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    British MEP Nigel Farage speaks during the launch of the Brexit Party's European election campaign, Coventry, England, Friday, April 12, 2019.

    Political Hit Job? What's Behind Financial Scrutiny of Farage's Brexit Party

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    As the day of the European Parliament elections nears in the UK, polls show that Nigel Farage's party may come out on top. Adam Garrie, a UK-based geopolitical analyst, has explained ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s accusations against the Brexit Party and the Electoral Commission's decision to review the party's funding.

    The Electoral Commission announced on 20 May that it would review how Nigel Farage's Brexit Party receives funding.

    The announcement came after former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised the question over PayPal payments to the party, suggesting that the Brexit Party could have accepted small untraceable foreign donations through the payments service in a potential violation of the law.

    "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", the Electoral Commission said in an official statement.

    Farage dubbed the move "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 stated on 20 May as quoted by Financial Times.

    Earlier, Politico's Poll of Polls projected that Farage's Brexit Party would win the European Election popular vote in the UK, scheduled for 23 May, gaining the highest number of seats.

    "It's very telling that the question explicitly mentions a 'potential' breach, the key takeaway being that no one has been convicted, charged or even formally accused of anything", says Adam Garrie, a UK-based geopolitical analyst and director at the Eurasia Future think tank. "That being said, much of electoral finance law is incredibly draconian and out of step with today's modern interconnected world. The world is digital and many of the rules and regulations are analogue".

    According to Garrie, "the real scandal is that a former prime minister, Gordon Brown, should have insinuated such a provocative accusation days before the most important vote in Britain since 2016".

    "Ultimately though, Gordon Brown is not listened to by the majority of people in 2019 Britain", he noted. "The opposite is true of Nigel Farage".

    Political Attacks on the Right Ahead of EP Vote

    Several days earlier, Austria's right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) found itself in a heap of trouble over a scandal involving its leader and former Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who resigned on 18 May.

    The scandal erupted after Germany's media released a video showing Strache talking with a woman who, according to the Austrian politican, was a Russian-speaking Latvian citizen. As Der Spiegel noted, the purported woman was "pretending" to be the niece of a rich oligarch. The participants of the meeting that took place on 24 July 2017 in Ibiza discussed lucrative government contracts in exchange for donations to the party.

    "It was a carefully planned political assassination", Strache said commenting on the video, which was released by Der Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

    The question then arises as to whether the two incidents were part of a broader campaign against right-wing parties ahead of the European Parliament vote.

    "I don't think those two incidents are directly related", Garrie opined. "It may well be that what happened to Heinz-Christian Strache was entrapment and that would be very worrying. But the Brexit Party has not been formally accused of doing anything untoward. At the moment it's all conjecture and I happen to think that it's likely the product of some very active imaginations among politicians desperate for attention".

    Meanwhile, speaking to Euroactiv on 20 May, European law expert Stefan Brocza insisted that Austria's Freedom Party could still achieve good results in the European Elections, which will take place on 26 May in the country.

    If Farage Wins Big He Will Deliver Brexit on WTO Terms

    The geopolitical analyst envisions that if the Brexit Party wins, "it would hammer home the fact that not only do a majority of UK voters want Brexit but that they want a Brexit that is either one in which the UK will leave Europe on WTO terms or otherwise negotiate a simple, straightforward free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU — nothing more and nothing less".

    "This is what a vote for the Brexit Party represents and the bigger the Brexit Party's vote share the stronger the message will be", he highlighted.

    Speaking at a party rally in Frimley, Surrey, on 19 May, Farage outlined "five good reasons" to vote for the Brexit Party.

    ​"If we win next Thursday and, particularly, if we can win big, we will put a WTO Brexit back on the table for 21 October", the politician stressed among other issues. "Another good reason to vote for the Brexit Party is because if we win these elections and win them big we will kill off forever any prospect of having a second referendum on the subject we won already".

    Proponents of a WTO Brexit highlight that the UK is already an independent member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Furthermore, to date Britain has agreed "mutual recognition" deals with its major non-EU partners, including the US, Australia, and New Zealand.

    The UK leadership is struggling to reach a political compromise in the Parliament on the country's withdrawal from the EU to evade a no-deal exit.

    On 21 May, Prime Minister Theresa May outlined a "new, bold offer" on Brexit aimed at winning support from the Labour Party.

    However, if the Brexit Party gains a considerable number of seats in the European Parliament, the Conservatives would be forced to make a deal with it to survive, the Telegraph suggested on 17 May. For his part, Farage hasn't ruled out the possibility of a political alliance in case it helps him to deliver a WTO Brexit.

    "If we can save £39 billion, come out of the Customs Union, come out of the Single Market, come out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and be a genuinely independent, self-governing democracy that can choose its own future, I'd do a deal with the devil to get that", he said during a Brexit Party rally in Pontefract, Yorkshire, on 13 May.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker and the contributor do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    polls, right-wing, elections, PayPal, Brexit, 2019 European Parliament Elections, Brexit Party, British Labour Party, Conservative Party, World Trade Organization (WTO), Heinz-Christian Strache, Gordon Brown, Nigel Farage, Great Britain, United Kingdom, Austria
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