The Brexit campaign broke the law. Here’s the alarming reason the Met Police aren’t investigating.

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson
James Wright

In July 2018, the Electoral Commission watchdog found that Vote Leave and other pro-Brexit campaigners broke the law.

But months later, openDemocracy has revealed that the Metropolitan Police haven’t even begun investigating such campaigns, because of “political sensitivities”.

Vote Leave’s campaign committee included former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and other current cabinet ministers.

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“Serious breaches of the laws”

The Electoral Commission fined Vote Leave £61,000 for overspending on the campaign. The Electoral Commission’s legal counsel Bob Posner described the overspending as “serious breaches of the laws put in place by parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums”. The watchdog found that Vote Leave used another campaign, BeLeave, as a front for more spending:

Evidence shows that BeLeave spent more than £675,000 with Aggregate IQ under a common plan with Vote Leave. This spending should have been declared by Vote Leave. It means Vote Leave exceeded its legal spending limit of £7 million by almost £500,000.

Vote Leave also returned an incomplete and inaccurate spending report, with nearly £234,501 reported incorrectly, and invoices missing for £12,849.99 of spending.

Posner said that Vote Leave “resisted the Commission’s investigation from the start” and continued not to co-operate. Vote Leave rejected the Electoral Commission’s conclusions.

As well as Johnson, Vote Leave campaign’s committee included secretary for international trade Liam Fox, Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, transport secretary Chris Grayling, and leader of the house Andrea Leadsom.

The Met later claimed that the political sensitivities were not unique to this investigation, but concerned “any allegation or referral relating to an election, and much else besides”.

“An extraordinary scandal”

Even though Posner described the evidence against Vote Leave as “clear and substantial”, the Met Police aren’t investigating.

The Guardian‘s Carole Cadwalladr, who broke the scandal, tweeted:

Whistleblower Shamir Sanni, who exposed Vote Leave’s overspending, tweeted:

Reacting to the stalled investigation, barrister Jolyon Maugham QC told openDemocracy:

If the MPS are delaying an investigation into a likely crime because of political interference then ‘scandal’ does not begin to cover it. Were that true, we would be living in a police state where criminality was overlooked – if that criminality was expedient to the government.

It’s hard not to agree with the essence of that. The last people who should be above the law are the powerful. They have the most influence.

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Featured image via AP Archive/ YouTube

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James Wright