Nigel Farage has accused Britain’s electoral watchdog of being part of “an establishment stitch-up” as it prepares to scrutinise the finances of the Brexit party to ensure it is meeting legal requirements for small donations made through its website.
The Electoral Commission, an official body that oversees UK electoral law, has announced it will visit the Brexit party’s offices on Tuesday to ensure it is meeting its legal responsibilities. The party could face fines if the commission finds evidence that the law has been broken.
The Eurosceptic group, headed by Mr Farage, is expected to come first in this week’s European Parliament elections, but it is facing questions over a lack of transparency regarding its finances. Senior opposition politicians have questioned the party’s ability to track small donations, as well as the identity of its wealthy backers.
The party has been primarily funded through tens of thousands of “registered supporters” paying £25 per year, producing an estimated revenue of £2.75m. Individual sums below £500, which do not count as a donation under electoral law, can also be given through PayPal. The party could accept money from a foreign individual as long as it is under that limit. In a statement the Electoral Commission 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. It is also subject to rules for reporting donations, loans, campaign spending and end of year accounts. We have already been talking to the party about these issues.
“As part of our active oversight and regulation of these rules, we are attending the Brexit party’s office tomorrow 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 response, Mr Farage told the Financial Times at a campaign event in Wakefield: “We have a former prime minister, a news release to the BBC and then the Electoral Commission saying they’re coming in tomorrow.
“This is direct political interference in an election campaign. It’s an establishment stitch up, it’s an outrage. We have a team of full-time accountants working on this, I’m not stupid,” he told supporters.
Mr Farage added that the Electoral Commission visited the Brexit party’s offices last week and were “very happy” with the procedures in place.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown on Monday warned that the party may be at risk of accepting “dirty money” through such small donations. In a speech in Glasgow, Mr Brown accused Mr Farage of “making questionable claims about the true source” of the funding.
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