Under UK law, the Electoral Commission designates which of a number of different groups is given lead status to campaign for Britain to remain in, or leave the EU at the forthcoming referendum. The announcement Wednesday that 'The In Campaign Ltd' (known as Britain Stronger in Europe) is to be the lead campaigner for the 'Remain' outcome, and 'Vote Leave Ltd' for the 'Leave' outcome, drew immediate criticism from those who applied, but failed, to get lead status.
GS: It is time for Britain to recognise that Brussels has had enough chances. And that the only safe option is to #VoteLeave.— Vote Leave Media (@Vote_LeaveMedia) April 13, 2016
Arron Banks, the founder of Leave.EU — one of the groups behind Grassroots Out — said he would now be seeking a judicial review to the decision. He said the bid put before the Electoral Commission by the Vote Leave group was "full of lies and misrepresentations".
Vote leave document is full of lies and misrepresentations we will consult but expect judicial review.— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) April 13, 2016
Banks told The Telegraph newspaper he was considering taking legal action, which could lead to a judicial review which may delay the referendum.
"Definitely. We are going to see lawyers now. We think they haven't applied the criteria they should have. It is not right. We have over a million supporters, [Vote Leave] have nobody but a few Tory politicians… This is a political stitch-up. The bottom line is we're going to judicially review it and we will go at it 100 per cent. The net effect is that it will probably delay the referendum."
Although the 'Remain' campaign only had one applicant — Britain Stronger in Europe — the 'Leave' campaign was split between three groups: Vote Leave, Grassroots Out and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
Grassroots Out was backed by Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) as well as former Secretary of State for Defense Dr Liam Fox. Leave.EU — bankrolled by Arron Banks — threw its weight behind Grassroots Out in a rival campaign to Vote Leave, which won the lead campaign nomination.
We are determined to play our part in creating a united front to secure victory on June 23 for Leave – Independence Day #GO— Grassroots Out (@Grassroots_Out) April 13, 2016
The decision by the Electoral Commission is crucial, since the designated lead campaign groups are able to spend up to a maximum of US$9.9 million, allowed one free nationwide leaflet-drop and are given the right to broadcast TV promotions. Those who failed to gain lead status are still able to campaign, but are limited in their spending.
"Regardless of whichever campaign got the designation, UKIP would always have played a big role in this campaign as the only national party committed to leaving the EU and with a substantial £4 million spending limit," said Nigel Farage.
"I have always wanted all on the Leave side to come together and have done my best to try and make this happen. I'll continue to do so in the run up to the referendum to ensure the Leave side wins.