The official Brexit campaign broke electoral rules—but there won’t be a second referendum

Key figures.
Key figures.
Image: Reuters
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The official campaign that contributed to Britain voting to leave the European Union is in trouble again. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this will lead to a second Brexit referendum.

Today (July 17), Britain’s electoral watchdog fined the official pro-Brexit campaign “Vote Leave” £61,000 ($81,000) for violating spending rules. It also referred two people involved to the police. The watchdog found that, by coordinating with another group—which in turn gave hundreds of thousands to a firm linked to the controversial Cambridge Analytica—Vote Leave exceeded a £7 million ($9.2 million) spending limit by nearly £500,000.

This is just the latest episode in a raft of investigations into how the group helped win the 2016 referendum. An inquiry by the UK’s data watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, into whether Vote Leave breached data protection laws and transferred the personal data of British citizens outside of the UK, is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, Britain’s budget watchdog today cast doubt on UK prime minister Theresa May’s claims (pdf, p. 105) of a “Brexit dividend,” £20 billion of which was to be spent on the country’s National Health Service (NHS). It said that “Brexit is more likely to weaken the public finances than strengthen them” and that extra spending would have to instead come from extra taxation or borrowing. (The Vote Leave campaign, now infamously, emblazoned a false NHS spending promise on its red campaign bus.)

Fair Vote UK, a group that campaigns for transparency in British elections, said that the electoral watchdog’s findings mean the result of the Brexit referendum “is now illegitimate.” Justine Greening, who was a member of May’s cabinet until January, has called for a second vote.

But despite the flagrant violation of election rules, the deepening political tumult in Britain, and a virtual stalemate in negotiations with the EU, May yesterday categorically ruled out another vote on Britain’s exit from the EU (paywall) “under any circumstances.”