UKIP is being investigated by Britain’s election watchdog over claims it breached party funding laws when trying to secure interim leader Nigel Farage a seat in the House of Commons and in canvassing opinion on the Brexit referendum.
UKIP subject of new Electoral Commission investigation: Read the press release here: https://t.co/Zucn2JCt7f
— Electoral Commission (@ElectoralCommUK) November 22, 2016
The Electoral Commission has this morning opened an inquiry into the Eurosceptic party after a committee of MEPs ruled last night that a UKIP-led group in the European Parliament misspent about £400,000 of taxpayer-funded EU cash.
The donations – described as “impermissible” – came from the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE) and its affiliated foundation, the Initiative for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE).
The committee has asked the UKIP-controlled ADDE to return €172,655 after finding that the party had breached EU rules by putting the money into the 2015 general election and the EU referendum.
A report from the parliament’s finance team concluded the ADDE had spent the cash on Farage’s attempt to win the Thanet South constituency in Kent in May 2015’s general election. Money was also apparently used on opinion polls relating to the EU referendum campaign. Both uses of the funding are prohibited.
In a statement today, the Electoral Commission said its investigation into UKIP relates to whether it “accepted impermissible donations” from the ADDE and the IDDE.
The Electoral Commission’s statement made clear that the ADDE is allowed to accept EU grants for political work but the cash cannot be used for direct or indirect funding of national parties or election candidates.
It is not known how long its investigation will take.
A UKIP spokesman said the party had only just seen the statement and would respond later. A party source said: “Our lawyers have to look at this, but we’re confident that we will be cleared.”