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Earlier this afternoon two Court of Appeal judges sitting in the High Court handed down a short further judgment in respect of Good Law Project’s judicial review of the Electoral Commission. You can read the judgment here.
The High Court rejected the application for permission to appeal advanced by the Electoral Commission and Vote Leave. The donations made by Vote Leave to Darren Grimes to meet his expenses with AggregateIQ were Vote Leave’s referendum expenses, said the High Court, and there was no real prospect of persuading the Court of Appeal otherwise. This has four main consequences.
First, both the High Court and the Electoral Commission have now held that Vote Leave broke the law during the referendum. Put simply, it cheated.
Second, it is false – it is no exaggeration to call it a lie – to pretend that the Electoral Commission gave Vote Leave permission to work together with Darren Grimes. Vote Leave relies (you can read its witness statement here) for that assertion on a waiver given by the Electoral Commission. The waiver reads as follows.
However, it only applies if there was no “co-ordinated plan or agreement” between Vote Leave and Darren Grimes. And there was.
Standing back, the fiction that, somehow, Vote Leave’s misconduct was vindicated by the decision of the High Court is exposed by the fact that it (alongside the Electoral Commission) sought permission to appeal against the High Court’s decision. Why would it have done that if the High Court vindicated its position?
Third, the High Court has held that the Electoral Commission misapplied the law during the referendum. The waiver – highlighted below – was wrong in principle.
So, the Electoral Commission mismanaged the Referendum.
Fourth, importantly, it wrongly gave a waiver to Leave campaigners without giving that waiver to Remain campaigners. And, had it given that waiver to Remain campaigners they, too, would have carried on spending.
It is open to the Electoral Commission to ignore the indication from the High Court and ask the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal. However, we can only hope that it will not waste further public money attempting to defend its mishandling of the Referendum.