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Commission steps into donations row

Brexit Party faces probe after Brown questions funding

Gordon Brown in Glasgow
Gordon Brown: inquiry call

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party will be quizzed by election chiefs today after former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown demanded an inquiry into “undeclared, untraceable payments”.

Mr Brown has written to the Electoral Commission calling on it to assess whether the party has sufficient safeguards on its website to prevent the contribution of “dirty money”.

A Commission spokesman said the visit to the Brexit Party’s headquarters in London on Tuesday was part of its “active oversight and regulation” of donations.

He said: “The Brexit Party, like all registered political parties, has to comply with laws that require any donation it accepts of over £500 to be from a permissible source.

“As part of our active oversight and regulation of these rules, we are attending the Brexit Party’s office today to conduct a review of the systems it has in place to receive funds, including donations over £500 that have to be from the UK only.

“If there’s evidence that the law may have been broken, we will consider that in line with our Enforcement Policy.”

In a speech to a Labour campaign meeting in Glasgow on Monday, Mr Brown said “democracy is undermined” through undeclared payments to parties. He said: “The Electoral Commission and the European Parliament should now investigate the finances of Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party. Democracy is undermined when we have undeclared, unreported, untraceable payments being made to the Brexit Party.

“We have the potential for underhand and under-the-counter payments being made. You know the history of this – Leave.EU, Nigel Farage and Arron Banks’ campaign is now under criminal investigation. There’s three investigations – one by the National Crime Agency, one by the Met Police and one by the Information Commissioner.

“Arron Banks, the lead funder of Leave.EU and the friend of Nigel Farage has been under investigation – he has made contacts with Russia. We don’t know where his money comes from.”

He added: “And yet we find out last week that he has given £450,000 in payments to support Nigel Farage, while Nigel Farage was in a public office in the European Parliament, who should have been declaring the payments that he was receiving from anyone to avoid any conflicts of interest.”

Mr Farage, who had a milkshake thrown at him on Monday while campaigning in Newcastle, claimed Mr Brown was spreading an “absolutely disgusting smear”.

Gifts to the Brexit Party can be made through PayPal, but those who donate more than £500 must be identified as per the rules made by the Electoral Commission. Cash given above the £500 threshold by “permissible donors”, must be listed on the UK electoral roll.

The same rule apples to businesses, which must be registered at Companies House and operating in Britain.

Mr Farage hit back at Mr Brown, saying: “Absolutely disgusting smear. This from the man who was part of a Labour Party who through Lord Levy were making a lot of big donors members of the House of Lords.

“How dare he? Most of our money has been raised by people giving £25 to become registered supporters and nearly 110,000 of them now have done that. Frankly, this smacks of jealously because the other parties simply can’t do this.”

When asked if the party took donations in foreign currency, Mr Farage replied: “Absolutely not, we only take sterling – end of conversation.”

See also:

Leonard offers talks with Sturgeon on Brexit stalemate


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