, STM had used its Henley business to help a Ukrainian politician apply for a passport in St Kitts and Nevis. Viacheslav Suprunenko, son-in-law of the mayor of Kiev and brother of a senior figure in the Moscow-backed Party of Regions, was at the time wanted by Interpol for assault during armed robbery to recover documents in a business dispute. (No charges have been brought.)</p><p dir="ltr">When Suprunenko asked STM to route his payments through offshore vehicles apparently unconnected to him, the company was suspicious enough to refuse the transactions—but failed to report them to the authorities.</p><p dir="ltr">A Henley spokeswoman told SourceMaterial that the company ended its relationship with STM in 2012. “When it comes to politically-exposed figures, we start from the position that any such person automatically requires even greater diligence including a thorough and independent review of friends and family,” she said. “If any criminal activity is suspected, we will immediately decline the applicant.”</p><h2>Money-laundering risks</h2><p dir="ltr">It was just one of a string of incidents in which STM turned a blind eye to money-laundering risks.</p><p dir="ltr">In a period of less than 18 months, junior STM staff filed internal suspicious activity reports on 19 individuals or entities. Only three of these were acknowledged by STM’s compliance officer and none was passed to the island’s financial crimes unit.</p><p dir="ltr">While STM was eventually acquitted in the money-laundering prosecution, it received an<a href="https://www.jerseyfsc.org/media/1101/public-statement-stm-july-2015.pdf"> official order</a> from Jersey’s financial regulator to clean up its behaviour. Its money-laundering compliance officer was banned from holding a regulated position in Jersey.</p><p dir="ltr">In another offshore haven, Malta, the story was much the same.</p><p dir="ltr">Twice in the last two years STM has been fined and officially rebuked, while Kentish was temporarily banned from holding management jobs for failing to inform the regulator when he was forced by the Gibraltar regulator to resign his directorship of Banks’s Southern Rock. STM and Kentish are appealing the sanctions.</p><p dir="ltr">“STM and its officers ensure a strong culture of corporate governance and compliance with industry regulation,” the company’s spokesman said. “This extends across internal and external relationships ensuring that risks to the business are minimised and that products and services are delivered appropriately.”</p><h2>New questions</h2><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;STM also played a cameo in the Brexit movement. Better for the Country Ltd, one of two campaign vehicles that received Banks’ £8.4 million in donations, was <a href="https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/document-api-images-prod/docs/J22VO6IwI5BUTD8yGb4wy-KF3yn5SY0450qcd8ARhds/application-pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=ASIAII5UKPTAP7NZOLMA&amp;Expires=1521823382&amp;Signature=JEtO16EHfsJhwujlFMJyHrnhBwM%3D&amp;x-amz-security-token=FQoDYXdzEC4aDFYkZALUJLFVOeYoQCK3A7GnteoYv61JtlQWmCGz%2B%2FEI96CZUpJ0iCpDCCPiz%2F3mpObhoL1ylarxFYeloiSOY%2Bn57bWrzMOSbDCrhn7%2FSo7r7U0SbieK9ivQEf8rmF0hATPk7mAIDw6KcfSJ%2FUR2mGSIF4gKgmhHkhcdEpzl9GocSbLLMMgUasyhOA7B7n6KHSLE4ZXKA4DmvrJ1BfWgiAQfoizNSCYzkaR9PsXO%2F0LLN3PLE9b3Hd0opLO%2BYTBAamY5XOclo0xRCvXtObi7f081%2FMu8WLG%2Bykb0grQdGz6BXlZZpCRYdQoLpjebt9i%2BlbzeMQk9GUps30IC3Xu3v26eYBTJcqdAyagLqjDJgMsBCL25r2GALbpkVL9h4O9d4oggqj5bNXFy%2FzMb%2FhpWaLXLwE%2F3EkHUEqQAa40RZ3Q8wdiP%2FlxIymJXbT4rerHb0qIJYvM83Vk0oE4gsIzYHuwykzPG5ydIRalhR%2Fmg5vuYOoWdUV72aiYnHQ76vs16mdR0IvufkYQNJ0o1yI28ACKRVs3HVM4kXGjr11ky%2B%2F0gW%2FZ4DkxhQkXwwEzFN0WJ7BrIDlHdK0ccE2c5KQry9Zr%2B044ZbPso6vTT1QU%3D">set up</a> by an STM Group company.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks’s links to Alan Kentish and the STM set whose speciality is using offshore havens to guard wealthy clients’ secrets raise new questions about his Brexit campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission has set out to trace the ultimate source of the millions Banks put into Leave.EU and Better for the Country, the company STM founded.</p><p dir="ltr">But with cash flowing through island tax havens whose stock in trade is stealth, the answer may prove elusive.</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/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-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 ourNHS DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Leigh Baldwin Marcus Leroux Thu, 12 Apr 2018 15:48:29 +0000 Marcus Leroux and Leigh Baldwin 117236 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The ‘bad boy’ who bankrolled Brexit says he’s struck it lucky in Africa. But do his claims of a ‘significant find’ stand up? And who’s he been doing business with there?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Arron Banks Nigel Farage.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Arron Banks Nigel Farage.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks with Nigel Farage: two of "the bad boys of Brexit". Image, Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images</span></span></span></strong>Arron Banks, the insurance mogul whose millions helped nudge the United Kingdom out of the European Union, appears to have backed another winner—this time in Africa. </p> <p>In September 2017, the former UK Independence Party backer and close friend of its ex-leader Nigel Farage announced a “significant find” at his diamond prospecting concessions in the tiny kingdom of Lesotho.</p> <p>“The area around the latest find has already produced some of the world’s most beautiful and clear stones,” Banks told the<a href="https://www.economicvoice.com/brexit-businessman-arron-banks-in-major-lesotho-diamond-find/"> Economic Voice</a>, a website run by a one-time Ukip candidate. “Judging by our initial exploration I am confident it won’t be too long before we find similar large diamonds.”</p> <p>Banks says his Lesotho find is “spearheading the revival of the kingdom's diamond industry”. But an investigation by SourceMaterial and openDemocracy suggests this claim may be considerably overstated.</p> <p>Our investigation also found blurred lines between Banks’s Lesotho diamond business and his election campaigning. Directors of his mining company are linked to the politicians he is advising, while their party accepted a generous donation from Banks when it was ostensibly paying him for his advice.</p> <p>Last year, openDemocracy’s<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit"> reporting on Banks’s finances</a> prompted Labour MP<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/mary-fitzgerald/brexit-dark-money-expose-triggers-mps-question-on-foreign-interference"> Ben Bradshaw to ask</a> in parliament about “the role of dark money in the EU referendum” and the Electoral Commission is inquiring into the<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit"> ultimate source</a> of the £8.4 million Banks ploughed into his Leave.EU campaign.</p> <p>His diamond claims come amid suggestions by Banks that he will fund a<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jan/21/nigel-farage-and-ex-ukip-donor-in-talks-over-new-political-project"> new Farage-fronted political movement</a>, described as “<a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/14/ukip-suspends-donor-aaron-banks-party/">Ukip 2.0</a>, the Force Awakens”. A return by the pair to frontline British politics, particularly in the wake of recent<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/carolecadwalladr"> allegations about other pro-Brexit groups</a>, is likely to renew focus on the sources of Banks’s wealth.</p> <p>Banks declined to answer our detailed questions about his investments and political ties in Lesotho, calling our reporting a “political attack” without commenting further.</p> <h2><strong>Disputed value</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Mokhotlong-Centre-and-Airport-2009.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Mokhotlong-Centre-and-Airport-2009.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mokhotlong, home of the Letseng diamond mine. By Bjørn Christian Tørrissen - Own work by uploader, http://bjornfree.com/galleries.html, CC BY-SA 3.0.</span></span></span></p><p>Lesotho is home to some of the world’s richest diamond deposits. In January one of the biggest diamonds in history, a<a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lesotho-mine-diamond-20180115-story.html"> 900 carat monster</a> the size of a couple of golf balls, was unearthed at Letseng, the country’s flagship mine. </p> <p>Letseng is high in Lesotho’s mountains, home to diamond-bearing rock known as kimberlite. But there is no kimberlite where Banks is digging. Instead, he is exploring Lesotho’s rivers for alluvial diamonds—gems washed downstream from the big mine sites over millions of years of erosion. He is not the first to try this and historical data suggests his chances may be slim.</p> <p>A document seen by SourceMaterial and openDemocracy shows that between 1960 and 1979, at a site near to where Banks is exploring, just three tiny stones were found after more than 1,000 cubic metres of earth were moved. Their total weight was 0.7 carats, giving them a value of only a few hundred dollars.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Anyone who thinks they can find diamonds there is delusional</p> <p>It is geologically impossible for Banks to find gems in commercial quantities, says Keith Whitelock, a geologist and expert on Lesotho diamonds who developed the Letseng mine.</p> <p>Lesotho’s unique geology means alluvial diamonds are only usually found within two or three kilometres of the diamond-bearing rock, according to Whitelock. But Banks is prospecting near Lesotho’s South African border, around 200 kilometres downstream.</p> <p>“Anyone who thinks they can find diamonds there is delusional,” Whitelock said.</p> <p>Banks has hired his own geologist, who disputes this view.</p> <p>“Whitelock is the authority on diamonds in Lesotho so everything he says is pretty much gospel but what can I tell you, we’ve recovered diamonds there,” said Hunter Kennedy, the expert employed by Banks. “In my mind it’s very logical.”</p> <p>Stones found at Banks’s prospecting sites have been taken to the capital, Maseru, for valuation, Kennedy said. So far, there are not enough diamonds to determine whether the venture can make money and it is not yet clear if the find is a freak occurrence or the start of something bigger.</p> <p>”He may find the odd one just by chance,” said Whitelock. “But he’s going to have to mine thousands of tonnes to find one diamond and unless you can count your diamonds per tonne or per hundred tonnes you’ve got nothing.”</p> <p>“I think they should keep digging,” Kennedy said.</p> <h2><strong>‘Protect the sponsor’</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Banks and Pryor waving BNP rally Lesotho.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Banks and Pryor waving BNP rally Lesotho.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Banks and Pryor waving to a BNP stadium rally in Lesotho. Image, Facebook, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p>There is more to Banks’s Lesotho interests than precious stones. He has emerged as a funder of the Basotho National Party: the BNP is a key ally of the prime minister of Lesotho and part of the ruling coalition.&nbsp; </p><p>In 2015, Banks’s election strategy firm Chartwell Political said it was advising the centre-right BNP on its election strategy. Tweets and Facebook posts from the time show Banks “burning the midnight oil” on the campaign trail and posing for selfies with his business partner James Pryor at a stadium rally.</p> <p>openDemocracy and SourceMaterial’s investigation has found that Banks’s relationship with the BNP went deeper that just attending campaign events. Directors of his local mining company are close business associates of the family of John Thesele Maseribane, the leader of the BNP.</p> <p>At the same time, Banks was bankrolling the BNP, donating more around £65,000 to its election fund, according to emails leaked to Public Eye, a local news outlet in Lesotho. Banks’ associates had specifically asked for the money to be deposited in an account not linked to the party, Maseribane told Public Eye.</p> <p>“I was trying to protect the sponsor,” Maseribane was quoted as saying. “If a sponsor requests a very confidential transaction devoid of noises, then that’s the route we’ll take. If the sponsor says please protect me, that’s what we’ll do.” Maseribane did not respond to telephone calls and messages left with his office.</p> <p>Pryor, who runs Chartwell and helped establish Banks’s African operations, confirmed that Banks was a donor. The emails were leaked “selectively”, probably by “someone with an agenda to discredit either the BNP or John Maseribane”, Pryor said.</p> <p>In reply to later questions, Pryor said he was no longer working with Banks in Africa. He had helped Banks get set up in Lesotho and their business relationship had come to a “natural end”, though they were still in touch, he said.</p> <h2><strong>Bad Boys in Africa</strong></h2> <p>Pryor, a key associate of Banks and one of five original “Bad Boys of Brexit” described in Banks’ book about the campaign, has a long history of mixing mining and politics in Africa. </p> <p>He has been advising political parties there since the late 1980s, first working for South Africa’s last apartheid leader, F.W. de Klerk, and later for the Inkatha Freedom Party. A 2012 photo shows him posing with an AK-47 on the campaign trail in Libya, while other trips have taken him to Zimbabwe, Ghana and Nigeria.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/James Pryor with AK 47 in Libya.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/James Pryor with AK 47 in Libya.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>James Pryor with an AK47 in Libya. Image, Facebook, fair use.</span></span></span> In the UK, he worked on campaigns for Margaret Thatcher and the Referendum party (a precursor to the Brexit movement), as well as running Ukip’s 2010 general election campaign. Later he struck a partnership with Matthew Gunther-Bushell, who represented Bell Pottinger in 2009 as the PR firm attempted to protect the Bahrain government’s image during a crackdown on human rights. </p> <p>When Banks launched his self-proclaimed “guerrilla war” for Brexit, it was Pryor who connected Leave.EU with Goddard Gunster, the American PR firm that embedded workers at Leave.EU campaign headquarters to help with polling and social media strategy. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Electoral Commission is investigating potential “impermissible donations” from Goddard Gunster to Banks’s campaign, according to a March 19<a href="https://gallery.mailchimp.com/8d465e9ef1a8030aadf046685/files/eb2a22b5-c397-4741-8869-0794243c8244/Letter_to_The_EC_19th_March_2018.pdf?mc_cid=291bbbe6b0&amp;mc_eid=f16214f05d"> letter</a> to the commission from Elizabeth Bilney, Leave.EU’s chief executive.</p> <p>Nicknamed the Happy Hippy, Pryor also played the unlikely role of grown-up when the Bad Boys’ high jinks got out of hand.</p> <p>“You can’t fuck this guy off. He’s a real big shot in the United States,” Pryor wrote to Banks when the hungover tycoon almost stood up a Goddard Gunster founder who had flown to meet him in the Bahamas, according to Banks’s book. “I’ve worked my arse off to persuade this guy to see you. For Christ’s sake, sober up!”</p> <p>And it was Pryor who developed the business model that Banks is now deploying in Lesotho, beginning two decades earlier in Sierra Leone.</p> <h2><strong>High-level contact</strong></h2> <p>Pryor arrived in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, in 2000, just as a decade of civil war was drawing to a close. With him was Nick Karras, a notorious Greek-American gem merchant who had few qualms about blood diamonds because “the blood washes off”.</p> <p>A brash, hard-drinking extrovert, Karras hired a private jet to fly him and Pryor into the war zone. At home in America he drove Bentleys and Aston Martins<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/374941718/Putnam-vs-Karras"> until $100,000 in unpaid rental bills landed him in court</a>. Later he lost a $5 million legal action when a business partner sued him for fraud.</p> <p>Karras and Pryor struck up a relationship with the spokesman of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party, Septimus Kaikai: Pryor became the party’s political adviser, while Karras used their high-level contact to advance his diamond deals.</p> <p>It seems to have paid off. The Sierra Leone government granted Karras its first export licence after the wartime diamond embargo and appointed both him and Pryor to honorary diplomatic posts in the Bahamas, where they later sailed a luxury yacht together.&nbsp; </p><p>“I have made many friends and business acquaintances over the last 30 years of working in Africa,” Pryor said. “I have worked on numerous election campaigns and also on numerous business deals. All have been above board, legit and open.” Karras did not respond to emailed questions.</p> <h2><strong>Ostriches of the Cosa Nostra</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Struthio_camelus_-_Etosha_2014_(3).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Struthio_camelus_-_Etosha_2014_(3).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>By Yathin S Krishnappa - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.</span></span></span></p> <p>Based on that success, Karras and Pryor exported the model to South Africa, where they forged similar ties with Inkatha Freedom Party MP Eric Lucas, now a director of two of Banks’s mining companies.</p> <p>Lucas is a controversial figure. His associates include a businessman who co-owned an ostrich farm linked to the Italian mafia, and documents seen by SourceMaterial suggest he was in line to receive shares in Gold Fields, a mining company at the<a href="https://mg.co.za/article/2013-09-20-00-gold-fields-graft-shaft-went-deeper"> centre of a corruption scandal</a>, while lobbying on its behalf. No charges were brought.</p> <p>It wasn’t the first time Lucas had appeared to misuse his position for financial gain. In 2005, he and another Inkatha MP floated Table Mountain Minerals on London’s junior stock exchange, telling shareholders they would identify mining opportunities and then serve as partners in the investments.&nbsp; </p><p>With Lucas sitting on parliament’s mining committee, it was a glaring conflict of interest. When his party’s leader found out about his business activities it nearly ended the MP’s career, according to two senior Inkatha insiders who spoke to SourceMaterial.</p> <p>The deal was shut down—though corporate documents show that Pryor was also set for a payout from Table Mountain. And it did not stop Lucas serving as local partner to his friends: Pryor, Karras and Banks.&nbsp; </p><p>“The relationship with Eric Lucas was legal and ethical,” Pryor said. “I've known Eric for over 25 years. He was, and still is, a very good family friend.” Lucas declined to answer questions.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>Mixing business with politics</strong></h2> <p>Banks’s long relationship with Pryor, who has a history of crossing business with politics, and the secretive donation to the BNP in Lesotho will raise new questions about the crossover between Banks’s business and political interests—though it seems that Lesotho diamonds were not among the sources of his Brexit cash.</p> <p>Banks has strongly denied that any dark money was involved in the Leave campaign—especially in light of speculation of Russian influence on Brexit.&nbsp; </p><p>Just two months after the referendum, Pryor—Brexit ‘bad boy’ and former campaign manager to Nigel Farage’s Ukip—was in Moscow, a Red Square selfie from his Facebook feed shows.</p> <p>He told SourceMaterial and openDemocracy he was there on “private business—none of your business”. As Pryor’s business is politics, his answer may not rule out a political purpose to the trip.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/we-cant-ignore-patels-background-in-britains-lobbying-industry">We can&#039;t ignore Priti Patel&#039;s background in lobbying</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Marcus Leroux Billy Ntaote Peter Geoghegan Leigh Baldwin Thu, 29 Mar 2018 13:15:27 +0000 Leigh Baldwin, Marcus Leroux, Peter Geoghegan and Billy Ntaote 116958 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>You can't understand the Cambridge Analytica scandal until you understand what its parent company does.</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/553846/640px-UStanks_baghdad_2003.JPEG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-UStanks_baghdad_2003.JPEG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>US tanks arriving in Baghdad in 2003, by Technical Sergeant John L. Houghton, Jr., United States Air Force, public domain.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">"The Gulf War Did Not Take Place". This audacious claim was made by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard in March 1991, only two months after NATO forces had rained explosives on Iraq, shedding the blood of more than a hundred thousand people.</p><p dir="ltr">To understand Cambridge Analytica and its parent firm, Strategic Communication Laboratories, we need to get our heads round what Baudrillard meant, and what has happened since: how military propaganda has changed with technology, how war has been privatised, and how imperialism is coming home.</p><p dir="ltr">Baudrillard's argument centred on the fact that NATO's action in the Gulf was the first time audiences in Western countries had been able to watch a war live, on rolling TV news – CNN had become the first 24-hour news channel in 1980. Because camera crews were embedded with American troops, by whom they were effectively censored, the coverage had little resemblance to the reality of the bombardment of Iraq and Kuwait. The events known to Western audiences as "The Gulf War"&nbsp;–&nbsp;symbolised by camera footage from 'precision' missiles and footage of military hardware&nbsp;–&nbsp;are more accurately understood as a movie directed from the Pentagon. They were so removed from the gore-splattered reality that it's an abuse of language to call them the same thing. Hence, the "Gulf War" did not take place.</p><p dir="ltr"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="315" width="560" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RhpgCaPoBaE"></iframe> <i>(You can see a classic example of this footage courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel)</i></p><p dir="ltr">Not long after Baudrillard’s iconic essay was published, Strategic Communications Laboratories was founded. "SCL Group provides data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organisations worldwide" reads the first line of its website. "For over 25 years, we have conducted behavioural change programmes in over 60 countries &amp; have been formally recognised for our work in defence and social change.”</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, military propaganda was nothing new. And nor is the extent to which it has evolved alongside changes in media technology and economics. The film Citizen Kane tells a fictionalised version of the first tabloid (or, as Americans call it, 'yellow journalism') war: how the circulation battle between William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World arguably drove the US into the 1889 Spanish American War. It was during this affair that Hearst reportedly told his correspondent, "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war", as parodied in Evelyn Waugh's <i>Scoop</i>. But after the propaganda disaster of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tet_Offensive">Tet Offensive</a> in Vietnam softened domestic support for the war, the military planners began to devise new ways to control media reporting.</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/553846/640px-Cholon_after_Tet_Offensive_operations_1968.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Cholon_after_Tet_Offensive_operations_1968.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Civilians sort through the ruins of their homes in Cholon, the heavily damaged Chinese section of Saigon. By Meyerson, Joel D, Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">As a result, when Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falklands in 1982, they pioneered a new technique for media control: embedding journalists with troops. And, as former BBC war reporter Caroline Wyatt <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/collegeofjournalism/entries/36887f1a-a3a8-3005-a642-1ce7dcccf60b">blogged</a>, "The lessons from embedding journalists with the Royal Navy during the Falklands war were taken up enthusiastically by military planners in both Washington and London for the First Gulf War in 1991."</p><p dir="ltr">The UK defence secretary during the Falklands War when the use of embedded journalists was pioneered was John Nott (who backed Brexit). As my colleague Caroline Molloy pointed out to me, his son-in-law is Tory MP Hugo Swire, former minister in both the Northern Ireland Office and the Foreign Office. Swire's <a href="http://www.thepeerage.com/p49322.htm" title="http://www.thepeerage.com/p49322.htm">cousin</a>&nbsp;–&nbsp;with whom he would have overlapped at Eton&nbsp;–&nbsp;is Nigel Oakes, founder of Strategic Communications Laboratories. It's not a conspiracy, just that the ruling class are all related.</p><p dir="ltr">But back to our history: by the time of the 2003 Iraq War, communications technology had moved on again. As the BBC's Caroline Wyatt explains in the same blog, "satellite communications are now much more sophisticated, meaning we almost always have our own means of communicating with London. That offers a crucial measure of independence, even if reports still have to be cleared for 'op sec' [operational security]. The almost total control by the military of the means of reporting in the Falklands would be unthinkable in most warzones today."</p><p dir="ltr">In February 2004, another major disruption in communications technology began: Facebook was founded. And with it came a whole new propaganda nightmare.</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time as this history was unfolding, though, something else vital was happening: neoliberalism.</p><p dir="ltr">Looked at one way, neoliberalism is the successor to geographical imperialism as the "most extreme form of capitalism". It used to be that someone with a small fortune to invest could secure the biggest return by paying someone else to sail overseas, subjugate or kill people (usually people of colour) and steal them and/or their stuff. But they couldn't keep expanding forever&nbsp;–&nbsp;the world is only so big. And so eventually, wealthy Western investors started to shift much of their focus from opening new markets in 'far off lands' to marketising new parts of life at home. Neoliberalism is also therefore this process of marketisation: of shifting decisions from one person one vote, to one pound (or dollar or Yen or Euro) one vote. Or, as Will Davies puts it: "<a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2017/04/30/essay-populism-and-the-limits-of-neoliberalism-by-william-davies/">the disenchantment of politics by economics</a>”.</p><p dir="ltr">The first Iraq War&nbsp;–&nbsp;the one that “did not take place”&nbsp;–&nbsp;coincided with a key stage in this process: the rapid marketisation (read 'asset stripping') of the collapsing Soviet Union, and so the successful encirclement of the globe by Western capital. The second Iraq War was notable for the acceleration of another key stage: the encroachment of market forces into the deepest corner of the state. During the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the campaign group War on Want, private military companies "burst onto the scene".</p><h2 dir="ltr">The privatisation of war</h2><p dir="ltr">In a 2016 report,&nbsp;<a href="https://waronwant.org/Mercenaries-Unleashed">War on Want</a> describes how the UK became the world centre for this mercenary industry. You might know G4S as the company which checks your gas meter, but they are primarily the world's largest mercenary firm, involved in providing 'security' in war zones across the planet (don’t miss my colleagues Clare Sambrook and Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/g4s-securing-whose-world">excellent investigations</a> of their work in the UK).</p><p dir="ltr">In Hereford alone, near the SAS headquarters, there are 14 mercenary firms, according to War on Want's report. At the height of the Iraq war, around 80 private companies were involved in the occupation. In 2003, when UK and US forces unleashed "shock and awe" both on the Iraqi people and on their own populations down cable TV wires, the Foreign Office spent £12.6m on British private security firms, according to official figures highlighted <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/03/britain-g4s-at-centre-of-global-mercenary-industry-says-charity">by the Guardian</a>. By 2012, that figure had risen to £48.9m. In 2015, G4S alone secured a £100m contract to provide security for the British embassy in Afghanistan.</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 2018-03-28 at 16.34.46.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 16.34.46.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="165" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">And just as the fighting was privatised, so too was the propaganda. In 2016,<a href="https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2016-10-02/fake-news-and-false-flags-how-the-pentagon-paid-a-british-pr-firm-500m-for-top-secret-iraq-propaganda"> the Bureau of Investigative Journalism</a> revealed that the Pentagon had paid around half a billion dollars to the British PR firm Bell Pottinger to deliver propaganda during the Iraq war. Bell Pottinger, famous for shaping Thatcher’s image, included among its clients Asma Al Assad, wife of the Syrian president. Part of their work was making fake Al Qaeda propaganda films. (The firm was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/sep/12/bell-pottinger-goes-into-administration">forced to close last year</a> because they made the mistake of deploying their tactics against white people).</p><p dir="ltr">Journalist Liam O’Hare<a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/"> has revealed</a> that Mark Turnbull, the SCL and Cambridge Analytica director who was filmed alongside Alexander Nix in the Channel4 sting, was employed by Bell Pottinger in Iraq in this period.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">The psychological operations wing of our privatised military: a mercenary propaganda agency.</p><p dir="ltr">Like Bell Pottinger, SCL saw the opportunity of the increasing privatisation of war. In his 2006 book “<a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=K1oiAQAAMAAJ&amp;q=%22strategic+communications+laboratories%22&amp;dq=%22strategic+communications+laboratories%22&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjThLW06o7aAhUkJ8AKHdSyBiAQ6AEINDAC">Britain’s Power Elites: The Rebirth of the Ruling Class</a>”, Hywel Williams wrote “It therefore seems only natural that a political communications consultancy, Strategic Communications Laboratories, should have now launched itself as the first private company to provide 'psyops' to the military.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">While much of what SCL has done for the military is secret, we do know (thanks, again, to<a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/"> O’Hare</a>) that it’s had contracts from the UK and US departments of defence amounting to (at the very least) hundreds of thousands of dollars. And a document from the National Defence Academy of Latvia that I<a href="http://www.naa.mil.lv/~/media/NAA/AZPC/Publikacijas/DSPC%20PP%201%20-%20NATO%20StratCom.ashx"> managed to dig out</a>, entitled “NATO strategic communication: more to be done?” tells us that they were operating in Afghanistan in 2010, and gives some clues about what they were up to:</p><p dir="ltr">“more detailed qualitative data gathering operation was being conducted in Maiwand Province by a British company, Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) is almost unique in the international contractor community in that it has a dedicated, and funded, behavioural research arm located in the prestigious home of British Science and research, The Royal Institute, London.”</p><p dir="ltr">In simple terms, the SCL Group – Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm – is the psychological operations wing of our privatised military: a mercenary propaganda agency.</p><p dir="ltr">The skills they developed in the context of warzones shouldn’t be overplayed, but nor should they be underplayed. As far as we can tell, just as the Pentagon used simple tools like choosing where to embed journalists during the Gulf War to spin its version of events, so they mastered the tools of modern communication: Facebook, online videos, data gathering and microtargeting. Such tools aren’t magic (and Anthony Barnett <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/how-should-we-think-about-roles-cambridge-analytica-facebook-russia-and-shady-billio">writes well</a> about the risks of implying that they are). They don’t on their own explain either Brexit or Trump (I wrote <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/remainers-dont-use-our-investigations-as-excuse">a plea</a> last year that Remainers in the UK don’t use our investigations as an excuse for failing to engage with the real reasons for the Leave vote). I wouldn’t even use the word “rigging” to describe the impact of these propaganda firms. But they are important.</p><p dir="ltr">As the<a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/data-democracy-and-dirty-tricks-cambridge-analytica-uncovered-investigation-expose"> Channel 4 undercover investigation</a> revealed, this work has often been carried out alongside more traditional smear tactics, and&nbsp;–&nbsp;as Chris Wylie explained&nbsp;–&nbsp;in partnership with another nexus in this world: Israel’s conurbation of private intelligence firms, a part of a burgeoning military industrial complex in the country which Israeli activist and writer<a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt183pct7"> Jeff Halper argues</a> is a key part of the country’s “parallel diplomacy” drive.</p><p dir="ltr">(Of course, this isn't unique to the UK and Israel. Until Cambridge Analytica achieved global infamy last week, the most prominent mercenary propaganda firm in the world was Peter Theil's company<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palantir_Technologies"> Palantir</a> (named after the all-seeing eye in Lord of the Rings). Theil, founder of PayPal (with Elon Musk) and an executive of Facebook, wrote a notorious<a href="https://www.cato-unbound.org/2009/04/13/peter-thiel/education-libertarian"> essay in 2009</a> arguing that female enfranchisement had made democracy untenable and that someone should therefore invent the technology to destroy it. Palantir’s most prominent clients are the United States Intelligence Community, and the US Department of Defence. Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie claimed this week that his firm had worked with Palantir. It’s also noteworthy that one of Palantir's shareholders is Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, former head of the British Army, and adviser to<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain"> Veterans for Britain, one of the groups which funnelled money to AggregateIQ</a> ahead of the European referendum. Guthrie also works for Acanum, one of the leading private intelligence agencies, who, in common with Cambridge Analytica's partners<a href="https://www.blackcube.com/board/"> Black Cube</a>,<a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/meir-dagan-corporate-spy/"> listed</a> Meyer Dagam, the former head of Mossad, as one of their advisers, until he died in 2016. Again, it's not a conspiracy, it's just that these guys all know each other. But I digress.)</p><p dir="ltr">Back to SCL: why are NATO's mercenary propagandists getting involved in the US presidential election and&nbsp;–&nbsp;if the growing body of evidence about the link between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ is to be believed&nbsp;–&nbsp;Brexit?</p><p dir="ltr">The obvious answer is surely partly true. They could make money doing so, and so they did. If you privatise war, don't be surprised if military firms start using the tools of war on 'their own' side. When Eisenhower warned of the Military Industrial Complex, he was thinking about physical weapons. But, just as unregulated semi-automatics invented for soldiers end up going off in American schools, it shouldn't be any kind of surprise that the weapons of information war are going off in Anglo-American votes.</p><p dir="ltr">But in a more general sense, this whole history is exactly what Brexit was about for many of the powerful people who pushed for it. As we’ve been investigating the secret donation which paid for the DUP Brexit campaign, we keep coming across this web of connections. Priti Patel worked for Bell Pottinger in Bahrain. Richard Cook, the front man for the secret donation to the DUP, set up a business in 2013 with the former head of Saudi intelligence and a Danish man involved in running guns to Hindu radicals who told us he was a spy. David Banks, who ran Veterans for Britain, worked in PR in the Middle East for four years – and Veterans for Britain more generally is full of these contacts.</p><p dir="ltr">I could go on. My suspicion is that this isn’t because there’s some kind of conspiracy revolving around a group of ex-spooks. It’s about the fact that power comes from networks of people, and the wing of the British ruling class which was in and around the military is moving rapidly into the world of privatised war. And those people have a strong ideological and material interest in radical right politics.</p><h2 dir="ltr">"The most corrupt country on Earth"</h2><p dir="ltr">Another way to see it is like this: Britain has lost most of its geographical empire. And most of our modern politics is about the ways in which different groups struggle to come to terms with that fact. For a large portion of the ruling establishment, this involves attempting to reprise the glory days by placing the country at the centre of two of the nexuses which define the modern era. </p><p dir="ltr">The UK and its Overseas Territories have already become by far the most significant network of tax havens and secrecy areas in the world, making us the global centre for money laundering and therefore, as Roberto Saviano, the leading expert on the mafia argues, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/may/29/roberto-saviano-london-is-heart-of-global-financial-corruption">most corrupt country on earth</a>. And just as countries with major oil industries have major oil lobbies, the UK has a major money laundry-lobby.</p><p dir="ltr">Pesky EU regulations have long frustrated the dreams of these people, who wish our island nation to move even further offshore and become even more of a tax haven. And so for some Brexiteers&nbsp;–&nbsp;this money laundry lobby&nbsp;–&nbsp;there was always strong incentive to back a Leave vote: European Research Group statements going back 25 years show as much.</p><p dir="ltr">But what the Cambridge Analytica affair reminds us of is that this is not just about the money laundry lobby (nor the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/big-agriculture-s-brexiteers-are-pulling-wool-over-our-eyes">agrochemical lobby</a>). Another group with a strong interest in pushing such deregulation, dimming transparency, hyping Islamophobia in America and turning peoples against each other is our flourishing mercenary complex – one of the only other industries in which Britain leads the world. And so it's no surprise that its propaganda wing has turned the skills it's learned in war towards its desired political outcomes.</p><p dir="ltr">In his essay, Baudrillard argued that his observations about the changes in military propaganda told us something about the then new post-Cold War era. Only two years after Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web, he wrote a sentence which, for me, teaches us more about the Cambridge Analytica story than much of the punditry that we've seen since: "just as wealth is no longer measured by the ostentation of wealth but by the secret circulation of capital, so war is not measured by being unleashed but by its speculative unfolding in an abstract, electronic and informational space."</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise your military propaganda operation. It walked into the space created when social media killed journalism. It is yet another example of tools developed to subjugate people elsewhere in the world being used on the domestic populations of the Western countries in which they were built. It marks the point at which neoliberal capitalism reaches its zenith, and ascends to<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali"> surveillance capitalism</a>. And the best possible response is to create a democratic media which can’t be bought by propagandists.</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="/anthony-barnett/how-should-we-think-about-roles-cambridge-analytica-facebook-russia-and-shady-billio">How should we think about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Russia and shady billionaires</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali">The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/David-Burnside-Putin-Russia-DUP-Brexit-Donaldson-Vincent-Tchenguiz">Is there a link between Cambridge Analytica and the DUP’s secret Brexit donors?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/edward-wilson/from-falklands-to-brexit-cut-price-jingoism">From the Falklands to Brexit: cut-price Jingoism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Wed, 28 Mar 2018 16:44:30 +0000 Adam Ramsay 116936 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Crimes' committed by Brexit campaigners? One extraordinary coincidence offers a new clue https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-evidence-that-leave-groups-co-ordinated-to-get-round-re <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Did Vote Leave abuse the rules to 'spend as much as necessary' to win? We've uncovered a small but revealing error which calls into question all their denials.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Chris Wylie.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Chris Wylie.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="248" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytics whistleblower Chris Wylie gives evidence in the House of Commons today. Image, House of Commons.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In April 2016, Aggregate IQ was a tiny digital services firm working out of a cramped office in British Columbia, Canada. The company had no web presence and no obvious track record. Yet over the final two months of the Brexit campaign, several pro-Leave campaign groups (Vote Leave, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Veterans for Britain</a> – and bizarrely, a 23 year old fashion student named&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Darren Grimes</a>) would spend over £3.5m with Aggregate IQ.</p><p dir="ltr">Why?</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking in parliament today, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump">Chris Wylie</a> said that all these Leave groups were working together – and breaking the law. “This must be co-ordination,” he told MPs. Under British law, there are strict campaign spending limits, and groups that ‘work together’ have to pool their spending under one combined cap.</p><p dir="ltr">But the various Leave groups all declared their spending with AIQ separately, and claim that the firm treated them as separate clients, without co-ordinating their campaigns. This allowed them to throw dramatically more cash than would othewise have been possible into winning the knife-edge Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">We now know that&nbsp;AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica – the firm behind Trump’s campaign which has been accused of a massive Facebook data breach – <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/24/brexit-whistleblower-shahmir-sanni-interview-vote-leave-cambridge-analytica">are closely intertwined</a>. AggregateIQ developed the very election software that Cambridge Analytica sold for millions of dollars during the <a href="https://gizmodo.com/aggregateiq-created-cambridge-analyticas-election-softw-1824026565">2016 US presidential election</a>. This raises the possibility that AIQ – the company that Vote Leave spent some 40% of their cash with – was using data illegally harvested from Facebook.</p><p>Jeff Silvester chief operating officer at AIQ said: “AggregateIQ works in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where we operate. AggregateIQ has never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica.”</p><h2>A strange new coincidence</h2><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has been reporting evidence that Leave groups were working together for months. Last year <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">we revealed</a> exactly how Vote Leave took advantage of loopholes in electoral law to funnel £625,000 to the 23-year old fashion student Darren Grimes. Grimes ran a campaign called BeLeave. Another whistleblower, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/24/brexit-whistleblower-shahmir-sanni-interview-vote-leave-cambridge-analytica">Shahmir Sanni</a>, has now revealed that BeLeave was run from Vote Leave’s offices, and had no control over the sudden, massive £625,000 donation, all of which was spent directly with AggregateIQ.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, openDemocracy has uncovered more information that casts serious doubt on Vote Leave’s contention that Grimes’s BeLeave was a separate campaign. Vote Leave and Darren Grimes made the <em>very same mistake</em> on their returns to the Electoral Commission. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Vote Leave and Darren Grimes made the very same mistake on their returns to the Electoral Commission&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In all, the various Leave campaigns sent 14 invoices to AggregateIQ for digital campaigning and marketing work worth over £3.5m. The DUP and Veterans for Britain correctly listed AIQ’s address in their returns. But Vote Leave and Darren Grimes both listed the exact same incorrect address. And Darren Grimes’s signature doesn’t even appear on the invoice.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking today, SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said that this was further evidence of Leave groups working together: “It can only be explained by one person filling out multiple forms for different groups, and making the same mistake...The case that senior Leave members have to answer becomes more serious by the day.”</p><p>Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie has called for a parliamentary inquiry into whether the Leave campaigns broke UK electoral law by co-ordinating. Not least because the idea of joint working was actually proposed in public by leading Brexiteer Steve Baker (now Theresa May’s Minister for Brexit) in February 2016, four months before the referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave, Baker wrote in an email <a href="https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/foreign-affairs/news/68508/pat-mcfaddens-letters-police-and-electoral-commission-vote-leave">leaked to the Times</a> before the vote, could “create separate legal entities each of which could spend £700k. Vote Leave will be able to spend as much money as is necessary to win the referendum,” <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">Baker</a>, a former chair of a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">controversial hard-Brexit lobby group</a>, told colleagues. A Vote Leave spokesman later had to clarify that “Steve would never encourage anyone to break the law”.</p><p>The Electoral Commission is currently investigating Vote Leave’s donation to the 23-year old Darren Grimes – for the third time. This week <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/26/vote-leave-members-may-have-committed-criminal-offences">lawyers concluded</a> that in their formal opinion there was a ‘prima facie’ case that Vote Leave had colluded with BeLeave in order to get round spending limits. </p><p>Our reporting has raised a number of specific questions about whether the various Leave campaigns were working together.</p><h2><span>1. How did four different campaigns find AggregateIQ?</span></h2><p>There is a string of evidence connecting AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica. But there’s still a very simple question about the firm which we’ve been asking for a year, and still haven’t had a decent answer to.</p><p dir="ltr">How did the various Leave campaigns find a company that, as the Observer's Carole Cadwalladr <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy">has shown</a>, didn’t even show up on online searches before the European referendum? And yet four separate campaigns – Vote Leave, the DUP, BeLeave, and Veterans for Britain all somehow <em>did</em> find them.</p><p dir="ltr">In the case of BeLeave, Darren Grimes, founder of the campaign, claims he heard about the group from friends who worked in the Vote Leave office, who he’d got to know over the course of the campaign. But as we have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">previously reported</a>, most of the payment to AIQ came directly from the Vote Leave bank account.</p><p>In the case of the DUP, we first rang their campaign manager Jeffrey Donaldson to ask him how he found out about the company almost a year ago. He said he <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">couldn’t remember</a>, and would have to look through his paperwork. We rang him again today. He told us it was an “internal referral” from one of the DUP’s staff that led him to AIQ, but wouldn’t tell us which staff member, nor how they heard about the firm.</p><p dir="ltr">So why would all these campaigns decide to spend money with the same firm? Ex-Vote Leave supremo Dominic Cummings has said that AIQ were the best in the business. (A testimony from Cummings on AIQ’s homepage was removed last week.)</p><p dir="ltr">But whistleblower Chris Wylie has suggested another reason. The ex-Cambridge Analytica data specialist told openDemocracy that rather than working on discreet digital campaigns for each of the Leave groups, AIQ effectively pooled all the campaigns together, using resources from smaller campaigns to fund the larger campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">“AIQ was running all campaigns together. It wasn’t siloed,” says Wylie, who points to BeLeave to illustrate his point. In June 2016, when BeLeave received £625,000 from Vote Leave, the tiny youth campaign had just over 1,000 emails. If AIQ was only targeting BeLeave supporters it would have almost no data to work with. “They would have been spending £625 for each person they targeted. That would be crazy,” said Wylie.</p><h2>2. Why did Vote Leave, Grassroots Out, Leave.EU, the DUP and UKIP all used the same obscure&nbsp;branding agency in Ely?</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_0633.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_0633.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Soopa Doopa's headquarters, Ely. Image, Adam Ramsay, CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p>Before the European referendum, Soopa Doopa branding in Ely had a turnover of £750,000 and two staff. In 2015-16, this boomed to £2.1 million on the back of a string of contracts with supposedly different campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">We spoke on the phone with the company’s founder, and asked how all these different campaigns had ended up finding his company. He replied that they were all really the same campaign, weren’t they?</p><p dir="ltr">So we went to Ely, to track the firm down. After touring the various addresses listed on Companies House and with the Electoral Commission, we found ourselves outside its official HQ: an empty house at the end of a suburban terrace row.</p><p dir="ltr">The company’s founder, Jake Scott-Paul, is a vocal Brexit supporter. Among his 142 Twitter followers (when we wrote about them last year) were the biggest Brexit donor Arron Banks and his spokesperson Andy Wigmore.</p><p dir="ltr">You can read about our Soopa Doopa adventures <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">here</a>.</p><h2>3. Where does Veterans for Britain fit in?</h2><p>Since October 2016, Veterans for Britain, who funnelled £100,000 to AggregateIQ, has been led by Lee Rotherham, the former&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">head of special projects</a>&nbsp;for Vote Leave. In the Vote Leave submission to the Electoral Commission for designated status as the lead campaigner, they described Rotherham’s job with them as “coordinating with specialist researchers working in parallel for allied think tanks and groups… and maintaining formal and informal outreach across the wider Eurosceptic movement.”</p><p dir="ltr">As we wrote in the autumn, “What the Electoral Commission will have to decide is whether Lee Rotherham “co-ordinating with… allied groups” counted as “working together” as defined by Commission rules, and if it included such co-ordination with Veterans for Britain, of which Rotherham would soon become executive director.”</p><p dir="ltr">Rotherham told openDemocracy that during his time working for Vote Leave, he “was in touch with a range of Eurosceptic campaigners, of which VfB [Veterans for Britain] was one group” – which in itself breaks no rules. He denies all allegations of co-ordinating campaign activities and expenditure, denies referring AggregateIQ to the group, and denies being behind the £100,000 donation.</p><p>Veterans for Britain also received a £50,000 donation from Arron Banks’ firm ‘Better for the Country Ltd’, which donated to a range of different Leave campaigns.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Patel PA-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Patel PA-2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="327" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Former cabinet minister & PR agent Priti Patel at Veterans for Britain's final campaign event event before the referendum. Image, Hannah McKay, PA images, all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The famous Vote Leave bus is visible in photos (see above) from Veterans for Britain’s final event, with WWII veterans at an airfield in Berkshire, which was attended by Brexit-supporting Tory minister Priti Patel. If this was a joint event, we could expect it to count under working together rules. Yet Vote Leave doesn’t seem to have declared it.</p><p>You can read our profile of Veterans for Britain <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">here</a>.</p><h2>4. The DUP got a £435,000 secret donation, then spent it with the same groups as everyone else. Another coincidence?</h2><p>The Democratic Unionist Party had two members of the Vote Leave board, Nigel Dodds and Christopher Montgomery – respectively the DUP’s leader in Westminster, and the DUP’s Westminster chief of staff. The latter was later credited in <a href="http://brexitcentral.com/50-groups-behind-article-50-part-i/">a pro-Brexit website</a> with “bringing together Conservative and DUP MPs” to deliver Brexit.</p><p>As openDemocracy revealed last year, the party received a controversial donation of £435,000 from an anonymous source (via a front group in Glasgow with <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">lots</a> of surprising <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">links</a>) and, like Veterans for Britain and BeLeave, they spent the money in the final fortnight of the campaign. While the biggest single chunk of it was £282,000 for adverts in the Metro, the rest of their major items of spending went to Soopa Doopa and AggregateIQ: the same obscure firms used by Vote Leave and other Leave campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP went on to <a href="http://www.thedetail.tv/articles/brexit-technology-firm-used-by-dup-in-northern-ireland-elections">use AggregateIQ again</a> in a subsequent Northern Irish Assembly election, employing the firm to run campaigns for candidates running in the main university constituencies.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave in Northern Ireland was co-ordinated by Lee Reynolds, who was on secondment from his job as campaign manager from the DUP, though Reynolds has previously denied to openDemocracy that there was co-ordination between the two campaigns.</p><h2>How to spend 'as much a necessary'</h2><p dir="ltr">In the UK, donations to political campaigns are capped to limit the influence of the hyper-rich on British democracy. But it increasingly looks like the European referendum was used to pioneer a range of techniques for circumventing these rules. </p><p dir="ltr">Whatever our various opinions about Brexit, we should ask ourselves a simple question: do we want to live in a country where anyone can, to quote Steve Baker, “spend as much money as is necessary to win”?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">Revealed: The Tory MPs using taxpayers’ cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Who are Veterans for Britain?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £425,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 27 Mar 2018 19:33:17 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 116907 at https://www.opendemocracy.net If Brexit was hacked, shouldn't we know exactly who paid? https://www.opendemocracy.net/mary-fitzgerald/if-brexit-was-hacked-shouldnt-we-know-exactly-who-paid <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Yes, the Leave campaign probably cheated. And yes, Remain played unfair advantages. But where did the Brexit dark money actually come from? And how is it still shaping our democracy?</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/farage.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/farage.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: Nigel Farage speaking at the US Conservative Political Action Conference in 2017, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/">Flickr/Gage Skidmore</a>, CC license.</em></p><p>Hours before the Observer published <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/carolecadwalladr">fresh, damaging allegations</a> about how the various pro-Brexit campaigns colluded, possibly illegally, in the weeks before the UK’s knife-edge EU referendum, Vote Leave Campaign Director Dominic Cummings published a <a href="https://dominiccummings.com/">long screed of pre-emptive defence on his blog.</a></p> <p>It’s thousands of words ‘what-aboutery’. What about all the ways in which the ‘Remain Establishment’ skewed the campaign in their favour at every turn? Cummings asked. The <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35980571">£9m worth of taxpayer-funded pro-Remain propaganda</a> delivered to every household in Britain before campaigning officially started? How David Cameron, George Osborne and others abused their privileges of office in <a href="https://dominiccummings.com/">myriad ways</a> to try and scare people into voting Remain...?</p> <p>(Actually, I’m with him on a lot of this. As I <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/mary-fitzgerald/brexit-reimagine-europe-far-right-threat">wrote days after the 2016 vote</a>, “Britons were assured, relentlessly, that penury, unemployment, collapsing house prices and relegation to global irrelevance beckoned should they choose Leave. That the not inconsiderable forces of the UK establishment failed to win this argument suggests that the true Brexit majority may be much higher; we can only speculate as to how many people voted Remain but in their hearts wanted to go.”)</p> <p>But fast forward to 2018, and Cummings’s what-aboutery is doing something altogether different. It’s there to reinforce the most cliched folklore of Brexit – and to obscure the most important question of all: Who bankrolled the campaign that has caused one of the biggest political shocks in a generation? And how is dark money continuing to exercise power and influence not only in the UK, but across western democracies?</p> <h2>Brexit: A Tale of Two Establishment Stitch Ups</h2> <p>Many of the spokespeople for Euroscepticism like to talk about representing “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sEKLNOn9FA">ordinary, decent people</a>”. They are the so-called “<a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/arron-banks-brexit-diaries">bad boys</a>” who dared to stand up to the elites. Speaking at a Trump rally last year,<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3757485/Brexit-anti-establishment-victory-Nigel-Farage-tells-Trump-supporters.html#ixzz4zkb3a8a0"> Nigel Farage claimed</a>, “we made June 23 our independence day when we smashed the establishment."</p> <p>This is patent nonsense. Both campaigns, Leave and Remain, were masterminded by elites – and the <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/brexit-and-the-squeezed-middle/">actual voting demographics dismantle the cliché</a> that poor people in the North voted for Brexit, while rich people in the South East shunned it. As my colleague Adam Ramsay reports in his excellent analysis of the pro-Leave campaign, Veterans for Britain; “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Brexit was as Establishment England as they come</a>”.</p> <p>And yet this myth – of the plucky, brave underdogs who started a revolution to take their country back – is a highly convenient one. Particularly when journalists start asking awkward questions. Easier to write off Carole Cadwalladr at the Observer as a sore loser than to answer questions about <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">AggregrateIQ</a>, the Cambridge Analytica-linked firm that, mysteriously, no one in any Leave camp can remember much about<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-"> </a>– despite collectively shelling out millions for their services. (Here’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan</a> putting this awkward question to DUP’s Brexit campaign manager, Jeffrey Donaldson, in May last year. Here’s Adam and Peter <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">tracking down the obscure branding agency</a> they all used, headquartered in an empty semi-detached house in Ely). </p> <p>Easier, too, to throw around <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2017/11/14/nigel-farage-hits-out-at-george-soros-over-eu-backing">vague, anti-Semitic tropes about George Soros</a> than to come clean about where the Brexit campaign cash came from, after openDemocracy’s reporting <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/mary-fitzgerald/brexit-dark-money-expose-triggers-mps-question-on-foreign-interference">triggered questions in parliament</a> about the role of dark money in the EU referendum – and the concerns about foreign and particularly Russian interference in western democracies. </p> <p>(Easier, also, to mock and threaten Carole on Twitter by sharing a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/19/my-fear-and-fury-in-the-eye-of-the-russia-leave-storm">gif of her being repeatedly punched in the face</a>, and to issue thinly-veiled threats through lawyers, as Arron Banks and his Leave.EU outfit has done, than to answer all these tricky questions from “sore losers”).</p> <h2>Who bankrolls our democracy?</h2> <p>There are transparency laws in Britain which should make the answer to this question straightforward. And yet it’s not.</p> <p>openDemocracy has been investigating a set of key questions over the past year. </p><p>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 prompted questions in parliament. They’ve <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/opendemocracy-has-forced-change-in-law-on-dark-money-but-we-still-need-to-do-more">triggered a law change</a> ending donor secrecy in Northern Ireland. And they 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>But thanks to a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little">breathtaking government stitch up</a>, we still don’t know who gave Theresa May’s allies, the DUP, half a million pounds for lavish Brexit campaigning in the final weeks before the vote. We also still don’t know how Arron Banks <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">found £9m in cash to bankroll Brexit</a> (making him, implausibly, the largest political donor in Britain’s history). And we still don’t know who funds many of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">powerful groups seeking to shape Brexit</a> (apart from us, the taxpayers, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">through an outrageous yet perfectly legal loophole</a>).</p> <p>We care about this not because we are “hellbent” on reversing the referendum result, but because it’s essential that citizens in <em>every</em> country know who bankrolls their politics – and who is shaping what they read, see and hear.</p> <h2>Busting filter bubbles</h2> <p>Before we get accused of being sore losers, as Carole and other journalists doing their jobs have been, here are some facts.</p> <p>During the EU referendum campaign openDemocracy’s UK editor<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/oliver-huitson/eu-piece"> Oliver Huitson spelled out his reasons for voting Leave</a> and gave space to many others from pro-Brexit voices, including<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/brexitdivisions/matthew-elliott/why-britain-will-choose-safer-option-and-vote-leave"> Matthew Elliott, the Chief Executive of Vote Leave</a>. One of our best known, frequent UK-based contributors is the<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/peter-oborne"> conservative commentator Peter Oborne</a>, a vocal supporter of Brexit. Our largely UK-based<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/about/team"> board of directors</a> includes prominent Brexit supporters. </p> <p>Since the referendum, openDemocracy has hosted the full spectrum of voices on Brexit, from leading Brexiteer <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/michael-gove/brexit-reinvigorated-politics-in-this-country">Michael Gove</a>, to hip-hop artist Akala on the<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/akala/battle-of-britishness-in-age-of-brexit-akala-talks-to-convention"> racist roots of the Brexit impulse</a>. openDemocracy’s founder, Anthony Barnett, has written an<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/mary-fitzgerald/lure-of-greatness-video"> excellent book</a> on Brexit and Trump which (although pro-Europe) sympathetically charts the reasons for voting Leave, and is searingly critical of the Remain-supporting establishment. Adam Ramsay, our current UK editor, recently spelled it out:<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/remainers-dont-use-our-investigations-as-excuse"> Remainers: don’t use our investigations as an excuse</a>. </p> <p>We actively seek our perspectives which challenge assumptions and bust filter bubbles (see, for example, our some of our first responses to the seismic events of 2016:<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/why-i-voted-for-donald-trump"> Why I voted for Donald Trump</a> or<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/michael-skey/stop-snearing-at-leave-voters-they-knew-exactly-what-they-were-doing"> Stop sneering at Leave voters, they knew exactly what they were doing</a>). </p> <p>All the way along, we’ve brought <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/europe">European voices</a> into what’s often a depressingly limited, parochial national conversation. We are proud to be an independent, global platform hosting a wide range of voices; perspectives from almost every country on Earth on vital issues, from all sides (because there are never just two sides).</p> <p>We are also proud to be part of a very small, under-resourced network of journalists working on a story which has 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>We won’t give up now.</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/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 even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/opendemocracy-has-forced-change-in-law-on-dark-money-but-we-still-need-to-do-more">We&#039;ve forced a change in the law on &#039;dark money&#039;. But we still need to do more</a> </div> <div class="field-item 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/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/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/james-cusick/dup-dark-money-cover-up-officials-dismiss-minister-s-reassurances-on-north">DUP dark money cover-up: officials dismiss minister’s reassurances on Northern Ireland transparency</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Mary Fitzgerald Mon, 26 Mar 2018 11:01:39 +0000 Mary Fitzgerald 116879 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is there a link between Cambridge Analytica and the DUP’s secret Brexit donors? https://www.opendemocracy.net/David-Burnside-Putin-Russia-DUP-Brexit-Donaldson-Vincent-Tchenguiz <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today we reveal the close relationship between a key Cambridge Analytica backer and a senior pro-Brexit Northern Irish PR man – who has Russian friends in high places</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytica/SCL's Alexander Nix. Image, Sam Barnes. CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica stands accused of using <a href="https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/vbxmm9/cambridge-analytica-ceo-caught-on-tape-saying-companys-facebook-scam-helped-elect-trump">‘unattributable and untrackable’</a> advertising to get Donald Trump elected, of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election">illegally accessing</a> 50 million Facebook profiles, and of much more besides. The controversial data company also has friends in high places, from <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/21/tory-donors-among-investors-in-cambridge-analytica-parent-firm-scl-group">Tory party donors </a>to the British military.</p><p dir="ltr">But openDemocracy has now discovered that Cambridge Analytica’s establishment links run even deeper, leading to one of the most senior figures in Northern Irish unionism – a PR man who has represented everyone from British Airways to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">Russian oligarchs</a> – and raising questions once more about who gave the DUP a secretive <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">£435,000 donation</a> for its Brexit campaign. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Former Ulster Unionist MP <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">David Burnside </a>has been one of the most influential PR figures in Britain for decades, a <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5487121/May-accused-denial-Kremlin.html">Tory dono</a>r with links to senior figures in <a href="https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2014-07-01/russian-front-camerons-encounter-with-putin-friend-at-tory-party">Vladimir Putin’s inner circle</a>. We have now learned that Burnside also works for Vincent Tchenguiz, a property tycoon who was the largest shareholder in Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, for almost a decade.</p><p dir="ltr">A number of links between the various pro-Brexit campaigns and Cambridge Analytica have already been established. Taken together, Vote Leave, the DUP and other Brexit campaigners spent millions with <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">a data analytics company</a> that has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/14/robert-mercer-cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-referendum-brexit-campaigns">linked</a> to Cambridge Analytica and is currently <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42055523">under investigation</a> by the UK Information Commissioner. The Leave campaign’s biggest donor, Arron Banks, also says Cambridge Analytica <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-facebook-cambridge-analytica-brexit/brexit-campaigner-banks-says-cambridge-analytica-pitched-but-we-did-not-hire-them-idUKKBN1GX19P">pitched to work</a> with him but that he never sealed the deal. These are coincidences that key Leave figures have so far <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">failed to adequately explain</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">There is no allegation that the Ulster Unionist David Burnside, via his close relationship with Cambridge Analytica-backer Vincent Tchenguiz, has done anything wrong, or that he is connected to the DUP’s controversial £435,000 Brexit donation. But his close relationship with Tchenguiz who, for almost a decade, was the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/211152/trump-data-analytics-russian-access">biggest shareholder</a>&nbsp;in the company that created Cambridge Analytica, raises fresh, troubling questions about how the Leave campaign was run, who paid for it – and in particular how far the web of influence of Cambridge Analytica and the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/16/15657512/cambridge-analytica-christopher-wylie-facebook-trump-russia">Trump-backing billionaire Robert Mercer</a>&nbsp;may stretch.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy today, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “We have seen this week the extent to which Cambridge Analytica sought to distort and manipulate the democratic process around the world."</p><p dir="ltr">"Now we learn that a major shareholder in the company that created Cambridge Analytica is directly connected to a senior pro-Brexit Northern Irish unionist – who is himself linked to some of Vladimir Putin’s associates. This poses serious questions about who is funding our politics and how."</p><p dir="ltr">“The Tories are being propped up by a party which refuses to say where it got a £435,000 Brexit donation. If the DUP won't come clean about these questions, the government should make them."</p><h2>‘Connections to serious money’</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-1891961_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-1891961_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David Burnside. Image, Paul Faith/PA Archive/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Few in Northern Ireland are as well connected as David Burnside. A former MP, ex-head of press at British Airways, and a constant presence at Tory party conferences, the pugnacious, cigar-chomping PR man “has long moved in very different circles to most of Northern Irish political figures,” according to a well-placed unionist source in Northern Ireland. “Burnside is also the only person here with connections to serious money.”</p><p dir="ltr">Politically, Burnside is firmly on the right of Northern Irish politics. He cut his teeth as a young man in the early 1970s as a press officer for the hardline Vanguard Unionist Progressive party, but by the early 2000s Burnside was an Ulster Unionist MP. In 2003, however, he and another UUP MP led a rebellion against the party’s support of the Good Friday Agreement. That other MP was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">Jeffrey Donaldson</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Burnside remained in the Ulster Unionist Party fold, but has often called for his party to merge with its more hardline cousins, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Jeffrey Donaldson, on the other hand, joined the DUP in 2004, and went on to manage its pro-Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">As<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts"> openDemocracy revealed</a> early last year, the DUP’s Brexit campaign was funded by a controversial £435,000 donation – the largest in Northern Irish history. Almost all the money was spent on campaigning outside Northern Ireland. The <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/calls-for-dup-to-reveal-source-of-500-000-brexit-donation-1.3115919%3Fmode%3Damp">DUP has said</a> the money came from an organisation that “wants to see the union kept”. But we do not know who gave the DUP the money because of Northern Ireland’s unique <a href="https://www.thedetail.tv/articles/changes-to-northern-ireland-political-donation-secrecy-laws-face-further-delays">donor secrecy laws</a>. (The Conservative government recently <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little">voted to maintain the veil of secrecy</a> around the DUP’s Brexit donor.)</p><p dir="ltr">Burnside is a Brexit-supporting unionist and a <a href="http://www.newcenturymedia.co.uk/team/">founder member</a> of both <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Friends_of_the_Union">Friends of the Union</a> and the Constitutional Reform Group, the pro-union think-tank set up by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Lord Salisbury</a> after Scotland’s independence referendum, whose <a href="http://www.constitutionreformgroup.co.uk/patrons/">patrons</a> include a roster of high-profile Brexit backers. Burnside remains close to many in the DUP, particularly in Westminster. This week, he declined to answer openDemocracy’s questions about the secret £435,000 Brexit donation, but a spokesperson said “you should ask the DUP”. (The DUP has consistently <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">refused to reveal</a> who is behind the secretive <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">front group</a> that channelled them the Brexit cash.) </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-5307004_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-5307004_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeffrey Donaldson (centre left) and David Burnside (centre right) in Orange Lodge sashes laying a wreath on the tomb of William of Orange, outside Westminster Abbey in 2007. Image, Fiona Hanson/PA.</span></span></span><br />Burnside left the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2009, saying he wanted to concentrate on his business interests. His PR firm <a href="http://www.newcenturymedia.co.uk/">New Century Media </a>has offices near St James’s Park in London and has represented some of London’s richest individuals – including multimillionaire property tycoon&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/vincent-tchenguiz">Vincent Tchenguiz</a>. That’s where Cambridge Analytica comes in.</p><h2>Vincent Tchenguiz and Cambridge Analytica</h2><p dir="ltr">For almost a decade the largest shareholder in SCL Group – the company that created Cambridge Analytica – was Vincent Tchenguiz. (As in ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2007/mar/25/theobserver.observerbusiness4">Ghengis</a>’: his father, the head of the Iranian mint, changed the family name to the Persian for the Mongol warlord.) Tchenguiz, a whip smart bon vivant born in Iran of Jewish-Iraqi descent, has been described <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs9v4Nb_TT8">by Bloomberg</a> as ‘the UK’s biggest private owner of residential real estate’. (He <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/17/citiscape-croydon-2m-recladding-bill-prompted-grenfell-disaster">made headlines in January</a> for reportedly forcing leaseholders to pay to replace Grenfell Tower-style cladding in a building owned by one of his companies.)</p><p dir="ltr">In 2005 Tchenguiz bought a 24% stake in SCL Group via his company Consensus Business Group. SCL boasts on its <a href="https://sclgroup.cc/home">website</a> of offering “data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organizations” in over 60 countries and has links to the heart of the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/scl-group-s-founders-were-connected-to-royalty-the-rich-and-powerful-3pxhfvhlh">Tory party, British royal family and the British militar</a>y. SCL’s shareholders and officers have given <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/21/tory-donors-among-investors-in-cambridge-analytica-parent-firm-scl-group">more than £700,000</a> to the Conservatives since 2015. It was also the company that, around 2013, created Cambridge Analytica to work on US political campaigns.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-7250720.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-7250720.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="664" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vincent Tchenguiz and Lisa Tchenguiz. Image, Ian West/PA Archive/PA Images.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Over the last week, Cambridge Analytica has been accused of illegally buying data on<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election"> 50 million Facebook profiles</a>, with its executives filmed claiming to use <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/cambridge-analytica-revealed-trumps-election-consultants-filmed-saying-they-use-bribes-and-sex-workers-to-entrap-politicians-investigation">honey traps and bribery</a> to smear political opponents. Its CEO Alexander Nix has now been suspended. Throughout the period of these activities, SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica shared directors and they are often seen as essentially the <a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/">same outfit</a>. As Carole Cadwalladr <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump">wrote last weekend</a> in the Observer, “For all intents and purposes, SCL/Cambridge are one and the same”.</p><p dir="ltr">Tchenguiz sold his stake in SCL in the summer of 2015 for just £147,746. (A tiny sum for a man who <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365701/Vincent-gave-20-girls-2-000-spend-St-Tropez-The-amazingly-decadent-lifestyle-property-baron-centre-Britains-biggest-fraud-probe.html">paid women £2,000</a> to spend a night dancing on his yacht.) Just weeks later, Cambridge Analytica began working on the Ted Cruz presidential campaign. Over the next year, Cambridge Analytica would earn more than $13m, working first for Cruz and then for Donald Trump. Much of this money came from Robert Mercer, the billionaire Trump and Breitbart-backing financier who was so impressed with Cambridge Analytica that he <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-bannon-cambridge-analytica-facebook-20180320-story.html">reportedly become a major shareholder</a> in late 2013.</p><p dir="ltr">SCL’s current chairman, Julian Wheatland, is a former employee of Tchenguiz and widely seen as his<a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/scl-group-s-founders-were-connected-to-royalty-the-rich-and-powerful-3pxhfvhlh"> place man</a>. Wheatland is also chairman of Oxford West and Abingdon Conservative Association. US writer Ann Marlowe has <a href="http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/211152/trump-data-analytics-russian-access">suggested</a> that Tchenguiz sold his shares to avoid awkward questions about his background and links. Tchenguiz denies this. “Consensus Business Group lost interest,” a spokesperson for Tchenguiz said when asked why he sold his SCL shares in 2015. “It was never a strategic investment for the company.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">The dour Northern Irishman, the flamboyant playboy – and the Ukrainian oligarch</h2><p>Ulster Unionist David Burnside has represented Vincent Tchenguiz as his <a href="https://www.leaseholdknowledge.com/tag/david-burnside">PR adviser</a> for more than ten years. The two men are very different – the dour Northern Irishman and the flamboyant playboy – but have a strong working relationship, according to a former employee of Burnside’s PR firm New Century Media.</p><p>Burnside was representing Tchenguiz when, in 2011, the Serious Fraud Office <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/mar/09/tchenguiz-brothers-arrested-kaupthing-collapse-iceland">arrested</a> the property tycoon as part of a dawn raid prompted by the collapse of the Icelandic bank Kaupthing. The High Court later ruled the arrest illegal, and, in 2014, the SFO <a href="https://www.sfo.gov.uk/2014/07/25/serious-fraud-office-vincent-tchenguiz-announce-settlement-civil-claims/">paid Tchenguiz £6 million</a> in compensation and costs.</p><p dir="ltr">In addition to their ten year working relationship, there are a number of other connections between Tchenguiz and Burnside. Both Tchenguiz and his brother, Robert, are Tory donors, as are many of SCL/Cambridge Analytica’s senior figures. Burnside is also close to the Conservatives: his PR firm New Century Media has donated £142,850 <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=new%20century%20media&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">to the Tories since 2009</a>. “All the company’s political donations are a matter of public record,” a spokesperson for New Century Media told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">Both men have another, intriguing link in common: Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch wanted by the FBI. Tchenguiz has invested in a business whose largest shareholder <a href="http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/211152/trump-data-analytics-russian-access">was Firtash</a>. After leaving Westminster, Burnside, alongside the PR firm Bell Pottinger, advised the Firtash Foundation, which is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">overseen by the Ukrainian oligarch</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Dmytro_Firtash.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Dmytro_Firtash.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dmytro Firtash. Image, Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Firtash is currently facing extradition to the United States on <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/354809991/U-S-v-Dmitro-Firtash-and-Andras-Knopp">charges</a> of international money laundering and other offences. Last year, federal prosecutors in Chicago <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/doj-ex-manafort-associate-firtash-top-tier-comrade-russian-mobsters-n786806">described the Ukrainian</a> as an ‘upper-echelon [associate] of Russian organized crime’, and he has long been associated with financing pro-Putin candidates in Ukraine. He also has close ties to former Trump campaign manager <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/21/austria-grants-us-request-to-extradite-ukrainian-mogul-dmytro-firtash">Paul Manafort</a>. (Manafort, who was running the Trump campaign when Cambridge Analytica began working for it, was recently indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller on <a href="https://www.vox.com/2018/2/22/17042254/robert-mueller-paul-manafort-indictment">dozens of counts, i</a>ncluding fraud, as part of the ongoing US investigation into the Trump-Russia connections.)</p><p dir="ltr">Firtash has also <a href="http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/cambridge-becomes-a-home-for-ukrainian-studies">donated millions</a> to Cambridge University. Speaking in 2014, Firtash said the allegations against him were “<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-firtash/ukraines-firtash-says-his-detention-political-raps-u-s-idUSBREA2H1JU20140318">purely political</a>”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The Russian connections</h2><p>In Northern Ireland, David Burnside maintains a low profile, rarely making the headlines except for the occasional call for <a href="https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/time-to-resurrect-the-uuuc-to-bring-unionist-unity-says-uup-veteran-1-7861808">‘unionist unity’ </a>and a merger between the UUP and the DUP. But Burnside’s work has sometimes come to the attention of the UK press. It was reported that New Century Media earned at least £100,000 working for the <a href="https://bahrainwatch.org/blog/2014/07/05/bahrain-lobbyist-paid-for-table-with-uk-defence-secretary-at-tory-party-fundraiser-as-defence-ties-deepen/">Bahrain International Circuit</a>. However it is Burnside’s ties to Russia that have attracted most attention.</p><p>In 2012, Burnside invited <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">Sergey Nalobin</a>, the senior diplomat from the Russian embassy in London, to a Tory fundraising dinner. Nalobin, whose father was a top-ranking officer in the FSB, the successor agency to the Soviet KGB, was forced out of the UK by the Home Office in 2015. Burnside has also provided “reputation management" and "personal introductions to individuals within ... politics” as part of a £900,000 a year contract with <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/11786123/Russia-claims-four-diplomats-forced-out-of-London.html">Vladimir Makhlai</a>, a Russian billionaire who fled to Britain in 2005. When Makhlai stopped paying, Burnside got tough and sued in the high court, winning <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/ballymoney-trail-david-burnside-troubles-loyalist-tories-pr-fixer">a £500,000 ruling</a>.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 17.08.28.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 17.08.28.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="278" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David Cameron speaking at the party to Vasily Shestakov (second right) and Russian billionaire Andrei Kliamko (right), translated by Alex Nekrassov of New Century Media (centre) - image, the Guardian.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">a photo emerged</a> of then prime minister David Cameron with influential Russian MP <a href="http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2055962,00.html">Vasily Shestakov,</a> co-author with the Russian president of <em>Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin</em>. The photograph was taken the previous June at a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">secretive Conservative fundraising party</a> at Old Billingsgate Market. The Russians were guests of David Burnside, sitting at a table that cost up to £12,000 (the translator in the picture is one of Burnside’s staff).</p><p dir="ltr">Also pictured is <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/andrei-klyamko/">Andrei Kliamko</a>, a <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=3&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj1jO6hv4LaAhVmC8AKHct4BEUQFggwMAI&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thebureauinvestigates.com%2Fstories%2F2014-07-01%2Frussian-front-camerons-encounter-with-putin-friend-at-tory-party&amp;usg=AOvVaw3tk_zHhHO-LBfsrUw55Rpb">Russian judo executive</a> with business interests in Crimea, who according to Forbes Russia is worth $1.9bn, and Alex Nekrassov, <a href="http://www.newcenturymedia.co.uk/members/alex-nekrassov/">director of accounts at Burnside’s New Century Media</a>. (Nekrassov’s father, Alexander, is a prominent pro-Kremlin commentator who recently linked the story of the poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal to a Westminster paedophile scandal). </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">When the paedophile scandal surrounding <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Oxfam?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Oxfam</a> and other big charities got out of control and Westminster MPs were about to be dragged into it I warned to expect a huge provocation against <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Russia?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Russia</a> , to distract attention. It came in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Salsbury?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Salsbury</a></p>— Alexander Nekrassov (@StirringTrouble) <a href="https://twitter.com/StirringTrouble/status/976046486743146496?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 20, 2018</a></blockquote> <p> In May 2013, a month before David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and others were photographed wooing Tory donors at that fundraiser in Old Billingsgate Market, Burnside’s longtime colleague at New Century Media, Tim Lewin, founded the <a href="https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2014-07-01/russian-front-camerons-encounter-with-putin-friend-at-tory-party">Positive Russia Foundation</a>. In an interview, Shestakov <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=CTiCCgAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PA105&amp;lpg=PA105&amp;dq=tim+lewin+putin+dinner+2013&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=DniEJ_s3Jm&amp;sig=0h4X5fIjulna4qlKPMsFWpy2X5s&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiah7zcsL7XAhVKDcAKHSDGAqwQ6AEIODAF#v=onepage&amp;q=tim%20lewin%20putin%20dinner%202013&amp;f=false">described the Positive Russia Foundation</a>&nbsp;as "a new variant of RT, but under the patronage of English aristocrats" set up to <a href="http://en.itar-tass.com/opinions/1512">combat 'anti-Russian propaganda' in the British media</a>. The company <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/01/-sp-tory-summer-party-drew-super-rich-supporters-with-total-wealth-of-11bn">was dissolved</a> in 2016, as were two other companies that Lewin was a director of: <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/08532530">Crimean National Tourism Office Limited</a> and the <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/07768105">Crimean Economic Development Agency Limited</a>. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing, and New Century Media says it does not comment on client relationships.</p><p dir="ltr">Concerns about the role of Russia in British politics are growing. The Sunday Times recently reported that Russian oligarchs and their associates had <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/tories-break-theresa-mays-vow-to-ban-russian-donors-glp2bl7cm">donated more than £820,000</a> to the Conservatives since Theresa May became prime minister. Last year Ben Bradshaw MP, citing reporting by openDemocracy, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/mp-calls-for-inquiry-into-arron-banks-and-dark-money-in-eu-referendum">told parliament</a> that there was “widespread concern over foreign and particularly Russian interference in western democracies” and called for an inquiry into the role of dark money in the Brexit referendum. Key players in the Leave campaign such as Nigel Farage and Arron Banks have <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/brexit-donor-blasts-watchdog-as-swamp-creature-grw69n7sv">laughed off suggestions of any ties to Russia</a>.</p><h2>Who gets to shape our democracy?</h2><p>Carole Cadwalladr’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/21/cambridge-analytica-offered-politicians-hacked-emails-witnesses-say">revelations</a> in the Observer about Cambridge Analytica and its networks have dominated headlines across the world, taking&nbsp;<a href="https://qz.com/1233816/facebook-has-lost-50-billion-in-market-value-over-the-past-two-days/">$50 billion off Facebook’s share price</a> in just two days. They have raised a string of vital questions for modern democracy – who gets to shape our elections, and who has access to key information about our lives.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has been investigating a number of these issues for over a year. Our reporting on the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">DUP’s secret Brexit donation</a>; on the finances of the Leave campaign’s biggest backer <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">Arron Banks</a>; and on the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">many groups</a> seeking to shape Brexit have been picked up by media across the world. They have prompted questions in parliament; triggered a law change ending donor secrecy in Northern Ireland; and have contributed to three separate <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">ongoing investigations</a> by the UK Electoral Commission and one by the Charity Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">For a long time, we have been asking ourselves: how does Cambridge Analytica/SCL connect to the secret £435,000 funnelled to the DUP’s Brexit campaign? We now have one answer: that the man who controlled the biggest shareholding in SCL for more than a decade is represented by a key ally of the DUP.</p><p dir="ltr">There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by either David Burnside or Vincent Tchenguiz. But their link offers new insights into the secretive networks of money and influence that are seeking to shape western democracies. And it once again underlines the urgent need for full transparency on how the Leave campaigns in Britain operated to pull off one of the biggest political shocks in a generation.</p><p dir="ltr">Unaware that he was speaking on camera to an <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/exposed-undercover-secrets-of-donald-trump-data-firm-cambridge-analytica">undercover Channel 4 investigator</a>, Mark Turnbull, the Managing Director of Cambridge Analytica, said:</p><p>“Sometimes you can use proxy organisations, who are already there, you feed them. They are [often] civil society organisations - like charities, or activist organisations – and you feed them, they do the work...” The best thing about this type of messaging, he said, is that it has “no branding, so it’s unattributable. Untrackable.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Fri, 23 Mar 2018 11:07:34 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 116834 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK government refuses to reveal details of meetings with the man who’s shaping Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/government-refuse-to-reveal-details-of-meetings-with-man <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Freedom of Information requests show that the 'disaster capitalist' Legatum Institute has unequalled access to Brexit ministers. But the government refuses to reveal what they're talking about.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 15.03.28.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 15.03.28.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="358" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>11 Charles Place, the offices of the Legatum Foundation. Image, Google Street View.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">There were big changes in the hard Brexit world recently with the announcement that Shanker Singham, a key advisor to senior Brexiteers in the British government, has left their favourite think tank, <a href="https://www.li.com/media/press-releases/shanker-singham-to-leave-the-legatum-institute-for-new-role-at-the-iea">the Legatum Institute</a>. But while Singham has departed the controversial organisation, the public is still being kept in the dark about his influence on the UK government.</p><p dir="ltr">As head of Legatum’s trade commission, Singham, an advocate of a hard Brexit, has had “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/18/brexit-british-business-leaders-legatum-eu">unparalleled access</a>” to Brexit minister David Davis, including at least five meetings with officials from Davis’s Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) in the year to August 2017. </p><p dir="ltr">But DExEU has refused openDemocracy’s repeated Freedom of Information requests for minutes, agendas and other information about these high-level meetings. Politicians from across the party spectrum have called for government to release all the details of dealings with think tanks and pro-Brexit lobbyists.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham’s access to Brexiteers in the UK government had raised eyebrows. In November, the <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5117547/Putins-link-Boris-Goves-Brexit-coup-revealed.html">Mail on Sunday</a> <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-thinktank-russia-legatum-institute-boris-johnson-michael-gove-christopher-chandler-a8076436.html">named the former US trade advisor</a> as being involved in a letter sent by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove urging Theresa May to take a tougher stance on Brexit. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The Legatum Foundation Limited is the charitable wing of the Legatum Group, a Dubai-based investment company run by Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born billionaire who made a fortune in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and recently obtained EU citizenship via Malta, <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/110f57ee-02a3-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5">according to the FT</a>. The think tank’s charitable status came under scrutiny in the wake of media reports of Singham’s access to government ministers. </p><p dir="ltr">In November 2017, Ben Bradshaw MP <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-11-16/debates/52D4EFE3-1F69-4859-9809-30812FA31FC3/IntelligenceAndSecurityCommitteeOfParliament">urged</a> the Intelligence and Security Committee to “look at the Legatum Institute, its relationship with the government, and the background of its founder and main funder, Christopher Chandler.” </p><p dir="ltr">But despite the growing public interest in Legatum, DExEU has refused to release materials relating of Singham’s meetings with Brexit ministers and officials on the grounds of formulation and development of government policy. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Exiting the EU Tom Brake MP said: “The public are entitled to know why one small institute has such privileged access to government and what they talk about in their surprisingly frequent meetings. The public have a right to know on what evidence the Government are basing their damaging Brexit decisions.”</p><p dir="ltr">He added: “I have no problem in letting the world know what I discuss with the Legatum Institute when I meet them!”</p><p dir="ltr">Singham has joined another pro-Brexit right wing think tank, the Institute for Economic Affairs, as part of a <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/09151308-23b9-11e8-ae48-60d3531b7d11">major exodus from Legatum</a>. He has called for the UK to leave the customs union and the single market and recently suggested that the heavily controlled border between the US and Canada is a good model <a href="https://twitter.com/JP_Biz/status/971400090152787968">for the Irish border</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy is not the only organisation asking for details of meetings between DExEU and the Legatum Institute. In response to a &nbsp;<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2018-01-05/121195/">written parliamentary question</a> from SNP MP Deidre Brock asking for minutes and papers of the meetings between the Permanent Secretary at DExEU and Shanker Singham, Brexit minister Steve Baker said “We do not publish the minutes of officials’ meetings.” openDemocracy has submitted requests for internal reviews over DExEU’s Freedom of Information responses, and is currently waiting for the outcome from the Department. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Ms Brock expressed concern about the “apparent easy access that one individual had to ministers and senior civil servants”, and said that “the public should have the right to know what is being discussed in these meetings that Mr Singham is having at the heart of the UK Government.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The government’s actions in negotiating Brexit have been secretive, to say the least, and each piece of information has had to be dragged out of them only to be seen to be not very well informed. The least we should be able to expect should be some indication of who is influencing policy, who they represent and what their interests are. We should know what is being done on our behalf,” she told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">It has been reported that Singham was the only think tank representative at a July 2017 event held at Chevening, the country house used by the foreign secretary, where DExEU officials and business leaders were in attendance. A further request made by openDemocracy has <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-adBGW8KWTqdW1iQTROTnk1RWR3b1U2c0JjeWdublVrYVVZ/view?usp=sharing">obtained the attendee lists</a> for the July Chevening event, as well as a second Chevening event that took place in September 2017, where Singham was also in attendance alongside Davis and Steve Baker. </p><p dir="ltr">Another <a href="https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/424859/response/1048831/attach/3/DEX000542%20response.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1">FOI response</a> has also indicated that Davis had attended an external conference in September 2016, “where representatives of the Legatum Institute were invited,” and that Davis spoke at a conference organised by Legatum in January 2017. The <a href="https://www.li.com/events/the-rt.-hon.-david-davis-mp-on-the-brexit-negotiations">event</a> was invite only.</p><p dir="ltr">Since the Brexit vote, Legatum hired several Eurosceptics, including Matthew Elliott, a co-founder of Vote Leave. Elliott is still with Legatum but Singham will head up a new Trade Unit at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), where he will be joined by lawyer Victoria Hewson; economist Catherine McBride; and senior research analyst Dr Radomir Tylecote. The Institute for Economic Affairs, one of the secretive think tanks in Britain, does not publish <a href="http://whofundsyou.org/org/institute-of-economic-affairs">details of its funders</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">There have been at least five meetings between DExEU officials and Singham. In response to our FOI requests, DExEU disclosed that Lord Bridges, who served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State until June 2017, met with Singham on ​8th September 2016, for 45 minutes, at ​9 Downing Street, London. Bridges then met with Singham on 6th February 2017 at the House of Lords, where the meeting lasted for 30 minutes. On 4th April 2017, Lord Bridges, along with Alex Ellis, Director General at DExEU, met Singham at 9 Downing Street, which is where DExEU is based. </p><p dir="ltr">On 17th July, DExEU Permanent Secretary Philip Rycroft met with Singham for an hour at 70 Whitehall. The following month, Rycroft met with Singham on 8th August 2017, for 45 minutes at 70 Whitehall, London, the address of the Cabinet Office. However DExEU refused to release any further information about what was discussed.</p><p dir="ltr">Since the EU referendum, Mr Singham has had multiple meetings and dinners with ministers and government officials across Whitehall, including a <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/604666/FCO_Ministerial_Meetings_Transparency_Return_Q3_October_-_December_2016_MASTER.csv/preview">meeting</a> with Boris Johnson in December 2016; a <a href="https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:8CiEVKmPheUJ:https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/651944/defra_mins_trans_Apr_Jun_2017.xlsx+&amp;cd=1&amp;hl=en&amp;ct=clnk&amp;gl=uk">meeting</a> with Michael Gove in June 2017, with the purpose of the meeting being “EU Exit advice”; and a “<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/668159/DIT_Special_Adviser_Transparency_July_to_September_2017_csv_-_Meetings.csv/preview">coffee catch up</a>” with a Department for International Trade special adviser in September 2017. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In turning down openDemocracy’s FOI requests for materials associated with the meetings, DExEU said while “there is a strong interest in policy making associated with our exit from the EU being of the highest quality… it is important that policy officials can exchange views and openly discuss and understand potential implications, especially on live issues.” It added that “releasing the information may result in policy officials refraining from considering all available views and options.” &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Responding to questions raised by this article, a DExEU spokesperson said: “DExEU is committed to transparency and accountability. The department publishes details of Ministers' and senior officials' meetings on a quarterly basis.”</p><p dir="ltr">A Legatum Institute spokesperson said: “Decisions over how to respond to FOI requests are for the government to decide. As an independent educational charity, all our work is published, as part of our efforts to inform the public about how we can create the pathways from poverty to prosperity. We are not aware of any record kept by Shanker of his meetings with officials in DExEU.”</p><p dir="ltr"><em>openDemocracy has contacted Mr Singham via the IEA for comment and will add any response received. &nbsp;&nbsp; </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/guy-shrubsole/meet-think-tank-shaping-future-of-britains-food-and-countryside">Meet the think tank shaping the future of Britain&#039;s food and countryside</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brendan-montague/how-legatum-has-written-hymn-sheet-for-dirty-brexit">How Legatum has written the hymn sheet for a Dirty Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy Mon, 19 Mar 2018 15:11:48 +0000 Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghegan 116747 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Northern Irish party donors finally published – but source of DUP Brexit money remains secret https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/opendemocracy-investigations/northern-irish-party-donors-finally-published <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Firm that donated to DUP owned by Gibraltar-based businessman, prompting criticism of 'representation without taxation' <strong><br /></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/ian-paisley-jr-northern-ireland-mp-unionist.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/ian-paisley-jr-northern-ireland-mp-unionist.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="343" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ian Paisley Junior. Image, alchetron.com</span></span></span></p> <p>On Monday, for the first time in history, the Electoral Commission released information on donations to political parties in Northern Ireland.</p><p> While all major political donations in the rest of the UK have been public since 2000, yesterday’s data release marks the first modicum of transparency for Northern Irish politics.</p><p> The Electoral Commission’s disclosure comes after a long-awaited change in the law in Northern Ireland – and after additional pressure for transparency was triggered by openDemocracy’s revelation that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had taken a controversial £435,000 donation for its Brexit campaign. The source of that money is still a secret, because the UK government reneged on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little" target="_blank">its previous commitment</a> to publish details of donations from January 2014 onwards.</p> <p>But the data – which only goes back to July 2017 – does include some interesting details.</p><p> By far the biggest source of funding for Northern Irish parties over the six months to the end of 2017 was public money. However, there have been a couple of notable private donations.</p> <h2> Democratic Unionist Party</h2> <p>The DUP’s North Antrim branch was given £4,999 by a firm called Gross Hill Properties Ltd. </p><p>Gross Hill Properties is owned by property developer Michael Gross and Danielle Beissah Katri, according to Companies House. Both are registered at an address in Gibraltar, and were listed in <a href="https://offshoreleaks.icij.org/nodes/10198744" target="_blank">the Panama Papers</a> as a beneficiary of the Danzig International Consultancy Group, registered in the British Virgin Islands. On the phone, Mr Gross confirmed to openDemocracy that he owns the company, though he was unclear about whether it was based in the British Virgin Islands or Panama. </p><p>“There is nothing wrong with being based in the Virgin Islands”, Mr Gross said, pointing out that Richard Branson owns one of the islands.</p> <p>Speaking to openDemocracy, Mr Gross confirmed that he is British, but said that he has no taxable income in the UK and has been “non resident and non-domicile in the UK for nearly a quarter of a century”. Threatening to sue us if we publish publicly available data about his businesses, Mr Gross said it was none of our business how he runs his affairs, and that “I have the best accountant in England”.</p> <p>North Antrim is represented by DUP MP Ian Paisley, son of the Rev Dr Ian Paisley, founder of the party. Ian Paisley Junior is known for describing same sex marriage as "<a href="https://www.rte.ie/news/2005/0203/59544-paisleyi/" target="_blank">immoral, offensive and obnoxious</a>", and for <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7250877.stm" target="_blank">resigning</a> as a Northern Irish minister in 2008 when it transpired that he was also being paid to be a researcher for his father, the then Northern Irish First Minister.</p> <p> Mr Gross said he had given the donation because Paisley is “someone who I have known a long time and like, and agree with on most things” and that, like Paisley, he supports Brexit.</p><p>Gross Hill Properties, which gave the donation, pays tax in the UK and is entitled to donate to UK parties. There is no allegation that Mr Gross, Gross Hill Properties Ltd, or anyone else involved in the case has broken any laws. Mr Gross pointed out that his firms had received loans from British banks, who do “the most rigorous KYC”, he said, referring to “know your customer” checks. “All that banks do is spend time with compliance. It’s the biggest bore in history, but it’s necessary”. </p><p>“My companies that trade in the UK pay tax in the UK. And I’m a major giver to charities on top of that.”</p> <p>John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network said “This is what I call ‘representation without taxation’: the ability of multimillionaires and billionaires to support politicians who back their radical agenda whilst using offshore structures to avoid paying tax in the UK.”</p> <p>All of the DUP's remaining registered donations came from public bodies. This includes ‘short money’ that opposition parties receive from the House of Commons to support their MPs; party funding from the Northern Irish Assembly; and a ‘policy development grant’ of £100,000 from the Electoral Commission.</p> <p>In total, the party has received £292,000 of registered donations since July last year. </p> <h2>Sinn Féin<strong> <br /></strong></h2><p> Sinn Féin’s branch in Northern Ireland has received £331,000 since July 2017. Like the DUP, most of this comes from the Northern Irish Assembly. The party’s own Assembly Members and MEP contribute the rest of the funds themselves.</p><p> Parties in Northern Ireland are permitted to receive donations from Irish citizens – an exemption from the usual rule disqualifying anyone other than UK citizens from donating to parties in the UK. Rival parties have often <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn" target="_blank">expressed concern</a> that Sinn Féin receives large amounts of money from Irish Americans. However, none of the donors registered to Sinn Féin since July have ticked the “Irish donor” box, meaning all are eligible to vote in UK elections (although many may hold dual citizenship).</p> <h2><strong>The smaller parties…</strong></h2> <p>The only donation to the SDLP (beyond official sources) is a councillor who resigned from the party in February <a href="https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2018/02/13/news/sdlp-councillor-charged-with-sexual-assault-resigns-from-party-1254652/" target="_blank">amidst sexual assault claims</a>. The Ulster Unionist Party and Traditional Unionist Voice received no donations other than those from official sources.</p><p> The Alliance Party is listed as receiving a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. People Before Profit has received regular donations from its own Assembly Member, Gerry Carroll, and the Northern Irish Greens have registered no donations since July.</p><p> Commenting on the publication of the first set of data on Northern Irish political donations, Ann Watt, Head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, repeated her call on the government to lift the ban on on publishing details of donations from 2014-2017. She said:</p><p> “For over ten years political parties in Northern Ireland have been required to report information on the donations and loans that they have received, but we have been prohibited from publishing this information.</p> <p>“Transparency is an essential component to increasing public confidence in the democratic process. Information on how political parties, candidates and other campaigners raise and spend money should be open to timely public scrutiny. We are delighted that as of today we are now able to provide the public with such information.</p><p> “To further enhance this transparency we will continue to urge the UK Government to bring forward legislation that will enable us to publish the information we hold on donations and loans dating back to January 2014.”</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-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little">Why is Theresa May protecting the DUP&#039;s dirty little (Brexit) secret?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. openDemocracy investigations Thu, 15 Mar 2018 10:56:40 +0000 openDemocracy investigations 116662 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Electoral Commission demand end to ban on publishing Northern Irish Brexit campaign donor details https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/electoral-commission-demand-right-to-publish-northern-irish-brexit-campaign <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">MPs vote for campaign donor transparency for Northern Ireland – but exclude all major recent 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/KB and PM01.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/KB and PM01.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, with Theresa May. Image, karenbradley.co.uk, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission has today demanded that the government allows it to publish details of donations to Northern Irish parties during the European referendum – including a £435,000 Brexit campaign donation to the DUP.</p><p dir="ltr">The call came as MPs backed a measure which permits the elections regulator to publish details of major donations since July 2017, reneging on a previous commitment to make transparent the details of all major donations since January 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">The measure means that while the Electoral Commission can now publish information about any donations since July last year – and in the future – it is still banned from sharing key information about donations to Northern Irish parties during a period which included the European referendum, when the DUP received £435,000 for their Brexit campaign from an unknown source via a secretive group in Glasgow <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">whose chair</a> set up a company in 2013 with the former head of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">the Saudi intelligence service</a>. openDemocracy has previously revealed that the donation <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/did-dups-controversial-brexit-donors-break-law-by-refusing-">led to a record fine</a> for failure to fully disclose where the money came from, but little more is known about it.</p><p dir="ltr">The 2014-17 period also included two Westminster elections, two Northern Irish Assembly Elections, local elections, and a major scandal, known as “cash for ash”, where a DUP run department allowed hundreds of millions of pounds to be misspent. Today’s measure means that the Inquiry into the scandal, which has rocked Northern Irish politics, won’t be permitted to investigate whether the Democratic Unionist Party received donations from beneficiaries of the scheme. </p><p dir="ltr">The measure, delaying transparency until 2017, was announced days after the DUP-Conservative pact.</p><p dir="ltr">In a statement released after today’s vote, the Electoral Commission said:</p><p dir="ltr">“We will continue to recommend that a further Order should be brought forward in the near future to provide for full transparency back to 2014, as anticipated by the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">“The 2014 Act said that the names of donors and lenders from January 2014 may be made public at some point in the future. At that time we wrote to all of the political parties in Northern Ireland to advise them that they should make clear to their donors that any donations received from January 2014 may be made public.</p><p dir="ltr">“We strongly urge the UK Government to bring forward a further Order at a later date that would enable us to publish donation and loan information for the period dating back to 1 January 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland has long called for transparency with its ‘Who Pulls the Strings?’ campaign. Their activism co-ordinator Niall Bakewell said “If anyone thinks that the ‘Who Pulls the Strings?’ campaign is over, they will be in for a shock. We are owed three and a half years worth of information on Northern Ireland’s big political donors and we’re going to keep mobilising public action until we get it. </p><p dir="ltr">“What passed in the House of Commons today was a vague shadow of real donor transparency. No one is fooled, no one is satisfied. </p><p dir="ltr">He concluded by saying “Northern Ireland Office: you’ll be hearing from us soon”.</p><p dir="ltr">Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International, backed the call, saying:</p><p dir="ltr">“The government should rewrite these rules and ensure they apply from 2014. Any party that fails to get behind full transparency will only attract further questions as to what it is they wish to hide. It’s deeply disappointing that Government has taken this position that only does half the job in bringing about transparency in Northern Ireland’s political system.”</p><p dir="ltr">“For too long, political parties in Northern Ireland have lagged behind the rest of the UK – failing to reveal who funds them. The potential for hidden payments is a serious corruption risk in politics and should end as soon as possible. The public deserve to know, and in the absence of published information they are left only to speculate, and the rumour mill thrives." </p><p dir="ltr">Naomi Long, leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party, was the MP who secured the legislation meaning any large donor to a Northern Irish party after January 2014 was due to be revealed whenever the Secretary of State lifted the exemption.</p><p dir="ltr">She said: "Alliance has led the way on donor transparency, but today's action ensures other parties can now hide their donors between 2014 and 2017. </p><p dir="ltr">"For as long as secrecy remains around donations, allegations of corruption and cronyism will continue to poison public confidence in politics. The only way to deal with that is to meet the public desire for openness in politics, which has never been higher.”</p><p dir="ltr">"The MPs who voted today to keep things secret will have to explain their actions to the public who have little faith in politics to act for the greater good, rather than personal or party interest.”</p><p dir="ltr">Concerns were also raised about the way the government pushed through the measure, using parliamentary procedure to push through a vote without any debate in the full House of Commons.</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-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little">Why is Theresa May protecting the DUP&#039;s dirty little (Brexit) secret?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-should-reject-government-s-attempt-to-cover-up-for-dup-s-brexit-dark-m">MPs should reject the government’s attempt to cover up for the DUP’s Brexit dark money donation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/dup-dark-money-cover-up-officials-dismiss-minister-s-reassurances-on-north">DUP dark money cover-up: officials dismiss minister’s reassurances on Northern Ireland transparency</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Wed, 07 Mar 2018 18:30:39 +0000 Adam Ramsay 116525 at https://www.opendemocracy.net MPs should reject the government’s attempt to cover up for the DUP’s Brexit dark money donation https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-should-reject-government-s-attempt-to-cover-up-for-dup-s-brexit-dark-m <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May is trying to cover-up for her scandal-prone Northern Irish allies. MPs must call her bluff.</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/May Foster.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/May Foster.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'>Theresa May and Arlene Foster. Image, BBC.</span></span></span></p><p>Tomorrow afternoon the House of Commons will be asked to legitimise a con trick, a crass act of political and financial dishonesty, by passing a flawed law that does the very opposite of its title. </p><p> If the government, as is likely, wins and delivers cynically time-limited new rules on the “Transparency” of donations and loans in Northern Ireland it will have succeeded, for now, in hiding the original source of £435,000 that was channelled through the Democratic Unionist Party for its Leave campaign in the EU referendum.</p> <p> The money was spent mostly on the UK mainland on campaigning to take the UK out of the EU. It passed through the hands of a secretive organisation in Glasgow, the Constitutional Research Council. But where exactly did the money come from? Right-leaning groups in the United States wanting to see a populist rising in Britain they could subsequently build on at home? Russia, who now see state-sponsored interference as an attractive tool of disruption? Or perhaps a UK-based group who wanted to keep their political influence private? We don’t know. And it’s likely that the Electoral Commission doesn’t know everything either. But there are things they do know. And they want to tell us – but the government is gagging them.</p> <p> Regardless, this lack of transparency only builds mistrust and dissent. If our politics is dark and our governments believe they can manufacture financial secrecy without accountability, we are risking the foundations of our democracy.</p> <p> Should the government win, ministers are likely to indulge in a faux celebration, declaring a new era of openness in Northern Ireland political funding. It will be a lie. They will, in reality, have deliberately circumvented the right for us to know what interests this minority government and the small party that props it up, may be answerable to beyond those it supposedly represents.</p> <p> This is why openDemocracy has spent months investigating the sources, processes and pathways that led to the DUP receiving almost half a million pounds and how the money was subsequently used. We have tried, and partially succeeded, in breaking through the barriers that protect where the money came from, and explored the wider institutional unease which still surrounds this cash.&nbsp; </p><p> The watchdog authority, the Electoral Commission, responsible for upholding the law, want to give the public the details of their own investigation into this money. They have pointed out that the government already has the power to simply back-date the new transparency rules to 2014 and therefore allow the publication of all the information held on the DUP funding.</p> <p> The former Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, announced last year that the political climate in Northern Ireland had changed significantly and that an era of “full” – his word and one not difficult to define – transparency should begin.&nbsp; </p><p> Yet the government’s gift to this landmark of openness is instead a reflex protection of itself and its DUP partners, limiting “transparency” to include only the period since July last year. This legally seals all information about political donation from the past two general elections, two Assembly elections, the EU referendum and the period covering the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.</p> <p>When we most need faith in politics, this debacle has instead given us the elements of a fraudulent pantomime. Tomorrow in the Commons, MPs are being asked to authorise the building of a large wall and vault around a sum of money that clearly holds a significance beyond mere currency. Truth, as they say, never damages a cause that is just. So, what exactly is the government and its DUP allies determined to hide? Why are they installing legal barriers that will block those trying to throw light on this dark corner of Northern Irish and UK political finances? In other words, what are they determined to prevent the electorate, those who put them in power, from knowing?</p> <p> This intense circus of secrecy, this deception, this con, can begin to end tomorrow afternoon. MPs, all of them, should ask why their constituencies put them there. The stark answer is we have a representative democracy and at its core is accountability – and there is no accountability if the public are denied the right to know who funds and is hiding behind our political decision-making.</p> <p> The House of Commons should throw out this law and demand the “full” transparency the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to. And if the DUP are serious about wanting to be treated the same as the rest of the UK, they and their “dark money” should not be allowed to hide behind a wall they helped Theresa May’s government to build.</p>&nbsp;<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-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little">Why is Theresa May protecting the DUP&#039;s dirty little (Brexit) secret?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/dup-dark-money-cover-up-officials-dismiss-minister-s-reassurances-on-north">DUP dark money cover-up: officials dismiss minister’s reassurances on Northern Ireland transparency</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. James Cusick Tue, 06 Mar 2018 17:26:54 +0000 James Cusick 116502 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK diplomats met, talked Brexit with Trump aide linked to Russia probe https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-diplomats-met-talked-brexit-with-trump-aide-linked-to <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>More details emerge of controversial meetings between UK foreign office officials and George Papadopoulos.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Papodopolus.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Papodopolus.jpg" alt="" title="" width="450" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>George Papadopoulos, LinkedIn, fair use.</span></span></span></p> <p>A Trump aide who has admitted lying to the FBI about his Russian links met a Foreign Office minister and discussed Brexit with a team leader of the British Embassy in Washington, just weeks before the US presidential election.</p> <p>George Papadopoulos had three separate meetings with British Foreign Office officials in September 2016, we can reveal for the first time. Last October it emerged that Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his Russian connections.</p> <p>On September 10 2016, Papadopoulos discussed Brexit, UK/US relations, US foreign policy and the presidential campaign during an official meeting with an unnamed team leader of the British Embassy in Washington. &nbsp;</p> <p>Less than a week later, on September 16, the head of the UK’s then North America Department met the Trump aide at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London. The meeting covered “a number of current affairs issues” but no minutes were taken or briefing prepared, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) response from the FCO. </p> <p>The FCO disclosure reveals further details of the extent of Papadopoulos’s contacts with senior UK officials. Also, in September 2016, Papadopoulos met with Tobias Ellwood, at the time a Foreign Office Minister, while Ellwood was in New York for the UN General Assembly. The FCO describes the meeting as “informal” and says it has no further information. Ellwood has since been appointed as a Minister for Defence. </p> <p>Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Brexit, called for the UK government to publish a complete account of the meetings. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“With investigations into Mr Papadopoulos' contacts with Russia of global interest, anything less than total transparency about UK meetings with him will leave a nagging doubt about their purpose and impact,” said Brake.</p> <p>The meetings further undermine Trump campaign claims that Papadopoulos was a just junior aide and also raise questions about the extent of contact between Papadopoulos and British officials in the run-up to the presidential elections. Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo described Papadopoulos as little more than a “coffee boy”. </p> <p>SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said: “This is a strange development on a number of levels: why were senior FCO officials meeting with someone whom the current American President has described as a ‘low level volunteer’; and how on earth these senior FCO officials thought it appropriate to discuss Brexit with someone who’s primary role seems to have been facilitating contact between Trump Tower and the Kremlin?” </p> <p>Papadopoulos is at the centre of the on-going Mueller investigations into links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. The Greek American was living in London when he joined the Trump campaign in March 2016, <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-papadopoulos-russian-contacts-timeline/" target="_blank">with a brief to focus on US-Russia relations.</a> </p> <p>Papadopoulos boasted that he was connected to people who could organise a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. After it emerged in October 2017 that Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about the extent of his Russian connections, Trump described Papadopoulos as a “young, low level volunteer” - despite Papadopoulos featuring in a photo taken at a national security meeting and tweeted by Trump in March 2016. That same month Trump <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/30/george-papadopoulos-timeline-trump-campaign-adviser-russia-links" target="_blank">described Papadopoulos</a> as an “excellent guy” when unveiling him as a foreign policy advisor. </p> <p>Papadopoulos had strong links to Britain. In May 2016, before Wikileaks released hacked Democratic National Convention emails, Papadopoulos <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/30/us/politics/how-fbi-russia-investigation-began-george-papadopoulos.html" target="_blank">told Alexander Downer</a>, Australia's top diplomat to the UK, about Russia's “dirt” on Clinton while they were drinking at The Kensington Wine Rooms in London, according to the New York Times. Australian officials informed their American counterparts of Papadopoulos' conversation with Downer. The FBI <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/fbi-opened-russia-probe-after-papadopoulos-told-australian-diplomat-of-clinton-dirt-2017-12?r=US&amp;IR=T" target="_blank">began scrutinising</a> the Trump campaign's Russia ties after that. </p> <p>In London, Papadopoulos also met Joseph Mifsud, a ‘professor’ at Stirling University. Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos to a ‘female Russian national’. Papadopoulos wrongly called her ‘Putin’s niece’ in emails sent back to the campaign. Papadopoulos kept the Trump campaign up to date on his links with the Kremlin. “The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr Trump to meet him when he is ready,” Papadopoulos told his superiors in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/04/brexit-ministers-spy-russia-uk-brexit" target="_blank">late April 2016</a>. </p> <p>Alok Sharma MP, a Foreign Office minister until June 2017, met with Mifsud “a couple of times”, the Observer <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/04/boris-johnson-brexit-russia-trump" target="_blank">revealed</a> last year. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “As you would expect, in the run up to an election we seek to build links with figures in both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns. This type of outreach is normal diplomatic business”. &nbsp;</p> <p>In November 2017, a <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2017-11-15/HL3277" target="_blank">parliamentary written question</a> was submitted to find out more details about Papadopoulos’ visit to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 2016. In response, a FCO minister confirmed that the “then Head of the FCO’s North American Department held a brief introductory meeting with George Papadopoulos, one of the Trump campaign’s named foreign policy advisors, in September 2016. A written record of this meeting was not produced.” No further details of the meeting were provided.</p> <p>Tom Brake MP said: “With yet more evidence of informal and unminuted talks between Mr Papadopoulos and the UK government emerging, it is time the UK government published a complete account of these meetings and their content.”</p> <p>SNP Martin Docherty-Hughes MP also commented on the lack of minutes: “Given that one of the primary duties of our diplomatic service is to listen to the views of those they meet and communicate this to the Her Majesty’s Government, that no notes were taken is especially surprising: it now remains to be seen whether there was similar contact with other figures in the Trump team.” </p> <p>Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said: “Recently, we’ve noticed Whitehall becoming less inclined to be open about the work of government. From obstructive responses to information requests to delayed publication of spending decisions, departments aren’t living-up to the Government’s commitment to transparency. Given the historic significance of the decisions being made on our behalf, it’s more important than ever that government is open and accountable to its citizens.”</p> <p>“Only last December, the prime minister argued that ‘the sunlight of transparency…helps ensure the highest standards of public life amongst senior government representatives’. Yet without complete and accurate records of their meetings, the public are left in the dark about what’s being done in their name”.</p> <p> <em>See the full freedom of information disclosure <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-adBGW8KWTqbENMWWtUOEI1UThfNnZqczh6ckJ4V0xSZ2hv/view">here</a>. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy Thu, 15 Feb 2018 13:18:23 +0000 Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghegan 116151 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What we've discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can't stop now https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the first anniversary of our dark money investigation...</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/DUP placards.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/DUP placards.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'>Leave campaigners in Edinburgh - picture, Adam Ramsay</span></span></span></p><p>The first question was the one I’d asked the two Brexit campaigners outside Edinburgh’s Waverley station. </p> <p>They began by talking about democracy. But when I pressed, their rage switched to refugees. And it was then, in the middle of a question about an Afghan family I’d met in Belgrade, that I spotted the imprint. </p> <p>The small text at the bottom of the poster they were holding said “printed and promoted by J Donaldson, Democratic Unionist Party”. </p> <p>“Do you know who the DUP are? Do you know who Jeffrey Donaldson is?”. </p> <p>As I walked home, the second question occurred to me:</p> <p>“Why is a Northern Irish party paying for campaign materials in Edinburgh?”.</p> <p>And, as I unlocked the door to my tenement stairwell, the intriguing answer replied: there is no donor transparency in Northern Ireland. Someone is using them as a front to funnel secret money into the referendum campaign. </p> <p>The next day, a few journalists tweeted a photo of a wrap-around Metro advert, also paid for by the DUP. Most treated it as the kind of odd thing that those strange parties in Northern Ireland do. Most didn’t ask any more questions. But then, the Democratic Unionist Party, the pro-UK, anti-abortion, anti-LGBT biggest party in Northern Ireland has long benefited from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/lack-of-british-interest-in-northern-irelands-crucial-election-is-best-evidence-that-">British media’s two decade omertà</a> about its troubled province. </p> <p>There was one exception. The Glasgow based Irish journalist Peter Geoghegan had picked up a copy on a trip back from Sunderland. Sharing a photo in a Facebook post, he expressed the same worry as me.</p> <p>--- </p> <p>Six months later, I had my first one-to-one with my boss, Mary Fitzgerald, since she’d come back from maternity leave. The meeting consisted of a long list of utterly vital tasks I hadn’t done. And, at the end, as she was calmly trying to get me to prioritise, I said, “oh, and there is one more thing… an itch I’d like to scratch…”.</p> <p>I explained about the DUP posters and the dark money loophole and my theory about what it meant.</p> <p>“Holy shit” she said. “Why didn’t you tell me this six months ago?” Six months earlier, she’d been off work with a new-born baby in one arm and a toddler in the other. “There’s a Northern Irish election coming up” I explained. It had been triggered by a scandal around another dubious Democratic Unionist Party financial arrangement: the “cash for ash” scandal. Perhaps we could use the scrutiny of the vote to pressure the normally secretive party into revealing something.</p> <p>The next day, I rang Peter, and asked if he wanted in.</p> <p>For our first article, <i><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The ‘dark money’ that paid for Brexit</a></i> we mapped sightings of the Metro advert, dug through Electoral Commission timetables, and figured out that they had definitely spent more than £250,000 – much more than any previous campaign, more than their accounts showed they could possibly afford. </p> <p>Hours before the first leaders’ debate in the election, we <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">hit publish</a>. In the midst of an election already coloured by DUP corruption allegations, their opponents and Northern Irish journalists were quick to jump on our story.</p> <p>In the following weeks, pressure built. At every public appearance, Northern Irish reporters would ask where on earth they got all of this cash. At some point in mid-February, the Electoral Commission was due to publish full expenditure figures. Would the DUP come clean before then?</p> <p>Finally, they said they would reveal where the cash came from.</p> <p>One Friday morning, I woke up to headlines in the Northern Irish papers. The money had come from a group called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), chaired by Richard Cook, former vice-chair of the Scottish Tories. </p> <p>I was furious. </p> <p>The papers – and the BBC – seemed to be taking this at face value, as though this really was the source of the cash. But, a few years earlier, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism had shown<ins cite="mailto:Adam%20Ramsay" datetime="2018-01-31T11:12"></ins><del cite="mailto:Adam%20Ramsay" datetime="2018-01-31T11:12"></del> how Unincorporated Associations like the CRC are <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/05/tory-donors-united-and-cecil-club-2015-war-chest">used as fronts</a> for secret donations. </p> <p>All the DUP had done was pull back a curtain to reveal another curtain.</p> <p>Richard Cook, though, is a real person. And you can find things out about real people.</p> <p>I found him on Companies House. Going through each document, I soon came across a surprising name: Nawwad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Royal Palace, Jeddah. </p> <p>According to Wikipedia, the (now dead) prince was the former head of Saudi intelligence and father of the country’s ambassador to the UK. What on earth was he doing founding a company with a minor Scottish Tory?</p> <p>That afternoon, we published again: <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service"><i>Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to Saudi intelligence service</i></a><i>.</i><del cite="mailto:Adam%20Ramsay" datetime="2018-01-31T11:36"></del><ins cite="mailto:Adam%20Ramsay" datetime="2018-01-31T11:36"></ins><del cite="mailto:Adam%20Ramsay" datetime="2018-01-31T11:36"></del><del cite="mailto:Adam%20Ramsay" datetime="2018-01-31T11:36"></del></p> <p>But, who was the third man on those company accounts? Google his name, Peter Haestrup, and you got almost nothing. There was only one other connection on Companies House “Obsidian Fine Arts”. Obsidian, Google said, is a form of glass formed in volcanoes<del cite="mailto:Adam%20Ramsay" datetime="2018-01-31T11:39"></del>, known for being translucent, but not transparent. Was he advertising his shadiness? <del cite="mailto:Adam%20Ramsay" datetime="2018-01-31T11:39"></del>But other information was not forthcoming.</p> <p>Then, Peter rang. </p> <p>He’d been talking to contacts, and someone had told him that Haestrup was involved with arms dealing in some way. A bit more digging, and he found Haestrup’s connection to a vast gun-running scandal in India in the mid-1990s.</p> <p>Eventually, he managed to find a phone number for Haestrup in Copenhagen, who told him: </p><p>“I was working on the right side that time. When you were working in the intelligence service you have to be on the right side… Have you been a soldier? A lot of things happen in the world… I was involved there but I (have) never been accused of anything.”</p> <p>We dug out some more details, and ran our next story: <i><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/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>.</i><strong> </strong></p> <p>I went Northern Ireland, tracking down the key DUP figures to ask if they knew where the cash came from. After hours running round Lagan Valley looking for him, a friend and I finally got into Jeffrey Donaldson’s office in Lisburn, and filmed him claiming he knew nothing about the Saudi intelligence links. <ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T20:50"></ins></p><p> <iframe frameborder="0" height="259" width="460" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/nApi-ZZ7l-s"></iframe></p> <p><ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T20:50"></ins></p><p>We followed the other two public donations from the CRC. One went to Steve Baker MP, for his work as chair of the secretive pro-Brexit MP faction the European Research Group. We have subsequently showed that a number of Tory MPs <ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T20:51"></ins><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">use taxpayer cash </a>to fund this hard Brexit lobby group, through their expense claims, and that the ERG has<ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T20:52"></ins> an unlisted office in parliament – <ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T20:53"></ins>and that their<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec"> increasingly powerful members </a>may be <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/tory-ministers-taxpayer-cash-hard-Brexit-erg">breaking the ministerial code</a>. We showed that Baker has close connections to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">the arms industry, the American radical right</a>, and even the government of Equatorial Guinea.<ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T20:53"></ins></p> <p><ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T20:53"></ins>The second donation from the CRC paid for a poll during the last Tory leadership election, which boosted the 'hard Brexit' candidate Andrea Leadsom. </p> <p>Because we’d been repeatedly told the cash came from “pro-union business people” we investigated everyone who gave £25,000 or more to the campaigns against Scottish independence. Only one of them – <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Henry Angest</a> – wouldn’t deny involvement with the CRC. And he had previously given cash to various of the networks that the other characters all seemed connected to: the Freedom Association, Open Europe and Atlantic Bridge.<ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T20:55"></ins></p> <p><ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T20:55"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/henry_2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/henry_2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="728" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sir Henry Angest, Chairman and Chief Executive of Arbuthnot Banking Group PLC. Image used under Fair Use: Arbuthnot Banking Group PLC. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></ins></p><p><ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T20:55"></ins>A couple of months later, Alastair Sloan and Iain Campbell came to me with questions about Arron Banks and his wealth. It looks like the main funder of the Brexit campaign may not be nearly as rich as he claims. Was he really the source of the £8.6 million he’s credited with giving to various Leave campaigns? Alastair and Iain spent last summer doing a comprehensive assessment of his real net worth, and their article “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">how did Arron Banks afford Brexit</a>?”, alongside our other investigations, leading Ben Bradshaw to ask Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“Has she seen the very worrying series of reports this week by openDemocracy, on the role of dark money in the EU referendum, including revelations of illegal donations to the DUP and new questions today over the real wealth of Arron Banks, the main financial backer of Leave?</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“Given the widespread public concern over foreign and particularly&nbsp;Russian interference in Western democracies, will she assure this house that the government and the Electoral Commission will examine these reports very carefully and reassure our country that all of the resources spent in the referendum were from permissible sources?"</p> <p>The questions triggered an Electoral Commission inquiry, and articles from <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/world/europe/russia-brexit-arron-banks.html">the New York Times</a> to <a href="https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/11/britain-sex-dossier-scandal">Vanity Fair</a>.<ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T20:57"></ins></p> <p>Jim Waterson at Buzzfeed and Carole Cadwalladr at the Observer had raised concerns about huge donations from the official Leave campaign to two smaller Leave outfits shortly before the referendum. With WhatDoTheyKnow, we got all of the Electoral Commission emails about the case, showing that most of this money was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">paid directly by Vote Leave</a> to the data analytics firm AggregateIQ, never even touching the bank account of its supposed recipient. The Commission reassessed its previous decision that this was all above board, and decided to investigate this, too. </p> <p>We looked in detail at one of the groups involved in this trick: Veterans for Britain, and found that the people behind the Leave movement weren’t the anti-establishment agitators they like to pretend: they were a very British cast of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">billionaires and colonels blimp</a>.</p> <p>Peter spotted that much of the money – from each of the different campaigns – had been used to buy campaign materials from an obscure branding firm in Ely. The company, he pointed out, had seen a huge growth of its income as a result of lots of the different Brexit campaigns ‘spontaneously’ deciding to use its services. So I found myself running around Ely, to its various registered offices, and finding myself outside an obviously <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">empty suburban terrace</a>.<ins cite="mailto:Adam%20Ramsay" datetime="2018-01-31T12:49"></ins></p> <p>Of course, in the middle of all this was the snap general election which nearly broke Theresa May, leaving her dependent on votes of DUP MPs. It led hundreds of people to contribute cash to our investigation, without which we’d not have been able to do this. And it left the UK government in a tortured position: reliant for its majority on a potent mix of a Northern Irish party that’s been crippled by a string of financial scandals and on the radical right of its own party, desperately pushing their own vision of Brexit.</p> <p><ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T21:03"></ins>But here’s the thing. In the middle of all of this, there are people who know where the DUP’s £435,000 came from, and why someone worked so hard to keep it secret. And some of those people might very well understand why transparency matters in politics, why citizens have a right to know who is trying to influence us. If you are one of those people, you can slip us whatever information you have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/info/share-information-with-opendemocracy">here</a>.&nbsp;<ins cite="mailto:Mary%20Fitzgerald" datetime="2018-01-30T21:03"></ins></p><p>We’ve been running this investigation for a year now, with a growing team of colleagues and helpful contacts. And what we’ve discovered is perhaps not surprising. While the Brexit vote was fuelled by legitimate rage, it was steered by rich and powerful men (and yes, mostly men) who work very hard to keep their interests hidden. </p><p>Which means we have to keep working hard to expose them. Starting with the cash which paid for that placard I happened upon in Edinburgh. </p><p>Donate to our investigation <a href="https://www.crowdpac.co.uk/campaigns/3746/opendemocracy">here</a>, and we’ll keep digging. </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/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 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/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/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 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/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Who are Veterans for Britain?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Thu, 15 Feb 2018 06:00:00 +0000 Adam Ramsay 115905 at https://www.opendemocracy.net MPs demand ‘urgent investigation’ into Cabinet ministers' support for hard-Brexit lobby group https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/tory-ministers-taxpayer-cash-hard-Brexit-erg <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tory ministers have used taxpayer cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit pressure group, now led by outspoken government critic Jacob Rees-Mogg</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><i>Additional reporting by: Jenna Corderoy, Guy Shrubsole, Peter Geoghegan, Mary Fitzgerald. </i></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/549093/farage and mogg (2)_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Image: Isabel Infantes/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/farage and mogg (2)_1.jpg" alt="" title="Image: Isabel Infantes/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="458" height="237" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Isabel Infantes/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>A number of Cabinet members appear to have breached the rules of government through their membership of a secretive hard-Brexit lobby group, now chaired by the outspoken government critic Jacob-Rees Mogg, openDemocracy can reveal today.</p><p dir="ltr">Senior Conservative ministers including Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt and David Gauke have used taxpayers’ cash to fund the hard-Brexit European Research Group (ERG), which is now led by Rees-Mogg MP, who has been accused in recent days of trying to undermine Prime Minister Theresa May and oust her Chancellor, Philip Hammond. </p><p dir="ltr">The ministers have funded this lobby group (through their expense claims) whilst holding posts in government – despite the ministerial code prohibiting ministers from becoming “associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with government policy”. </p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has also uncovered new evidence that a number of other key figures in government – including Brexit ministers Steve Baker and Suella Fernandes – have remained active in the ERG after taking on government posts, and that the senior whip Chris Heaton-Harris has hosted meetings for them inside parliament.</p><p dir="ltr">A government spokesperson has denied that there has been any breach of the rules. But a number of Labour and SNP MPs have now called on the parliamentary authorities to “urgently investigate” the matter, with former Foreign office minister Chris Bryant calling it a “clear conflict of interest”; Caroline Lucas labelling the findings “deeply concerning” and the SNP’s Deirdre Brock asking, “What kind of shameless opportunist would be supporting their colleagues in public while betraying them in private?”</p><p dir="ltr">The European Research Group is a ruthlessly organised faction within the Conservative party, funded by a mix of taxpayer cash and dark money. It has spent 25 years pushing to transform Britain into what its co-founder calls “<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-16138797/the-uk-should-be-an-offshore-haven-says-tory-mep">an offshore, low tax haven</a>”, and since the EU referendum it has published a string of letters, reports and demands for a hard Brexit.</p> <blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Seems to me the most significant developments on Brexit this week have been the interventions of <a href="https://twitter.com/Jacob_Rees_Mogg?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Jacob_Rees_Mogg</a> - now he has a group (the mysterious and still unnamed membership of ERG) to represent he has ‘oomph’. If anyone can bring down this PM (and Chancellor) it’s him</p>— Krishnan Guru-Murthy (@krishgm) <a href="https://twitter.com/krishgm/status/956660514691715072?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 25, 2018</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">previously revealed</a> that the European Research Group employs a staff member whose salary is funded by Tory MPs’ membership ‘subscriptions’, paid through their expense allowances. We have also revealed that <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">six of Theresa May’s current ministers</a> had paid subscriptions to the group shortly before taking roles in the government.</p><p dir="ltr">Our new analysis of data released by the Independent Parliamentary Standards authority shows that, since 2010, ten Conservative MPs have paid subscriptions to the organisation while holding ministerial posts. Four of these – including Michael Gove and Chris Grayling – only did so in the period before the European referendum, when Cameron had waived Cabinet collective responsibility on the issue of EU membership.</p><p dir="ltr">But six more have paid subscriptions to the group outside that period, including four who are still in government: Andrea Leadsom, Sajid Javid, David Gauke, and Penny Mordaunt.</p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on our findings, the Labour MP and former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw said: “Under a functioning government, anyone who had allegedly broken the ministerial code could expect – at best – a difficult conversation with the prime minister. The fact that this almost certainly won’t happen shows quite how much Theresa May is in hock to the radical right of her party”. &nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr">The “most powerful opposition force in British politics”</h2><p dir="ltr">In February 2017, the Times <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/brexit-backing-mps-plot-their-attacks-on-whatsapp-sw5gp7680">described the European Research Group</a> as “the most powerful opposition force in British politics”, organising through a Whatsapp group with “a sense of discipline” which puts even the (famously disciplined) SNP “to shame”.</p><p dir="ltr">In an interview with <a href="https://www.conservativehome.com/highlights/2017/07/interview-the-double-hatted-suella-fernandes-a-member-of-the-government-and-a-pro-brexit-group-leader.html">ConservativeHome</a> in July, the ERG’s then chairwoman, Suella Fernandes MP, claimed their “communication group” had more than a hundred members. The ERG's most recent intervention on Thursday saw Rees-Mogg&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42823654">give a speech</a> in which he called for a fundamental change in the approach of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiation team, saying: “Their approach seems to be that we must accept what the EU will allow us to do and build from there. This is no way to negotiate and it is no way for this country to behave."</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, long-term ERG member Bernard Jenkin MP <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42823654">slammed the Chancellor</a>, Philip Hammond, for remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which he considered to be insufficiently supportive of a hard Brexit, and saying “maybe the prime minister needs another reshuffle”.</p><p dir="ltr">This latest row comes after months in which the ERG has become increasingly emboldened. In July, they published <a href="http://www.elphicke.com/downloads/ready-on-day-one.pdf">a paper</a> written by Charlie Elphicke, MP for Dover and ERG member, entitled ‘Ready on Day One’, about how to meet “the Brexit borders challenge”. The foreword to the paper was written collectively by the “European Research Group of Conservative MPs”.</p><p dir="ltr">In September, the ERG’s former chair Suella Fernandes asked MPs to sign up to <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/steve-baker-and-suella-fernandes-in-firing-line-over-mps-brexit-letter-chancellor-philip-hammond-blcj2zb6d">a letter</a> calling on the government to ensure a hard Brexit. At the time, Stephen Hammond, Tory MP for Wimbledon, said <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/steve-baker-and-suella-fernandes-in-firing-line-over-mps-brexit-letter-chancellor-philip-hammond-blcj2zb6d">to the Times</a>: “The European Research Group letter is an unacceptable attempt to hinder negotiations and jeopardise the government. It is entirely at odds with stated policy, which colleagues should be supporting, not undermining.”</p><p dir="ltr">In September openDemocracy also revealed that the ERG’s work is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-demand-full-investigation-of-hard-brexit-backing-tory-party-within-par">funded by at least £250,000 of taxpayer cash</a>, as many of its MP members siphon off funds from their research budget to pay for a pooled ERG staff member. Our new analysis of IPSA data shows that this figure is actually higher: a minimum of £315,000.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite the group taking taxpayer money, the ERG has long refused to list its members – with Fernandes repeatedly declining to do so in what many described as a <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/conservative-mp-suella-fernandes-warns-theresa-may-not-to-keep-britain-in-single-market">“car crash” Channel 4 News interview</a>, hours after openDemocracy revealed that her organisation was funded by taxpayer cash.</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/suella.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/suella.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'>Suella Fernandes, interviewed on Channel 4 News.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The full spreadsheet of those who have claimed expenses to pay for their ERG subscription is <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1U7Rg9EFgLAuQD7Etu7e6Mna9tPmLwSf1-v3m2Boyer4/edit?usp=sharing">here</a>, although it is not clear that this is the full membership of the organisation, as a number of people listed on ERG letters and other publications – including office holders – are not included, and the list is significantly shorter than the 50-100 members that its leading figures sometimes claim to have.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has tried on many occasions to contact ERG representatives to get more clarity on who their members are and how their operation is funded. They have so far declined to respond. </p><h2 dir="ltr">So, who are the ERG? The early years</h2><p dir="ltr">In February 1998, the Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay received a mysterious package at his office in parliament. As he explained in a <a href="https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=1998-02-11a.378.0&amp;s=%22european+research+group%22#g378.1">point of order</a> to the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, “the postal system apparently could not find any person to whom they could be appropriately delivered”.</p><p dir="ltr">The strange piece of post was addressed to "The Treasurer, The European Research Group, House of Commons, London SW1." And inside were “100 cheques and a Midland bank paying-in book for an account in the name of ‘The Danish Referendum Campaign Account.’”</p><p dir="ltr">The Danish referendum on membership of the Euro in 2000 was seen as a key moment in the process of European integration. Joining the Euro had widespread support from the Danish establishment, but was ultimately rejected by the people of Denmark.</p><p dir="ltr">As MacKinlay explained:</p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">“Someone is running a fund-raising exercise from the House for that group, which could bring the House into disrepute. It means that those who cannot command a majority in the House to scupper the Amsterdam treaty are trying to use the Danish people as a surrogate to do so. That should not happen through the offices of the House.”</p><p dir="ltr">That someone was the secretary of the European Research Group – the young man who helped found the “party within the Conservative party” which is now bending government rules and holding Theresa May to ransom. The young man’s name was Daniel Hannan.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/731px-Daniel_Hannan_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/731px-Daniel_Hannan_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="566" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daniel Hannan, by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18405986</span></span></span></p><p>Hannan, now a right-wing commentator and MEP, has been described as “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/29/daniel-hannan-the-man-who-brought-you-brexit">the man who brought you Brexit</a>” and is, by all accounts, a remarkable character. According to a fellow student at Oriel college, Oxford, his obsession with leaving the EU was matched only by his interest in magic, and in the occultist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleister_Crowley">Aleister Crowley</a>. One evening, we are told, he was convinced that he would win the election for president of the Conservative club, as he had cast all of the right spells. He returned to his room that night, baffled at having lost, only to discover that a key candle had gone out.</p><p dir="ltr">But Hannan found another way to dominate university Conservative politics, establishing a Campaign for an Independent Britain, whose membership included Nicky Morgan, who later served in David Cameron and Theresa May’s Cabinets, and Hannan’s old school friend Mark Reckless, who has switched between UKIP and the Conservative party during his subsequent political career. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/29/daniel-hannan-the-man-who-brought-you-brexit">According to the Guardian</a>, the Campaign for an Independent Britain was able to attract prominent politicians to speak at its events. Shortly before Hannan’s graduation in 1993, he wrote to the Conservative MPs who had rebelled the year before over the Maastricht treaty and offered his services as a researcher. About twelve of them said yes, and the European Research Group was founded under the chairmanship of Michael Spicer, who would go on to chair the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, before stepping down as an MP in 2010 after being caught in the 2009 expenses scandal paying for <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5309943/MPs-expenses-Michael-Spicers-helipad-maintenance-receipt.html">maintenance of his helipad</a> with public money.</p><p dir="ltr">Writing in the Telegraph this week in an article entitled “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/01/25/move-ukip-jacob-rees-mogg-erg-now-real-brexit-watchdogs/">Move over Ukip, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the ERG are now the real Brexit watchdogs</a>”, Spicer explained why the group was founded:</p><p dir="ltr">“I set up the European Research Group in July 1993 towards the end of the Maastricht furore. It comprised Conservative Members of Parliament who were concerned about the direction being taken by the European Union towards becoming a federal state.</p><p dir="ltr">“The Group was formed on the presumption that the most effective way of at least modifying this process was by working internally within the Conservative Party rather than, for instance, setting up a rival party such as Ukip.”</p><p dir="ltr">In 1999, Hannan was elected to the European parliament. And in 2000, as the Danish referendum on the single currency approached, he was <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/4254232/Wonderful-wonderful-Copenhagen.html">still fundraising</a> for the No campaign – and had reportedly <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2000/jul/24/uk.thatcher">raised £100,000</a> – though, by now, he was using the address of his own central London flat.</p><h2>Clinging on in the Blair years</h2><p dir="ltr">With Hannan occupied in Brussels, the Tory MP David Heathcoat-Amory was a subsequent chairman of the ERG. According to the pro-Brexit website <a href="http://brexitcentral.com/50-groups-behind-article-50-part-i/">Brexit Central</a>, his chairmanship included the period 2001-2003 when he was also one of the UK’s delegates to the Convention on the Future of Europe, which ultimately drafted the European constitution (which he opposed). Heathcoat-Amory is famous for saying to the black <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/black-mp-dawn-butler-reveals-she-was-victim-of-racism-in-parliament-after-fellow-mp-assumed-she-was-a6901261.html">MP Dawn Butler</a> “they let anyone in nowadays” and stood down from parliament in 2010 after his extravagant <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5310147/MPs-expenses-David-Heathcoat-Amory-dumps-550-sacks-of-manure-on-taxpayer.html">expenses claims</a> – including for horse manure for his garden – were revealed. <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-glanville-84a0201a/">From 2002-2004</a>, Matthew Glanville – Jacob Rees-Mogg’s brother in law, and an occasional TV militarist – was the group’s staff member. In 2007 <a href="https://uk.linkedin.com/in/robert-broadhurst-175b1892">Robert Broadhurst</a> took over the job running the ERG, and became their longstanding head of research.</p><p dir="ltr">However, the ERG seems to have faded a little from view in the Eurosceptic world, as other groups started to dominate and Blairite ‘Eurothusiasm’ set the mood at Westminster.</p><p dir="ltr">Hannan’s old friend, Mark Reckless, who was a Tory then Ukip MP and then a Ukip and now Tory Welsh Assembly member, said that the then Conservative leadership was “not serious about real change on Europe”, and privately described the ERG as “a backwater with little real influence on policy till the arrival of Steve Baker.” (Baker, who is now a minister in the Department for Exiting the EU, became chair in 2016).</p><p dir="ltr">During this lacklustre period the ERG did, though, manage what is perhaps the most important trick in politics: it survived. And once the Tories returned to government, the group gradually grew. In 2010, Chris Heaton-Harris, the MP for Daventry and former West Midlands MEP who has since become famous for writing <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/oct/24/universities-mccarthyism-mp-demands-list-brexit-chris-heaton-harris">“McCarthyite” letters</a> to universities, took over as chairman of the group. He held this post until November 2016.</p><p dir="ltr"> Documents from the House of Commons catering department released via Freedom of Information to openDemocracy show Heaton-Harris hosted an ERG breakfast meeting as recently as October 2017 – despite taking over as a government whip in July 2016. Continuing to chair the group as it put pressure on the government he was concurrently a member of contravenes the ministerial code, although a government spokesperson has told openDemocracy that they do not view it as a breach.</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 2018-01-26 at 13.52.26.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 13.52.26.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="374" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h2 dir="ltr">The ERG’s mystery office – and the invention of ‘hard Brexit’</h2><p dir="ltr">Since <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopher-howarth-6aa3a022/?trk=public-profile-join-page">June 2015</a>, <a href="http://christopherhowarth.uk/aboutchristopherhowarth/">Christopher Howarth</a>, son of the long term ERG member and former government minister Gerald Howarth, has had <a href="http://www.w4mpjobs.org/JobDetails.aspx?jobid=50945">the job</a> running the group. MPs <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmcode/1076/107604.htm#a9">are usually required</a> to declare in their register of interests if their expenses are used to employ family members (although there is no specific mention of pooled staff in the rules). However, as Christopher took up the role, his father changed his entry in his annual expenses submission, so that rather than paying for “staffing”, his contribution was instead allocated to “office costs”.</p><p dir="ltr">Christopher Howarth is a former staff member at the Eurosceptic group ‘Open Europe’ and for the Conservative MP and ERG member Mark Francois. Responses to Freedom of Information requests from openDemocracy to the House of Commons catering department show that he makes use of an office within 1 Parliament Street, a House of Commons building. However, when we rang the parliament switchboard, and even the reception for the building, they said they knew nothing about this office.</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 2018-01-29 at 13.47.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 13.47.41.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="257" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Steve Baker. Image: BBC, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><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>, part of the Tory 2010 intake of new MPs, took over as the chair of the ERG in November 2016, after the EU referendum. He relaunched the group along with the new vice chair Suella Fernandes MP, and it took off with a flourish, persuading, as Baker <a href="http://www.stevebaker.info/2016/11/a-real-eu-exit-not-a-fake-one/">put it</a>, “Sixty Conservatives plus colleagues from the DUP, Labour and UKIP” to sign a statement saying that “‘The UK must leave the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Customs Union’, the so-called ‘Single Market’” – the position we now know as <a href="http://www.stevebaker.info/2016/11/a-real-eu-exit-not-a-fake-one/">hard Brexit</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Reckless and others who began to take notice of the influence of the ERG, Baker was the “game-changing” figure who remains central to their project, while Brexit Central says that Baker was “ably aided behind the scenes by Christopher Howarth and Christopher Montgomery, bringing together Conservative and DUP MPs supporting the government in delivering Brexit.”</p><p dir="ltr">A month after Baker took over the role, the group accepted a donation of £6,500 from the Constitutional Research Council – the same secretive organisation which had previously funnelled a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">controversial £435,000 to the DUP</a> for their Brexit campaign, and which has repeatedly refused to disclose the source of this cash. The Constitutional Research Council’s chairman set up a business in 2013 with the former head of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Saudi intelligence</a> and a Danish ‘private banker’ who has previously <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">admitted to openDemocracy</a> that he was involved in the Purulia Arms drop, which was a major Indian gun-running plot in 1995.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The MPs using taxpayer cash to pressure the government – despite being in government</h2><p dir="ltr">MPs’ expense data going back to 2010 shows that a number of Tory MPs have paid subscriptions to the ERG whilst holding ministerial office: an activity which appears to breach the ministerial code’s rules on conflict of interest.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2010-11, 14 MPs paid money to the ERG out of their taxpayer-funded research grants. The year after it was 15, including Theresa May’s new justice secretary, David Gauke, a junior Treasury minister at the time. They also included Mark Francois, then a government whip, and Gerald Howarth, then minister for international security.</p><p dir="ltr">The following year, 22 MPs paid a subscription to the ERG, including the same three ministers and new prominent figures including David Davis and Liam Fox, who had just been forced to resign as defence secretary.</p><p dir="ltr">The timing is relevant here because in December 2011, the group published <a href="http://www.tamworthconservatives.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Human-rights-Making-them-work-for-the-people-of-the-UK-web.pdf">a report</a> on human rights which was critical of the government in a number of ways, and said they wanted – from the government that three of their members were ministers in – a “firmer guarantee that the Strasbourg Court will no longer be able to override the mainstream British understanding of human rights”.</p><p dir="ltr">Also, in January 2012, they published another report by their head of research Robert Broadhurst which claimed that the UK loses three quarters of its human rights cases in the European courts, which was covered widely <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2085420/Europes-war-British-justice-UK-loses-human-rights-cases-damning-report-reveals.html">in the tabloids</a> but dismissed by experts as “misleading” (the real figure is <a href="https://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2012/01/12/uk-loses-3-out-of-4-european-human-rights-cases-more-like-1-in-50-actually/">closer to one out of 50</a>).</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/dail-mail.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/dail-mail.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="594" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>In the following year, 2013-14, membership grew again, to 25, with Douglas Carswell, another old ally of Daniel Hannan, who was soon to make his dramatic switch to UKIP, and Sajid Javid – already a Treasury minister – joining.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2014-15, Andrea Leadsom, who was already a member, became another Treasury minister. In May that year, the ERG said in <a href="http://www.w4mpjobs.org/JobDetails.aspx?jobid=50945">a job advert</a> that its aim was “changing the UK’s relationship with the EU and ECHR to minimise European interference with British Parliamentary democracy” – which seems to contradict the policy of David Cameron’s government.</p><p>In 2015-16, Mark Francois, Penny Mordaunt and Sajid Javid all paid their subscriptions to the organisation while holding jobs in government, and the ERG gained its first cabinet level minister, as Javid became Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2016-17, &nbsp;the organisation’s paying membership was steady, at 26 MPs, but of those, nine had jobs in government including Michael Gove, then Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, then Leader of the House, and Sajid Javid, then Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.</p><p dir="ltr">In addition, a number of other ministers in the current government are thought to still be active members of the ERG, despite holding government posts. Both of the group’s most recent former chairs, Suella Fernandes and Steve Baker, are now ministers in the Department for Exiting the EU. Baker, for example, is understood to have remained an active member of the Whatsapp group since taking up his ministerial post.</p><p dir="ltr">Section 7.12 <a href="http://www.civilservant.org.uk/library/2016_ministerial_code.pdf">of the ministerial code</a> states:</p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">“Ministers should take care to ensure that they do not become associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with Government policy and thus give rise to a conflict of interest”.</p><p dir="ltr">It is worth noting that in the run-up to the 2016 Brexit referendum, David Cameron had allowed ministers to take their own positions on EU membership. However, outside of that limited period, there is plenty of evidence of the ERG taking positions at odds with government policy: it has repeatedly made statements which conflict with the government’s position, both <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-talks-tory-eurosceptics-negotiations-undermine-nicky-morgan-anna-soubry-a7934556.html">since the EU referendum</a>, and before it.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, the leading barrister Jolyon Maugham QC said:</p><p class="blockquote-new">“If you’re a minister you have a duty under the code to ensure that no conflict arises between your public duties and private – financial or non-financial – interests. And you have a duty not to become involved with organisations whose objectives may conflict with government policy.</p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">“Both Steve Baker and Suella Fernandes recognised this principle by resigning as the ERG’s chair as each became junior ministers. But I can’t understand why they seem to regard it as acceptable to remain as members. This seems to me to be a situation that ‘could result in the belief that ministerial support is being given to a particular policy’ on Brexit and is explicitly proscribed by the ministerial code.”</p><p dir="ltr">The government has denied that ERG membership is a breach of the code, claiming that group whose chair, Jacob Rees-Mogg, dramatically attacked government policy in the past week, is in fact nothing more than a research group. In a statement issued to openDemocracy, a spokesperson said: "This is a party political research group which provides briefings to Conservative MPs relating to the UK's relationship with the European Union. Such research groups are perfectly normal practice amongst political parties and we do not consider this a ministerial code issue.</p><p dir="ltr">“The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has found that this spending is entirely within the rules. The research group provides briefing material for parliamentarians, and it is in the public interest for MPs, including ministers, to be able to receive briefing material from a wide range of organisations”.</p><h2>“A clear conflict of interest”</h2><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, a number of MPs from several parties have challenged this interpretation. Former Foreign Office minister and ex-Shadow Culture Secretary Chris Bryant has called for the Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood to investigate. He said: “Of course, ministers are perfectly free to hold whatever private opinions they want, but to remain members of a hard-line right-wing body which has views directly contradictory to the government of which they are meant to be a member is a clear conflict of interest.”</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile former shadow Foreign Office Minister Stephen Doughty MP pledged to raise the matter with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), and the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, stating: “These further revelations about the shadowy ERG and their influence over the government in pushing an ultra hard Brexit agenda, in conflict with official government policy, are deeply concerning. I already wrote to raise serious concerns about the ERG before, and since then its last Head, Suella Fernandes, has been appointed a Brexit minister - showing just how much influence this shadowy group has in government.</p><p dir="ltr">“The British people deserve the facts and transparency on just what they were told during the referendum and since, and the role others clearly have played in trying to influence the agenda – from secretive interest groups to foreign powers – and ultimately they have the right to change their mind on the way forward.”</p><p dir="ltr">Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, described these findings as “very concerning”: “This group is pushing for dangerous policies like the mass deregulation of farming, and ministers should not be funding it. We know that such deregulation of our food supply can have disastrous consequences – just look at what's <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/guy-shrubsole/meet-think-tank-shaping-future-of-britains-food-and-countryside">happened in New Zealand</a>.”</p><p dir="ltr">And SNP MP Deidre Brock said: &nbsp;“If Theresa May had control of her government we would be expecting these ministers to be sacked… but it’s clear from her failed reshuffle that she has no control. Her ministers are off attending dodgy parties in London hotels and, it’s now clear, paying public money to a private lobbying organisation that’s trying to change the direction of the government they’re part of.</p><p dir="ltr">“The Prime Minister won’t act so the parliamentary authorities should. This is a disgraceful misuse of public money and IPSA should be calling them in on it, the rules have to change to stop this happening in the future and these MPs should be paying the money back”.</p><p dir="ltr">The fact that the group organises on a Whatsapp group only adds to the secrecy surrounding the group. Whatsapp is an encrypted technology: just the sort of encrypted technology which the previous Conservative government <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encryption_ban_proposal_in_the_United_Kingdom">tried to ban</a>. (Although encryption cannot, of course, prevent a good old-fashioned leak, as happened this week when <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/heres-a-leaked-whatsapp-chat-showing-tory-leavers-confusion">Buzzfeed revealed</a> that ERG member Nadine Dorries posted to the group showing she didn’t understand one of the group’s most basic demands: exit from the Customs Union).</p><h2>Operating from the shadows – why?</h2><p dir="ltr">Over the months that we have studied the European Research Group, we have heard two claims about who they are. On the one hand, there is what the government itself claims earlier in this article – that they are simply a group of MPs chipping in to pay a researcher to write reports about Europe. On the other hand, there is what everyone else says: that this is a highly organised “party within a party” (to quote one Conservative MP), coming from a very specific ideological viewpoint and forcing Theresa May towards the hardest possible Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">Democracy depends on people with shared interests organising together – in itself, Brexit-supporting MPs collaborating to secure things that they jointly want is just this. However, what makes the ERG stand out is its refusal to act in public. It refused to publish its membership list, despite MPs supposedly being accountable to their constituents. It wouldn’t let voters know which of its members were using taxpayers’ money to pay for its staff member, until openDemocracy sifted through the data. It took money from the secretive Constitutional Research Council, which (as openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/did-dups-controversial-brexit-donors-break-law-by-refusing-">previously revealed)</a> has been fined (in secret) by the Electoral Commission for failing to fully disclose where it gets its cash from. It operates on an encrypted Whatsapp group.</p><p dir="ltr">In all these ways, the ERG has behaved as though it is above the rules, vocally flouting the basic code of behaviour for ministers, while Theresa May’s weakened government pretends that one of its most powerful critics, Rees-Mogg, is really just the chair of a reading group. Its former chairmen include two figures most tainted by the expenses scandal, as well as the MP Steve Baker, who (as we <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">also revealed</a>) took thousands of pounds from an arms company whilst helping run the committee which promotes the arms industry in parliament (extraordinarily, this isn’t prohibited in British politics).</p><p dir="ltr">Not only has the ERG been described this week as the group most likely to bring down the prime minister, but in Michael Spicer’s piece <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/01/25/move-ukip-jacob-rees-mogg-erg-now-real-brexit-watchdogs/">in the Telegraph</a> referenced above, he says: “under their brilliant new chairman, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, they constitute a powerful parliamentary voting factor and are therefore to be regarded very seriously, collectively and individually, when it comes to the final votes on the Brexit draft legislation.”</p><p dir="ltr">The final votes on Brexit draft legislation will be some of the most important votes in modern British history, enshrining key questions about the future of the country. If it really is the case that the European Research Group will be a “very powerful factor” in that vote, then UK citizens have the right to know its full membership, where all of its money comes from – and its full involvement with ministers in Britain’s current and previous governments.</p><p dir="ltr">As Michael Chessum, national organiser of the campaign group Another Europe is Possible, said to us: "For those in charge of it, Brexit is not just a process or a policy – it is an agenda of deregulation and resurgent nationalism. These revelations demonstrate that. What we've got is a series of ministers, defying the government's own rules, queuing up to be part of a club to promote that specific agenda. For some of them it's because they share that rightwing ideology, for others it's about being on the winning side and advancing their careers. What we need to understand is that Theresa May's Brexit strategy is effectively mortgaged to this agenda – and we need to find a way out."</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/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/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 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> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Adam Ramsay Mon, 29 Jan 2018 10:26:34 +0000 Adam Ramsay 115873 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Six of Theresa May’s cabinet are paid up “members” of secret group demanding a total break from the European Union https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The head of the secretive European Research Group won’t reveal which senior ministers are members of the hardline anti-EU group. Why not? Because the answer and the reach of the ERG leaves the Prime Minister looking like a Brexit hostage.</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/fernandes.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/fernandes.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'>Suella Fernandes, ERG chair, being interviewed by Channel 4 News - fair use.</span></span></span></p><p>Six leading members of Theresa May’s cabinet are paid-up subscribers of the secretive European Research Group, the hard-line anti-EU caucus of Conservative&nbsp;MPs who have serially refused to publish their membership list. </p> <p>New data collected by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority covering the last year, show that the six cabinet members, along with the chief of staff and special adviser to the Brexit secretary, David Davis have each claimed £2,000 in parliamentary expenses for “professional” and “pooled” services from the ERG. Five other subscriptions from former Tory cabinet ministers and whips, plus the current chair of the ERG, means this group alone have claimed more than £32,000 from the public purse.</p> <p>Michael Gove, the environment secretary, Penny Mordaunt, the newly-promoted defence secretary, David Gauk, the work and pensions secretary, Sajid Javid, the communities and local government secretary, Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House of Commons, and Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, have all used official expenses claims to pay for “ERG subscriptions” over the last 12 months. </p> <p>Stewart Jackson, who lost his Peterborough seat in June’s general election, and is now chief of staff to David Davis at the Department for Exiting the European Union, also used his official expenses to pay for ERG services during the last years. </p> <h2><strong>Private list</strong></h2> <p>In September this year, during a live <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/conservative-mp-suella-fernandes-warns-theresa-may-not-to-keep-britain-in-single-market">television interview</a> from the lobby in Westminster on the back of an <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">openDemocracy investigation</a> into the group, the current chair of the ERG, Suella Fernandes, refused to say which ministers were members of her organisation. </p> <p>The ERG’s membership is routinely rumoured to be around 80 MPs, with Eurosceptic cabinet ministers having previously signed up to letters that effectively mirror ERG objectives.</p> <p>However, today’s revelation shows the group’s paid-up subscribers reach deep into the core of Theresa May’s administration, and have been seen as deeply worrying. </p> <h2><strong>Hidden hurdle </strong></h2> <p>One senior Whitehall official, who asked not to be named because he was currently involved in preparations for the next phase of talks with the EU’s negotiators, told openDemocracy: “2018 will be a difficult and critical year and those from Brussels we have to engage with, have already voiced concern that our future position could be clearer. But there will be added suspicion that this secretive group – and if they won’t publish who their members are and what they do, then secret is the correct word – represents a hidden hurdle by Brussels that the UK government has to jump over. This will hinder, not help, the prospects of a deal.”</p> <p>Other data collated by IPSA show that 58 MPs have recently used taxpayers’ money to fund the ERG’s activities. Among the leading Brexiteers who have paid for ERG subscriptions over the course of the last two parliaments include Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is still being touted as a future Tory leader should May be forced out of 10 Downing Street. </p> <p>The group is often described as a party-within-a-party of hardline Brexiteers capable of holding the prime minister hostage or removing her from office if she deviates from their stated aim of severing all ties with the European Economic Area, the single market, the European Court and the Customs Union.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>The re-invented ERG</strong></h2> <p>The Brexit minister and Wycombe MP, Steve Baker, is regarded as the most powerful figure linked to the ERG. Baker was the head of the group before he was promoted into the government. Though it was founded in 1998, Baker is credited with turning the ERG from a backwater of low-profile Eurosceptic malcontents into a powerful organisation capable of deciding the terms and merits of any deal with Brussels. </p> <p>He has described any move towards a soft Brexit or any retention of links with the EU as “a vote for the UK to be powerless and poorer than we can otherwise be.”</p> <p>Although he now holds no formal role in the group, restricted meetings of ERG members in Westminster have been addressed by Baker since June, with his speeches enthusiastically applauded. </p> <p>openDemocracy has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">previously revealed</a> that Baker took a £6,500 donation from the Constitutional Research Council to pay for an ERG event before Christmas 2016. We have also revealed that the CRC chairman, Richard Cook, founded a company in 2013 with the former head of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Saudi intelligence service</a> and a Danish spy implicated in a controversial <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">Indian gun-running case</a>. Our research has also shown that Baker has previously accepted cash and foreign travel from a wide-range of groups, including the arms industry, and a number of American pro-corporate lobby groups.</p> <p>Fernandes, who only became an MP in the 2015 election, took over as chair of the ERG in June this year following Baker’s move to David Davis’s department. She has described negotiations with Brussels over the terms of Brexit as “begging the EU for mercy”. She has told ERG members in texts sent on a highly-protected WhatsApp messaging group, that they should not forget the referendum was an “instruction to parliament to free the UK from the shackles of Europe.”</p> <h2><strong>Channel Four News </strong></h2> <p>In her interview with Channel Four News – which followed an <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">investigation by openDemocracy</a> which discovered over a quarter of a million pounds of public funds had been channelled to the ERG through MPs expenses – Fernandes refused to say how many government ministers were in the ERG.</p> <p>Told repeatedly by the Channel Four News presenter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy that if her group took public money then the public should have a right to know, Fernandes looked uneasy. Resorting to awkward laughing, and clearly unsettled she replied, “The list of MPs is known to the ERG.”</p> <p>Both Channel Four News and openDemocracy have repeated requests to Fernandes’ office for a full list of the ERG membership, its research, and the cost of its publically funded operations. No list has been provided. </p> <p>Following complaints by MPs that public cash was being misused by the ERG because it focused on a single-issue, Brexit, and operated as a party-political organisation, IPSA recently carried out an updated review of its claimed research. </p> <p>IPSA identified “party-political language” in some of the material produced by the ERG. However it concluded that because the ERG had been in existence before the EU referendum, and because “the vast majority of material produced was factual, informative” and not in conflict with IPSA regulations, no action was being taken. </p> <p>However IPSA would not comment on the ERG continuing to keep its membership lists private and largely out of public reach. </p> <p>Francis Grove-White, Deputy Director of Open Britain, said: &nbsp;</p> <p>“It is illuminating, and deeply worrying, to see who is really pulling the strings of the government’s hard Brexit trajectory. </p> <p>“The ERG are in favour of the most destructive Brexit possible: they want to tear up all our economic co-operation with Europe in pursuit of a low-regulation, race-to-the-bottom agenda that most people in Britain do not support.</p> <p>“If Ministers are claiming taxpayers’ money as allowances to pay for membership fees of this group, then the public have every right to know exactly who in the Government is a registered ERG member. </p> <p>“The ERG should publish this information immediately. If they have nothing to hide, they will have no problem doing so. If they do not make this information public, people will draw their own conclusions.”</p> <p>The ERG was contacted by openDemocracy and invited to comment on the subscriptions of cabinet members. No reply was 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/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/northern-ireland-electoral-commission-in-new-bid-to-honour-transparency-la">Northern Ireland Electoral Commission in new bid to honour transparency laws from 2014</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. James Cusick Fri, 22 Dec 2017 10:57:05 +0000 James Cusick 115460 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Northern Ireland Electoral Commission in new bid to honour transparency laws from 2014 https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/northern-ireland-electoral-commission-in-new-bid-to-honour-transparency-la <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The government has been accused of trying to cover up for the DUP as it reverses a law which promised transparency in Northern Irish political donations from 2014.</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/DUP deal.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/DUP deal.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'>Image, BBC News, fair use</span></span></span></p> <p>The head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, Anne Watt has repeated her demand to the UK government that legislation should be put in place to allow the publication of full details of donations and loans to political parties made since 2014. </p> <p>The call by Ms Watt was made less than a day after a special committee in Westminster advanced the progress of a new law on political donations in Northern Ireland that will limit full transparency only to funds received after July this year.&nbsp; </p><p>By a majority of one, the government effectively succeeded in keeping secret the full details of a £435,000 donation to the DUP that was made during the Brexit referendum in 2016.&nbsp; The majority of the cash was spent on the UK mainland on pro-leave campaigning and included payments to two digital analysis groups currently under investigation by the UK authorities.&nbsp; </p><p>The origins and full details of the record DUP donation, were arranged through a former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservatives, Richard Cook, who runs a small Glasgow-based organisation called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC). </p> <p>The CRC was fined £6,000 by the Electoral Commission in August. However the current law in Northern Ireland protects any details of the fine from being published. </p> <p>Watt’s demand is deeply embarrassing for the Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, and his junior minister, Chloe Smith.&nbsp; During the heated and often angry debate in Commons committee, Smith claimed the government had consulted the Electoral Commission, fulfilled its statutory obligations and insisted there was “widespread support” among parties in Northern Ireland for no backdating of transparency other than from July 2017. </p> <p>Although the Commission’s head welcomed the planned new law – that will now be voted on by the full House of Commons soon after the holiday recess –&nbsp; her statement added : “We continue to call on the Secretary of State to put in place the necessary legislation that will allow us to publish details of donations and loans received since January 2014.”</p> <p>Chloe Smith’s claim of “widespread support” among Northern Ireland parties to limit transparency from only 2017, was challenged by Owen Smith, Labour’s Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary. </p> <p>Smith quoted recent comments from Sinn Fein that limiting any changes to July 2017 would continue to cover up “the dark money given to the DUP”. He said that with the Alliance Party always in favour of back-dating new transparency rules to 2014, and the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP also not opposed to the three-year back-date, the government were simply “protecting the DUP.”</p> <p>Smith said that during the recent EU negotiations the DUP had protested at not being treated like the rest of the UK. “Now they want a special status for transparency in Northern Ireland…. this affair stinks,” Smith said. He added the DUP could clear the mess “by telling us where this shady money came from.” </p><p>Ben Bradshaw, a cabinet minister in Gordon Brown’s government, and a leading campaigner on transparency, accused the government of being “complicit in this cover-up”. He said if the DUP had nothing to hide, they should “open up” and say where the £435,000 came from. </p><p>He told the committee that £282,000 had been spent by the DUP on pro-leave advertising on mainland UK with £32,000 also given to AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica. The two data-mining companies also held lucrative contracts with other pro-Brexit campaigns. Bradshaw said the two companies&nbsp; were under investigation in the UK and USA and therefore there should be concern about the DUP donation. </p><p>“The DUP was used by the CRC to funnel money to the leave campaign that to this day keeps the source of that money secret,” Bradshaw said. He added that regardless of the proposed legislation, the government should publish details of why the CRC were fined by the Electoral Commission and what law was broken. He asked Chloe Smith if she had satisfied herself on the source of the DUP donation and whether it had been legal.&nbsp; </p><p>He told the committee “There is nothing stopping the minister asking the Electoral Commission about this. She is hiding the true source of this donation and the only conclusion here, is this protects the deal the government has with the DUP.” Bradshaw called the government’s proposed legal change “a shabby little order.”</p> <p>Chloe Smith accused Bradshaw of “inviting her to commit a criminal offence”, saying, “we do not have access to this information, “ she said. </p> <p>In often heated exchanges and interruptions by two DUP MPs – Ian Paisley Jnr and Sammy Wilson – who were attending the committee debate but were not eligible to vote, both accused Labour of remaining fixated on the result of the referendum and on failures to address the “millions” Sinn Fein received in foreign donations. </p> <p>Owen Smith told the committee: “This is nothing to do with views on Brexit, but is about transparency.” </p> <p>In heated exchanges before the committee vote was taken, Labour’s Jess Phillips accused the government of “conducting a pantomime” .</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/adam-ramsay-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little">Why is Theresa May protecting the DUP&#039;s dirty little (Brexit) secret?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/mary-fitzgerald-adam-ramsay/do-you-know-where-brexit-dark-money-came-from-tell-us-anony">Do you know where the Brexit dark money came from? Tell us anonymously</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/did-dups-controversial-brexit-donors-break-law-by-refusing-">Did the DUP&#039;s controversial Brexit donors break the law - by refusing to reveal the secret source of their cash?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. James Cusick Wed, 20 Dec 2017 12:17:40 +0000 James Cusick 115414 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why is Theresa May protecting the DUP's dirty little (Brexit) secret? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today, the UK government is trying to sneak through a law which will bury the DUP's huge Brexit donation in another layer of secrecy.</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 2017-12-18 at 09.39.04_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 09.39.04_0.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'>DUP MPs Jeffrey Donaldson, Nigel Dodds and Emma Little-Pengelly. BBC, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">------</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Update, 6th March 2018:</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>This will go to a full vote of the House of Commons tomorrow. A Labour source tells us the government tried "all kinds of tricks" in the Commons last night to hurry it through and stop it coming to such a show-down. In the Lords last week, the minister said the government was open to considering honouring the original commitment to transparency from 2014 onwards. But an official in the department <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/dup-dark-money-cover-up-officials-dismiss-minister-s-reassurances-on-north">undermined him</a> and said we shouldn't read too much into his statement.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>-------<br /></em></p><p dir="ltr">Today, Theresa May's Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is going to try to sneak a big favour to the DUP, the small party now propping up May’s government in parliament – and in effect holding the future of Britain, Ireland and Europe hostage.</p><p dir="ltr">Hoping that journalists and MPs will be too hung-over after yet another Christmas party to pay much attention to a new legislative detail, Brokenshire has chosen the quiet moment before the break to smuggle through a measure which will deny British citizens the right to know who funds their politics. And in particular, it will block all of us from knowing who gave the DUP a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">highly controversial</a> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">£435,000</a> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">donation</a> to campaign for Brexit last year.</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, that’s not what Brokenshire<em>&nbsp;says</em> he’s doing. Listen to his speeches, and you’d believe that his parliamentary order – which comes before a specially convened committee of 17 MPs today – is designed to deliver long-awaited transparency on political donations to the people of Northern Ireland.</p><p dir="ltr">In a sense, it will. Unlike in the rest of the UK, donors can give any amount of money to political parties in Northern Ireland and still keep their names secret. Brokenshire’s move will change this.</p><p dir="ltr">But here’s the catch. The Northern Ireland Secretary wants to make the new transparency rules effective 1st July 2017 – when in fact, a law was passed three years ago which would have allowed donors to be publicly named from 1st January 2014. </p><p dir="ltr">This timing is crucial. If Brokenshire was granting transparency from 2014, it would mean revealing who gave the DUP the mystery £435,000 – the largest donation ever received by a Northern Irish party, which was spent on lavish pro-Brexit campaigning in the weeks before the tightly-fought EU referendum vote.</p><p dir="ltr">This matters to citizens across the UK&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/24/eu-referendum-spending-official-campaigns-investigation-opens-electoral-commission">because</a> almost none of this secret donation was spent in Northern Ireland. In fact, much of the cash was used to fund expensive wrap around adverts in the Metro freesheet in major cities on the mainland.</p><p dir="ltr">In effect, the DUP laundered a huge sum of cash for someone who wanted to bankroll the Leave campaign across the UK, and abused an out of date Northern Irish loophole to keep their identity a secret. And now Theresa May’s government is cleaning up after them.</p><p dir="ltr">Everyone will deny, of course, that this has anything to do with the squalid £1bn deal the Conservatives made with the DUP in May this year, in order to keep May’s government in power.</p><p dir="ltr">Asked in July why there weren’t granting transparency from 2014, the Northern Ireland office<a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/the-400000-donation-to-pro-brexit-campaign"> said to Channel 4</a> that James Brokenshire “does not believe that it is right or fair to impose retrospective regulations on people who donated in accordance with the rules set out in law at the time”.</p><p dir="ltr">But the reality is that the 2014 Act made clear that all donations from then on would one day be public. Talk to people in Northern Ireland, and they are clear: the assumption was always that one day, all details held by the Electoral Commission about donations from 2014 onward would one day be published. This is what the donors expected, it’s what the parties expected, and it’s what the public had demanded.</p><p dir="ltr">Brokenshire’s move also has involved ignoring all the people the government would normally consult on such an important decision.</p><p dir="ltr">There is one thing that the 2014 Act specifies. It says that the Secretary of State must “consult the Electoral Commission” before making donors details public.</p><p dir="ltr">The head of the Northern Irish Electoral Commission, Ann Watt, has made it unequivocally clear that she thinks information about donors from 2014 onwards should be published,<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-40487702"> saying</a>: "While all reportable donations and loans received from 1 July 2017 will now be published by the commission, we would also like to see the necessary legislation put in place, as soon as possible, to allow us to publish details of donations and loans received since January 2014.”</p><p dir="ltr">Her predecessor Séamus Magee retired in 2014, and so is freer to say what he really thinks. At the time, he<a href="https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/surprising-move-sees-government-retain-secrecy-around-political-donations/"> Tweeted</a>: “The deal on party donations and loans must be part of the DUP/Conservative deal. No other explanation.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Every party in Northern Ireland understood that the publication of political donations over £7,500 was to be retrospective to Jan 2014.”</p><p dir="ltr">Similarly, the UK government claims it properly consulted all of Northern Ireland’s political parties on transparency, and that only the Alliance party specified that all information from 2014 onwards should be released. </p><p dir="ltr">This is a patently dishonest claim. For a start, the consultation took place in a context in which the parties all thought that the 2014 date was a given. You can read the Alliance Party response to the ‘consultation’ from the Northern Ireland office <a href="https://www.opengovernment.org.uk/resource/alliance-party-response-to-niogn-letter-on-donor-transparency-january-2017/">here</a>. It comes from their party leader, Naomi Long, who happens to have been the MP who successfully passed the piece of legislation allowing transparency from 2014. As she said: “the successful amendment ensured that all donations dating back to the commencement date of the legislation (January 2014) can be published once the exemption is lifted.” She doesn’t argue for transparency from 2014. She points out that it’s what the legislation she wrote already provides for.</p><p dir="ltr">Second, Brokenshire's so-called 'consultation' with Northern Irish parties happened in January 2017, before the DUP’s controversial £435,000 donation was public, and before £1bn Tory-DUP deal to keep Theresa May in power. And in any case, all Northern Irish parties (apart from the DUP) have now clarified that they are happy with the 2014 date.</p><p dir="ltr">As our colleague James Cusick <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick/uk-government-set-to-ignore-northern-ireland-parties-transparency-calls">wrote in October</a>:</p><p dir="ltr">“openDemocracy has learned that Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the Alliance Party, and the Greens have all told Brokenshire in writing or during talks that they want transparency on political donations backdated to 2014, thereby revealing the source of the DUP’s Brexit funding.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The Ulster Unionists have also told Brokenshire in private talks that they too do not oppose retrospective legislation and backed a consensus for the 2014 date.”</p><p dir="ltr">Finally, Northern Irish civil society has long been demanding transparency. After a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-33507423">string</a> of <a href="https://sluggerotoole.com/2016/12/10/detail-is-important-who-benefitted-from-the-scandal-that-is-arlene-fosters-cash-for-ash-rhi-scheme/">political</a> <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iris_Robinson_scandal">scandals</a> drenched in allegations of corruption, charities, NGOs, journalists and local campaign groups are desperate to know who’s been paying for their politicians’ campaigns. And yet there was no consultation with any of them before Brokenshire made his announcement.</p><p dir="ltr">As Niall Bakewell at Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, who have long demanded donor transparency, said to openDemocracy: “James Brokenshire’s failure to consult anyone from civil society reveals a contempt for democracy. As a strident voice in favour of donor transparency for half a decade, Friends of the Earth had a right to be heard on this important issue, and yet we were completely ignored. The Secretary of State has distinguished himself as aloof and timid. It seems to us that he was either entirely ignorant of the history of the issue, or deliberately excluded voices that would challenge him to make a courageous and just decision on this issue.</p><p dir="ltr">“That his decision comes so soon after the confidence and supply deal was announced raises fair suspicion that it is impossible to maintain a Chinese wall protecting the Northern Ireland office from having to give consideration to awkward parliamentary arithmetic when delivering peace and normalisation for our society”.</p><p dir="ltr">There is a final, crushing irony in all of this – even beyond the fact that Theresa May’s government is being propped up, as it negotiates Brexit, by a party funded by secret Brexit donors.</p><p dir="ltr">It is this. Just last week, the DUP’s leadership made headlines across for Europe for blocking the Brexit negotiations from progressing. Why? Because they did not want Northern Ireland to be treated any differently from the rest of the UK. </p><p dir="ltr">In the same breath, they want to keep abusing a uniquely Northern Irish legal loophole to ensure the secrecy of the biggest donation they have ever received – cash which sought to influence the biggest democratic decision the British people have made for a generation. </p><p dir="ltr">In a bid to prevent our elected representatives from stopping this stitch up, the government has proposed this change to the rules in a way which means MPs can’t simply make an amendment, as they can with most other laws. But the special committee of 17 MPs looking at this proposal, which meets tomorrow, can kick up a fuss and attempt to force the government to reconsider. If Brexit was ever about Taking Back Control, they must.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>The 17 MPs are: Nigel Adams (Conservative); Tonia Antoniazzi (Labour); Margaret Beckett (Labour); Ben Bradshaw (Labour); Alex Burghart (Conservative); Deidre Brock (SNP); Simon Clarke (Conservative); Nic Dakin (Labour); Steve Double (Conservative); Simon Hoare (Conservative); Margaret Hodge (Labour); David Morris (Conservative); Jess Phillips (Labour); Chloe Smith (Conservative); Owen Smith (Labour); Steve Pound (Labour); Julian Sturdy (Conservative)</em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Update: This article was updated to reflect the correct composition of the committee of MPs</strong></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/james-cusick/uk-government-set-to-ignore-northern-ireland-parties-transparency-calls">UK government set to ignore Northern Ireland parties’ transparency calls</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/did-dups-controversial-brexit-donors-break-law-by-refusing-">Did the DUP&#039;s controversial Brexit donors break the law - by refusing to reveal the secret source of their cash?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Mystery deepens over secret source of Brexit &#039;dark money&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/mary-fitzgerald-adam-ramsay/do-you-know-where-brexit-dark-money-came-from-tell-us-anony">Do you know where the Brexit dark money came from? Tell us anonymously</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/release-details-of-dup-brexit-dark-money-mps-tells-northern">Release details of DUP Brexit ‘dark money’, MPs tells Northern Ireland Secretary </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £425,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">Democratic Unionist Party Brexit campaign manager admits he didn’t know about its mysterious donor’s links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Mary Fitzgerald Adam Ramsay Tue, 19 Dec 2017 09:52:37 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Mary Fitzgerald 115369 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who are Veterans for Britain? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">You can’t understand Brexit without understanding Veterans for Britain.</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/Patel PA.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Patel PA.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">This is a story about the establishment that brought you Brexit. </p><p dir="ltr">It’s a story about a cast of extraordinary characters. Kemp, the loud colonel: a grammar school boy from Essex and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x0WBRpYpgY">self-described “thug</a>”, rallying the troops through Twitter and the tabloids; Walton, the former Metropolitan police commander who left to become “<a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardwalton5/">an independent consultant</a>” in the wake of criticism in parliament and press; Banks, the “<a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-banks-6404a09/">communications consultant</a> specialising in corporate reputation” who used to work in Dubai. And Guthrie, the Anglo-Scottish aristocrat and Field Marshal, who these days dabbles in private intelligence and mining: for gold, for oil, and for data.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s a story which exposes the first lie of Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">Many of the spokespeople for Euroscepticism like to talk about representing “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sEKLNOn9FA">ordinary, decent people</a>”. They are the so-called “<a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/arron-banks-brexit-diaries">bad boys</a>” who dared to stand up to the elites. Speaking at a Trump rally last year, <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3757485/Brexit-anti-establishment-victory-Nigel-Farage-tells-Trump-supporters.html#ixzz4zkb3a8a0">Nigel Farage claimed</a>, “we made June 23 our independence day when we smashed the establishment."</p><p dir="ltr">The fascinating details I have found while investigating the people who make up a key pro-Brexit group, Veterans for Britain, make one thing clearer than ever. The Brexit movement was led by Establishment England.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Part I: The Commission investigates</h2><p dir="ltr">Last month, an Electoral Commission<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/news-releases"> press release</a> announced a new investigation into two donations at the heart of the Brexit campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">The first was made to Veterans for Britain. The organisation, set up “to put forward the Defence and Security arguments for the UK to vote to leave the European Union,” told the Commission they got £100,000 from Vote Leave Ltd in May 2016, and spent £100,000 with the then obscure Canadian data analytics firm AggregateIQ. The second went to a 23 year old called Darren Grimes, a student with no previous campaigning experience who ran the BeLeave pro-Brexit campaign, and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">claimed</a> that a sudden £623,000 payment from Vote Leave to AggregateIQ was made on his behalf. </p><p dir="ltr">The Commission <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/electoral-commission-statement-regarding-vote-leave-limited,-mr-darren-grimes-and-veterans-for-britain-limited">is interrogating</a> whether each of the three groups – Vote Leave, Veterans for Britain, and Grimes – “delivered a return that was incorrect” in relation to these donations and, consequently, “whether or not Vote Leave exceeded its spending limit”.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave Ltd, as the designated lead campaigner, had a spending limit of £7m, and spent <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=vote%20leave&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;evt=ukparliament&amp;evt=nationalassemblyforwales&amp;evt=scottishparliament&amp;evt=northernirelandassembly&amp;evt=europeanparliament&amp;evt=referendum&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid">around £6.8m</a> itself. But, according to<a href="http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/194621/Working-together-for-EU-referendum-campaigners.pdf"> Commission guidelines,</a> “When you work together in a joint campaign with a designated lead campaigner all the spending counts towards the lead campaign group’s spending limit.” </p><p dir="ltr">The guidelines specify that “Making donations to another campaigner is not working together”. However, if they are “spending money as part of a coordinated plan or arrangement”, then it’s “working together”. So the question is, was Vote Leave Ltd “working together” with Grimes and Veterans for Britain on how all this money was spent.</p><p dir="ltr">The issue was further complicated late last month. Vote Leave Ltd’s Dominic Cummings had previously claimed that the organisation got a letter from the Electoral Commission, signing off on these donations. But<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/25/vote-leave-dominic-cummings-online-guru-mystery-letter-dark-ads"> Carole Cadwalladr</a> revealed in the Observer that the Commission (finally) told her “we can’t find any record of any exchange with us on the subject of donations between them from that period”.</p><p dir="ltr">We’ve<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo"> written before</a> about the close relationship that the 23-year old Grimes seemed to have with Vote Leave. But Veterans for Britain appears to have been even closer. Lee Rotherham, who was director of special projects for Vote Leave, took up the job of Executive Director of Veterans for Britain in October 2016.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/200659/Vote-Leave-Ltd-Further-evidence.pdf"> Vote Leave submission</a> to the Electoral Commission when it was bidding to be the officially designated Leave campaign, Rotherham's role with them included: “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">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, who uses the Twitter handle “DrBrexit”, is a long term Eurosceptic, former Army reservist and military history enthusiast, who<a href="http://www.theredcell.co.uk/people.html"> claims to have</a> advised three foreign secretaries, and also to have worked “<a href="http://www.theredcell.co.uk/people.html">in defence</a>”. He has previously been associated with the right wing groups the<a href="http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/lee_rotherham"> Taxpayers’ Alliance</a> and the<a href="http://www.bostonstandard.co.uk/news/politics/campaigner-launches-handbook-to-salvage-conservative-party-s-eurosceptic-credentials-in-wake-of-ukip-win-1-6351562"> Freedom Association</a>, and now has his own think-tank,<a href="http://www.theredcell.co.uk/"> The Red Cell</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">He 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 dir="ltr">The only other donation Veterans for Britain <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Veterans%20for%20britain&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">declared</a> is £50,000 from Arron Banks’ firm “Better for the Country Ltd, which is also the subject of an Electoral Commission investigation (you can read openDemocracy’s close look at his affairs <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">here</a>). </p><h2 dir="ltr">Part II: the Field Marshal, the private sector spooks and the all-seeing stone</h2><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/General_Guthrie.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/General_Guthrie.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="575" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Field Marshal Lord Guthrie in 1997. Image, public domain.</span></span></span>Charles Ronald Llewelyn Guthrie took on a new role this year. In August, the firm Arcanum Global announced that he had joined them as a<a href="https://www.arcanumglobal.com/news/former-head-british-army-defence-chief-joins-arcanum/?pdf-template"> senior adviser to its chairman</a>. Arcanum is Latin for “the secret”, and calls itself “a global intelligence company that provides a host of bespoke strategic intelligence services to government entities and the private sector”.</p><p dir="ltr">The company was at the centre of a<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/1411b1a0-a310-11e7-9e4f-7f5e6a7c98a2"> Financial Times investigation</a> in September into private intelligence agencies. According to the paper’s correspondent, Tom Burgis, Arcanum’s research “reveals how the mercenaries of the information age are shaping the fate of nations.” </p><p dir="ltr">Guthrie – or, to give him his full title, Field Marshal Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, GCB, LVO, OBE, DL, Colonel of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Guards_(United_Kingdom)">The Life Guards</a>, Gold Stick to The Queen, Colonel Commandant of the SAS – was head of the British army from 1994-1997 and then chief of defence staff from 1997-2001. He was <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1384766/Garter-snub-Blair-s-General-After-wedding-invitation-slight-ex-PM-s-military-chief-denied-honour.html">sometimes</a> <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/lord-guthrie-tonys-general-turns-defence-into-an-attack-399865.html">given</a> another title by the media: “Tony’s General” due to his alleged <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2000/nov/24/eu.defence">close relationship</a> with Blair, and his early <a href="https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2002-09-24a.870.0&amp;s=iraq+speaker%3A13420#g894.0">support for the Iraq war</a>, although he later <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/lord-guthrie-tonys-general-turns-defence-into-an-attack-399865.html">revised his views</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">As well as being an advisor to Arcanum’s chairman, he is also listed as a member of <a href="http://veteransforbritain.uk/about/people/">the advisory board </a>of Veterans for Britain.</p><p dir="ltr">According to <a href="https://www.arcanumglobal.com/">Arcanum’s website</a>, its chair – the man Guthrie advises – is<a href="https://www.arcanumglobal.com/arcanum-team/our-leadership-team/"> Ron Wahid</a>, “an industry leader in the fields of international business, finance and intelligence” who “has been the lead advisor to oil supermajors and multinational corporations” and “was an advisor to the Bush-Cheney Transition team”. Shortly after the European referendum, Wahid wrote in<a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/07/14/brexit-american-business-benefits-tax-pound-opportunity-referendum-tax-bet-column/86956342/"> USA Today</a> that “Brexit is an opportunity for American businesses”. He<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/1411b1a0-a310-11e7-9e4f-7f5e6a7c98a2"> told the Financial Times</a> that the Kazakhstan government was one of his company’s clients.</p><p dir="ltr">Its vice chairman, Keith Bristow, is a former director of the National Crime Agency and chaired the<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/carly-nyst/un-privacy-report-five-eyes-remains"> controversial</a> Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group.</p><p dir="ltr">Other advisers to the chairman, according to the company's website, include the<a href="https://www.arcanumglobal.com/team_members/admiral-dennis-c-blair/?pdf-template"> former US Director of National Intelligence</a> and former<a href="https://www.arcanumglobal.com/team_members/bernard-squarcini/?pdf-template"> head of the French intelligence service</a>. The<a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/meir-dagan-corporate-spy/"> late Meir Dagan</a>, the former Mossad head, <a href="http://www.fpp.co.uk/BoD/Mossad/Dagan_profiled.html">credited with transforming</a> the Israeli intelligence agency, also <a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/meir-dagan-corporate-spy/">worked for the firm</a> before he died last year. It is one of a number of firms which, the FT says, “have benefited from the growth in outsourcing by the law enforcement and spy agencies of the US and its allies”.</p><p dir="ltr">In late September or early October 2014, Guthrie declared that he had become a shareholder <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/publications-records/House-of-Lords-Publications/Records-activities-and-membership/Register-of-Lords-Interests/Register081014.pdf">in two companies</a>. One of them is <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-guthrie-of-craigiebank/3608/register-of-interests">Palantir Technologies</a>, a data analysis firm co-founded by the US billionaire Peter Thiel, who was also co-founder of Paypal and a board member of (and the <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-stake/peter-thiel-sells-most-of-remaining-facebook-stake-idUKKBN1DM2BQ">first major investor in</a>) Facebook. Thiel is known for his major donations <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/20/peter-thiel-donald-trump-donations-facebook-zuckerberg-support-diversity">to Donald Trump</a> and other parts of the American ‘libertarian’ right, reportedly turned down a job as chair of Trump’s <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/11/peter-thiel-doesnt-want-intelligence-advisory-post/547100/">intelligence advisory board</a>, and famously <a href="https://www.cato-unbound.org/2009/04/13/peter-thiel/education-libertarian">argued in 2009</a> that “the extension of the franchise to women” has “rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron”, that “capitalism simply is not that popular with the crowd” and therefore that his fellow libertarians must focus on developing the technology that will ensure that it is capitalism, rather than democracy, which wins that struggle: “The fate of our world may depend” he wrote “on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism”. </p><p dir="ltr">Thiel’s company, in which Guthrie owns shares, is said to be named after the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palant%C3%ADr">all-seeing stone</a> in the Lord of the Rings, and described by The Guardian as the “‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/30/palantir-peter-thiel-cia-data-crime-police">special ops’ tech giant that wields as much real-world power as Google</a>”. The firm’s founders, according to Jacques Peretti in the book <em>Done: The Secret Deals That Are Changing Our World</em>, aimed to “create a company that took Big Data somewhere no one else dared to go”. As a start-up, they secured support <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;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjLv6rM5OTXAhWJCsAKHcbFDx0QFgg6MAI&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailymail.co.uk%2Fnews%2Farticle-4250750%2FPeter-Thiel-s-company-Palantir-built-CIA-funding.html&amp;usg=AOvVaw2abQ9gQQvPwBkAcKEUK_Q8">from the CIA</a>, and <a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/02/22/how-peter-thiels-palantir-helped-the-nsa-spy-on-the-whole-world/">the Intercept revealed</a> earlier this year that they now work with a <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/williamalden/trumps-election-boosted-demand-for-palantir-shares?utm_term=.dcvJLqGmd#.nveA42oXR">string of government agencies</a>, including America’s NSA, Britain’s GCHQ, and Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate and, (according to <a href="https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.792206">Haaretz</a>) with the Israeli government.</p><p dir="ltr">But the firm doesn’t just work for government agencies. It works with anyone wanting vast data processing power. It’s a protagonist in Carole Cadwalladr’s now legendary article, “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy">The Great British Brexit Robbery</a>”, which looks at the role of big data analysis firms like Palantir, AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica in Brexit, with terrifying implications for modern democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">One final detail on Palantir. It isn’t a publicly listed company. It’s privately owned. openDemocracy has attempted to contact Field Marshal Lord Guthrie to ask him how and when were he was introduced to Palantir, and why he chose to invest in it. He has so far not responded.</p><p dir="ltr">According to company records, Guthrie was also a non-executive director of<a href="http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-guthrie-of-craigiebank/3608"> Gulf Keystone Petroleum</a> from 2012 to 2015 (although House of Lords register of interests <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-guthrie-of-craigiebank/3608">says he held this position from 2000)</a>, Gulf Keystone Petroleum is a company founded in 2001 and registered in Bermuda but operating primarily in Iraqi Kurdistan, where it has worked since 2007 and discovered a major oil field in 2009. Guthrie was paid nearly £400,000, and was granted £250,000 worth of “options” under a company share options plan “subject to performance conditions and holding period”, <a href="http://www.gulfkeystone.com/media/89733/GKP_AR14.pdf">according</a> to <a href="http://www.gulfkeystone.com/media/110028/GKP-Smart-AR16.pdf">its annual reports</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">From 2008 to<a href="http://www.petropavlovsk.net/images/stories/Pressreleases/2015/Board_changes_announcement_29_April_2015.pdf"> 2015</a>, he was also director of<a href="http://www.petropavlovsk.net/en/"> Petropavlovsk</a>, a London based company which mines gold in the far east of Russia, for which he was paid more than £800,000 according to the company’s <a href="http://www.petropavlovsk.net/en/investors/reports-and-announcements/annual-report/archive.html">annual reports</a> over that period. And from 2002 to <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/standards-and-interests/register-of-lords-interests/lords-interests-amendments/?letter=G">July this year</a>, he was on the board of Colt Defence, the small-arms manufacturer famous as the original producer of the M16 rifle, which nearly went bankrupt in 2015, forcing it to release papers which, as<a href="https://theintercept.com/2015/06/16/gun-maker-colt-neared-bankruptcy-made-payments-nra-political-allies-former-general-mcchrsytal/"> The Intercept revealed</a>, showed the firm was paying money to the anti-gun control lobbyists the National Rifle Association. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Guthrie has had a number of advisory and board roles including with major financial service companies and with <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/board.asp?privcapId=59555478">Rivada Networks</a> and was a board member of the <a href="http://www.petropavlovsk.net/images/stories/FinancialsAnnualReports/2012/Petropavlovsk%20Annual%20Report%202012_web.pdf">Moscow school of political studies</a> and of <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldreg/prevreg/120410/reg10.htm">Ben Gurion University</a> in Israel, and is Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University. Like many leading Brexit supporters, he has links to the Gulf, having been on <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldreg/prevreg/120410/reg10.htm">three</a> <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/publications-records/House-of-Lords-Publications/Records-activities-and-membership/Register-of-Lords-Interests/Register080514.pdf">separate</a> “advisory trips” to Oman, paid for by the Sultan of Oman, who took his job from his father in a <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/04/03/the-omani-succession-envelope-please/">British backed coup in 1970</a> and <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-uks-secret-mideast-internet-surveillance-base-is-revealed-in-edward-snowden-leaks-8781082.html">who</a>, the famous Snowden leaks <a href="http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/03/revealed_beyond_top_secret_british_intelligence_middleeast_internet_spy_base/">revealed</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mark-curtis/britain-oman_b_11426144.html">hosts three</a> GCHQ bases in his country. </p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has tried to contact Field Marshal Lord Guthrie in order to ask about his membership of the Veterans for Britain advisory board. We have not yet had a response to our enquiries.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Part III: The colonel and the professor</h2><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<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 2017-12-04 at 15.53.20.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 15.53.20.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="256" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Richard Kemp speaking at a law of war conference in Israel. Image: YouTube, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Also listed on Veterans for Britain <a href="http://veteransforbritain.uk/about/people/">advisory board</a> is the celebrity militarist <a href="http://richard-kemp.com/">Colonel Richard Kemp</a>, a former member of Cobra, the government’s top-level crisis management committee. Kemp commanded British forces during the Afghanistan campaign, and is an author and frequent commentator in the right-wing media. </p><p dir="ltr">Kemp made headlines as one of a number of military figures who criticised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the run up to the 2017<a href="https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/810157/army-veterans-furious-jeremy-corbyn-foreign-policy-comments"> election</a>, saying of Corbyn that “He would rather support the likes of Hamas – every bit as fundamentalist as Islamic State – than oppose these extremists.” </p><p dir="ltr">In an interview with the Saudi magazine Majalla, posted<a href="http://richard-kemp.com/iran-greatest-threat-world-peace/#more-1031"> on his website</a>, Kemp talks about his own close relationship with the Islamist Saudi Arabian regime, and his support for their war in Yemen.</p><p dir="ltr">In the interview, he says:</p><p dir="ltr">“My experience with Saudi Arabia goes right the way back to 1977 when I first joined the army and trained at Sandhurst. We had Saudi Arabian army officers training with us and I have had contact with the Saudi military over the years since then. The greatest level of contact was during the Gulf War between 1990 and 1991 when I was stationed in Saudi Arabia for 6 months. I dealt with the Saudi forces on a day-to-day basis and since then through my work in various intelligence and security roles I have worked with Saudi Arabia and their police, military and intelligence services.”</p><p dir="ltr">He goes on to say:</p><p dir="ltr">“I find it objectionable that people want to condemn Saudi Arabia for what is it doing in the Yemen campaign and I strongly suspect their political motivation for doing that. You often get human rights groups stating boldly and clearly that Saudi Arabia is committing war crimes in Yemen – but they have no realistic basis for saying that.”</p><p dir="ltr">A prolific media commentator, Kemp can be found espousing opinions on a wide range of subjects, including his argument that the UK should open a version of<a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/colonel-richard-kemp-believes-something-10563989"> Guantanamo Bay</a>, his<a href="https://twitter.com/COLRICHARDKEMP/status/909648148108382209"> complaints about refugees</a> being allowed into the UK and US, frequent comments complaining that the government is too concerned<a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1828900/richard-kemp-victory-against-isis-is-like-ww2-well-have-to-kill-civilians/"> about civilian casualties</a> to defeat ISIS and criticism of the idea that women should be allowed into<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/05/putting-women-on-the-front-line-is-dangerous-pc-meddling-we-will/"> front-line combat roles</a> in the military. Last month, the Times of Israel had to<a href="http://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/baroness-sayeeda-warsi-an-apology/"> publish an apology</a> and pay ‘substantial damages’ to Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi for defamatory remarks Kemp made about her in a column for the paper. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Kemp regularly makes comments in defence of the Israeli military and state. In 2009, he spoke at a special UN session on the Goldstone Report into the military action,<a href="https://www.unwatch.org/ex-commander-british-forces-afghanistan-address-u-n-emergency-session-goldstone-report/"> defending Israel’s actions</a>. His<a href="https://twitter.com/COLRICHARDKEMP"> Twitter feed</a> indicates support for a broad range of causes popular with the alt-right, for example retweeting a message saying that people “with ‘gender confusion’ would be the first I’d pass over for a job”, sharing an article from the hard-right Israeli publication Arutz Sheva, which is linked to the Settler movement, calling for what Kemp calls “a two state solution” for France’s “Islamic explosion”, and saying, in an exchange with the human rights investigator Iain Overton: “<a href="https://twitter.com/COLRICHARDKEMP/status/933109043455053825">Of course I would and have risked killing civilians</a>”, and that he has “smelt and caused” the smell of burning flesh. When Overton suggested that this was quite a confession from a senior military commander, he replied with a gif about how bored the complaints made him, ‘joking’ about Overton’s love life, and tweeting:<a href="https://twitter.com/COLRICHARDKEMP/status/933112138997960705"> </a>“<a href="https://twitter.com/COLRICHARDKEMP/status/933112138997960705">Send me to the Hague. Put up or shut up.</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/Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 18.06.03.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 18.06.03.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="318" 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 2017-11-23 at 17.50.09.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 17.50.09.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="147" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">He has also been highly critical of Saudi Arabia’s key opponents Qatar and Iran, spoke at a rally<a href="https://www.facebook.com/521248807933259/videos/976664222391713/"> against Obama’s Iran peace deal</a> in 2015, and has written a number of times in<a href="http://richard-kemp.com/trump-international-security/"> defence of Donald Trump</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy offered Colonel Kemp the chance to comment, which he has declined.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Gwythian Prins, the Charity Commission and the Global Warming Policy Foundation</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Also on Veterans for Britain advisory board is <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Gwyn_Prins">Gwythian Prins</a>, an emeritus professor at LSE and visiting professor at the University of Buckingham, the UK’s first private university. Prins is also listed on its website as having been a member of the<a href="https://www.thegwpf.org/professor-gwyn-prins/"> academic advisory council</a> of the climate change-sceptic campaign group the<a href="https://www.thegwpf.org/professor-gwyn-prins/"> Global Warming Policy Foundation</a>, about whom<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/adam-ramsay/six-examples-of-corporate-infuence-over-climate-coverage"> openDemocracy</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/british-papers-with-egg-on-their-faces-after-climate-denier-sting"> has</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/times-misleads-its-readers-about-climate-denying-research"> previously</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/greenpeace-investigation-exposes-climate-denier-academics-for-sale"> written</a> – he tells us he left the organisation in 2012.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2010 he was lead author<a href="http://www.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/units/mackinder/theHartwellPaper/Home.aspx"> of a paper</a> critical of the Kyoto Protocol which was part-funded by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. Prins was a<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/gwyn-prins-the-man-is-a-tyrant-whose-time-has-come-the-war-must-be-fought-132027.html"> vocal supporter</a> of the Iraq war, telling openDemocracy "I certainly supported the liberation of Iraq on condition that there was a proper plan for reconstruction, which in the event there was not."</p><p dir="ltr">He has also been<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/people/gwythian-prins"> a board member</a> of the Charity Commission, a role in which he caused<a href="https://andrewpurkis.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/charity-commission-board-member-gwythian-prins-has-breached-code-of-conduct-for-members-of-public-bodies-shawcross-must-act/"> some</a><a href="https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/charity-commission-defends-board-member-gwythian-prins-anti-eu-essay/governance/article/1389692"> controversy</a> in the run up to the referendum. The Commission had issued guidance about charity conduct ahead of the vote, which was <a href="https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/charity-commission-screwed-badly-eu-referendum-guidance-says-etherington/policy-and-politics/article/1427137">criticised as heavy handed</a> in restricting charities and those in high profile positions in them from expressing their opinions on Brexit. Prins, who as a board member held a prominent position in the body enforcing the rules, wrote an essay in support of Brexit, which was<a href="https://andrewpurkis.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/charity-commission-board-member-gwythian-prins-has-breached-code-of-conduct-for-members-of-public-bodies-shawcross-must-act/"> seen by some as</a> breaching the impartiality he, as part of the Commission, was involved in imposing on others. Prins told openDemocracy that the “Cabinet Office examined the complaints and dismissed them as being without merit”. The Commission <a href="https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/charity-commission-in-climbdown-on-eu-referendum-guidance.html">eventually changed</a> the wording of its guidance.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Part IV: The Iraq generals and the Tweeting Admiral</h2><p dir="ltr">Lieutenant General Jonathan Riley, another advisor to Veterans for Britain, played a key role in the Iraq war, having commanded a multinational division in the south of the country between November 2004 and August 2005. Riley gave evidence to the Iraq Inquiry, in which he<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8412317.stm"> defended</a> the controversial decision to break up the Iraqi army after the invasion. You<a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/236689/2009-12-14-transcript-riley-wall-s2.pdf"> can read his testimony here</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">After leaving the army, Riley was appointed as Master of the Royal Armouries, meaning he was in charge of the UK’s oldest museum whose base, famously, is in the Tower of London. However, according to the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/229098/0248.pdf">minutes of a meeting</a> the board of trustees of the Royal Armouries in 2012: “Allegations were made relating to the regularity of certain actions which led to the suspension of Jonathon Riley whilst investigations were undertaken”. Specifically, “two potential conflicts of interest came to light and were subject to independent investigation”, and “appropriate documentation was not held on file to explain why pay awards were made outside the civil service pay guidance. Consequently it has not been possible to confirm that these pay awards were regular.” The minutes go on to say “Lt Gen Jonathon Riley resigned with effect from 19 November 2012. He received £23,750 pay in lieu of notice in line with his contractual terms and £500 contribution to legal costs.”</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has tried to contact Lieutenant General Jonathan Riley for comment.</p><p dir="ltr">Also listed as a member of the advisory board of Veterans for Britain is Major General Tim Cross. Cross was the<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6974611.stm"> most senior</a> British official involved in the now controversial post-war planning for the war in Iraq. You can read his testimony to the Iraq War inquiry<a href="http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/94834/2009-12-07-Transcript-Cross-S2.pdf"> here</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Nott, another member of the Advisory Board, is a retired submarine commander who, among other things, served in the Falklands war, as senior Naval officer in the Middle East, and as commander of all NATO submarines in the East Atlantic. After leaving the military, he worked as chief executive of the<a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SC171891/officers"> Centre for Marine and Petroleum Technology</a>, and has held senior positions in<a href="http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/cref-lanrog.html"> motor racing</a>, including being FIA Race Director and Safety Delegate for Grand Prix racing and secretary of the British Racing Drivers’ Club. You can see some examples from his Twitter feed in the run up to the referendum below.</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 2017-11-27 at 15.38.16.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 15.38.16.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="177" 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 2017-11-27 at 15.40.04.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 15.40.04.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="375" 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 2017-11-27 at 16.06.24.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 16.06.24.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="396" 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 2017-11-27 at 16.11.57.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 16.11.57.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="399" 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 2017-11-27 at 16.27.08.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 16.27.08.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="386" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h2 dir="ltr">Part V: the police commander and the Macpherson Inquiry</h2><p dir="ltr">The final person who was listed on the<a href="http://veteransforbritain.uk/about/people/"> Veterans for Britain website</a> as a member of their advisory board – Richard Walton – denied to openDemocracy that he is a member of it, and they have subsequently changed their description of him to “report contributor”. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In February this year Veterans for Britain published<a href="http://veteransforbritain.uk/ex-counter-terrorism-chief-uk-in-stronger-negotiation-position-if-it-withdraws-from-europol/"> a high profile report</a> by Walton, who is a former Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Commander, which was covered comprehensively by<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4242184/UK-use-security-expertise-bargaining-chip.html"> the Daily Mail</a>.</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/Walton.PNG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Walton.PNG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="818" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Walton has himself been involved in a<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-ellison-review"> number</a><a href="https://www.ipcc.gov.uk/news/ipcc-publishes-investigation-report-about-meeting-undercover-officer"> of</a><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-stephen-lawrence-inquiry"> prominent</a><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/leveson-inquiry-report-into-the-culture-practices-and-ethics-of-the-press"> inquiries</a> into the police. In July 2012, then Home Secretary Theresa May commissioned Mark Ellison QC to conduct what she called “a review examining allegations of corruption surrounding the initial, deeply flawed, investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence”. May added “I also asked Mr Ellison to examine whether the Metropolitan Police had evidence of corruption that it did not disclose to the Macpherson Inquiry.”</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking in Parliament about the Ellison Review’s conclusions two years later,<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-ellison-review"> May said</a>:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“Ellison reports on a… ‘wholly inappropriate’ use of an undercover officer during the Macpherson Inquiry. Ellison finds that an officer, referred to as N81, had been deployed into one of the groups seeking to influence the Lawrence family campaign, while the Macpherson Inquiry was ongoing. Ellison refers to N81 as ‘an MPS spy in the Lawrence family camp during the course of judicial proceedings in which the family was the primary party in opposition to the MPS’.</p><p dir="ltr">“As part of his deployment, N81 reported back to the SDS (Special Demonstration Squad) personal information about the Lawrence family, as well as what is described as ‘tactical intelligence’ around the Inquiry. In August 1998, the SDS arranged for N81 to meet Richard Walton, then a Detective Inspector involved in writing the Met’s submissions to the Macpherson Inquiry. SDS files record that they had a ‘fascinating and valuable exchange’.</p><p dir="ltr">“Mr Speaker, Ellison finds that the opening of this channel of communication was ‘completely improper’. He finds no discernible public benefit to the meeting taking place, and says that – had it been disclosed at the time of the Inquiry – ‘it would have been seen as the MPS trying to achieve some secret advantage in the Inquiry from SDS undercover deployment’. If it had been made public in 1998, Ellison finds, ‘serious public disorder of the very kind so feared by the MPS might well have followed’”.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Walton was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, though the Met concluded that he had done nothing wrong.</p><p dir="ltr">The IPCC interviewed Walton and concluded in<a href="https://www.ipcc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/investigation_commissioner_reports/Final%20Report%20-%20Walton%20Lambert%20Black%20-%202%20March%202016.pdf"> its report on 14th January 2016</a>: “it is the investigator’s opinion that Richard Walton has a case to answer for misconduct”. Six days later, on 19 January 2016, Walton retired from the Met, leaving Lawrence’s father ‘<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/12111453/Father-of-Stephen-Lawrence-attacks-Scotland-Yard-after-officer-retires-before-facing-investigation-over-family-spying-claim.html">heartbroken</a>’.</p><p dir="ltr">No decision or finding of any wrongdoing was ever upheld against Walton. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Walton told openDemocracy that “the IPCC were informed by me (by letter) of my impending retirement two months before I retired yet chose to act as if they were powerless to stop me retiring in the days leading to my departure. Not only had the matter been concluded, but the IPCC then acted unethically in suggesting that I was retiring hastily to avoid sanction. I wrote to the Home Secretary to complain.” He added “the Met rejected the IPCC’s conclusions. There was, therefore, no outstanding allegation against me when I retired”. Walton said this would be confirmed in a future public inquiry.</p><p dir="ltr">He added: “I have quite simply done nothing wrong, either in 1998 or recently.”</p><p dir="ltr">Walton also played a minor role in the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking. In 2009, he was staff officer to the then Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson – a role reported at the time as being his<a href="http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/4427512.Chief_Superintendent_Richard_Walton_leaving_Harrow_Police/"> right-hand man</a>. Stephenson was forced to resign as a result of the phone hacking scandal, and his connection to Neil Wallis, a former executive editor of the News of the World. Walton attended the meeting at which the Met decided not to investigate the Guardian’s initial phone hacking allegations, and his name appears twice in the official documents released by the Leveson Inquiry. There is no suggestion that he himself did anything wrong.</p><p dir="ltr">After retiring from the Met, Walton set himself up as a counterterrorism consultant and commentator.</p><p dir="ltr">Veterans for Britain was originally registered by David Banks, who these days works as its<a href="http://veteransforbritain.uk/about/people/"> Head of Communications</a>. Banks, in common with a number of<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/we-cant-ignore-patels-background-in-britains-lobbying-industry"> leading</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service"> Brexit</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e"> supporters</a>, has strong links to the Gulf, having lived in the<a href="http://scientistsforbritain.uk/wordpress/?page_id=54"> United Arab Emirates</a> for four years and worked in media relations ‘<a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-banks-6404a09/">across the Middle East</a>’.</p><p dir="ltr">The organisation’s chairman is the retired Major General Julian Howard Atherden Thompson, whose time in the army dates back to the imperial struggles of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indonesia%E2%80%93Malaysia_confrontation">the mid-1960s.</a></p><p dir="ltr">Veterans for Britain only declared <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=veterans%20for%20britain&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">two donations</a> to the Electoral Commission in the papers it filed after the referendum. One of these was the £100,000 from Vote Leave, now being investigated by the Commission. The other was £50,000 from Arron Banks’ firm Better for the Country Ltd, which is at the centre of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-is-it-electoral-commission-is-investigating-banks-for">another Commission investigation</a> into “whether or not Better for the Country Limited was the true source of donations made to referendum campaigners in its name, or if it was acting as an agent.”</p><p dir="ltr">Whatever the Commission concludes in each of these investigations, our research into Veterans for Britain has confirmed something much more profound.</p><p dir="ltr">At core, Brexit was two things: an anguished cry of imperial nostalgia, and a home-coming for disaster capitalism. A key part of the former is the sociological impact of declining military might, a scar slicing across the heart of a country which once ran much of the world. A key part of the latter is the rise of private intelligence and security, the adoption by the private sector of the one thing which used to be the sole preserve of government: the deep state. Starting to untangle just this one organisation, we begin see how the two strands of Brexit sit so neatly side by side. And that this movement was as establishment as they come.</p><hr /><p>[1] And its chief finance officer is called Mr Economides.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/did-dups-controversial-brexit-donors-break-law-by-refusing-">Did the DUP&#039;s controversial Brexit donors break the law - by refusing to reveal the secret source of their cash?</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/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/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 05 Dec 2017 06:00:00 +0000 Adam Ramsay 115062 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet the think tank shaping the future of Britain's food and countryside https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/guy-shrubsole/meet-think-tank-shaping-future-of-britains-food-and-countryside <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why you should be worried that Legatum is lobbying the government about farm subsidies and a UK-US free trade deal.</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-Holstein_dairy_cows.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Holstein_dairy_cows.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>The Brexiteer's favoure think tank the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum Institute</a> has met with the UK Department of the Environment, Food &amp; Rural Affairs (DEFRA) at least six times since the EU Referendum, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Friends of the Earth has revealed. </p><p>DEFRA’s response states that:</p> <p class="Default"><em>“Defra met with Mr Shanker Singham on post-Brexit farm subsidies or any future US / UK trade deal trade six times since 23 June 2016. These meetings occurred on the following dates: 03/11/2016, 20/03/2017, 29/06/2017, 03/07/2017, 13/09/2017 and 24/10/2017.”</em></p> <p>‘So what?’, some might ask. After all, getting access to politicians is what lobbyists <em>do</em> – and environmental charities like Friends of the Earth are no exception.</p> <p>But here’s why this fresh information is of interest – and gives cause for concern. Firstly, it’s rare to get successful FOI responses on matters relating to Brexit from any Whitehall department at the moment. It’s even rarer to get anything on the meetings that the Legatum Institute has been holding with numerous civil servants and Ministers: campaigners and journalists have been <a href="https://twitter.com/JXB101/status/918464106268626944">constantly rebuffed</a> when asking for details of meetings Legatum has held with the Department of International Trade, the Brexit department, and others. </p><p>Secondly, Legatum’s agenda on agriculture and the environment is deeply worrying, both to farmers and environmentalists. </p> <p>On the matter of post-Brexit farm subsidies, Legatum has <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/17/the-common-agricultural-policy-is-iniquitous-and-inefficient-now/">consistently</a> <a href="https://lif.blob.core.windows.net/lif/docs/default-source/publications/legatum-institute-special-trade-commission-agriculture-and-fisheries-briefing-december-2016-pdf.pdf?sfvrsn=2">advocated</a> what is called the ‘New Zealand model’ – the removal of all farm subsidies and complete trade liberalisation. (The fact that Legatum’s funder, Christopher Chandler, <a href="https://www.legatum.com/about-us/our-story/">made his fortune</a> in New Zealand during its period of deregulation in the 1980s, may or may not have anything to do with this).</p> <p>Pointing to New Zealand conjures images of a bucolic utopia – something encouraged by the Lord of the Rings films and New Zealand’s ‘100% Pure’ tourism promotion campaign. But the reality is rather different. I worked for a year in NZ’s Ministry of Agriculture &amp; Forestry, and the fact of the matter is that NZ farming intensified greatly after trade liberalisation in the 1980s, with a boom in dairying driven by exports to China. That’s led to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_in_New_Zealand#/media/File:NZ_greenhouse_gases_by_sector.svg">soaring greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture</a>, and more <a href="http://archive.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/environment/environmental-reporting-series/environmental-indicators/Home/Fresh%20water/river-water-quality-nitrogen.aspx?url=/browse_for_stats/environment/environmental-reporting-series/environmental-indicators/Home/Fresh%20water/river-water-quality-nitrogen.aspx">water pollution from nitrate run-off</a> due to <a href="http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/environmental-reporting/state-new-zealand%E2%80%99s-environment-1997-chapter-eight-state-our-2">higher livestock densities</a>. </p><p><a href="https://www.farminguk.com/News/Farmers-should-prepare-for-loss-of-farming-support-post-Brexit_46556.html">Farmers</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/CLAChristopher/status/848468321913667584">landowners</a> and conservationists alike have pointed to the economic and environmental dangers of removing all farm payments and applying the ‘New Zealand model’ to UK agriculture. It’s worth remembering that Vote Leave’s <a href="https://www.nfuonline.com/assets/62264">campaign literature on farming promised</a> that “After we Vote Leave… we can: Protect farmer’s subsidies – and even increase them”. But that’s not what the UK’s leading hard Brexit think tank is calling for.</p> <p>As for a UK-US trade deal, the other topic that Legatum has been raising with DEFRA: well, we know that Legatum would love for Britain to sign one with Trump’s America as soon as possible. Matthew Elliott, founder of the TaxPayers’ Alliance and Director of Vote Leave, is now <a href="https://www.li.com/media/press-releases/legatum-institute-appoints-matthew-elliott-as-a-senior-fellow">working for Legatum on a UK-US trade deal</a>. It’s ironic to note that when he ran Vote Leave, Elliott <a href="https://twitter.com/matthew_elliott/status/717453726122962944">approvingly tweeted pictures</a> of campaign banners reading ‘Vote Leave – Stop TTIP’. Yet any future trade deal with the US is <a href="http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/2017/nov/13/britain-faces-ttip-steroids-us-trade-talks-begin-campaigners-warn">likely to be “TTIP on steroids”,</a> according to Global Justice Now. The prospect of the UK being opened up to US exports of chlorinated chicken, hormone beef and GM crops is of <a href="http://www.foe.co.uk/blog/brexit-donald-trump-5-reasons-uk-farmers-should-be-concerned-about-rushed-trade">great concern to both farmers and greens alike</a>.</p> <p>We don’t know exactly what Legatum discussed at these meetings with DEFRA, but we now know the broad issues covered. And if Legatum was doing its job properly, it would have been presenting its stated policy proposals to DEFRA officials loudly and clearly. </p> <p>Despite Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s welcome string of green policy announcements – from backing a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, to promising to repurpose farm subsidies to pay for environmental protection – suspicions remain about his vision for post-Brexit environmental regulation and farming policy. </p> <p>After all, while Mr Gove has <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-unfrozen-moment-delivering-a-green-brexit">publicly called</a> for a ‘Green Brexit’ and <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/11/exclusive-michael-goves-plan-green-revolution-brexit/">announced</a> plans for a new environmental regulator post-Brexit, he has also been teaming up with Boris Johnson behind the scenes to press for “regulatory freedom” from the EU – as his <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5096569/David-Davis-brink-resigning.html">recent leaked letter</a> to Theresa May revealed. It’s since been <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4986522/michael-gove-theresa-may-brexit-eu-split/">reported</a> that Gove won that fight for ‘regulatory divergence’ within Cabinet – meaning the government may now be pushing for a Brexit deal that makes deregulation easier. Gove is <a href="https://twitter.com/michaelgove/status/823606140063858688">on record</a> as having high regard for Legatum’s Shanker Singham, and <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5117547/Putins-link-Boris-Goves-Brexit-coup-revealed.html">has met him</a> on a number of occasions.</p> <p>What’s more, we know that behind closed doors, various industries are pushing for deregulation after Brexit. Chemicals and fracking giant INEOS has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/03/ineos-leads-lobbying-effort-to-get-out-of-paying-green-tax">lobbying for cuts to green taxes</a> after we leave the EU. The National Farmer’s Union has been <a href="https://www.nfuonline.com/assets/99106">demanding</a> an end to the Nitrates Directive (which governs river pollution from farms), and its deputy president Minette Batters has <a href="https://twitter.com/barford100/status/935430133732859904">continued to attack</a> what she sees as the EU’s “overly precautionary approach” to licensing pesticides. The <a href="https://redtapeinitiative.org.uk/">Red Tape Initiative</a>, a think tank set up to propose which regulations could be slashed after Brexit and funded by <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-marland/3797/register-of-interests">property developer Lord Marland</a>, is <a href="https://www.desmog.uk/2017/09/25/brexit-why-did-red-tape-initiative-meet-beis">examining</a> how the EU Habitats and Birds Directives could be amended post-Brexit to make life easier for developers. </p> <p>These and other lobbying efforts by vested interests have only come to light, however, after concerted efforts by campaigners and journalists. It’s vital that lobbying about Brexit is open, transparent, and open to scrutiny. After all, when people voted to Leave, they were urged to do so to ‘take back control’ – not cede control to a shadowy network of think tanks and back-room lobbyists. </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/brendan-montague/how-legatum-has-written-hymn-sheet-for-dirty-brexit">How Legatum has written the hymn sheet for a Dirty Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Guy Shrubsole Wed, 29 Nov 2017 21:43:55 +0000 Guy Shrubsole 114979 at https://www.opendemocracy.net