Vote Leave Named as Official Brexit Campaign in U.K. Vote

  • Leave.EU seeks judicial review of decision after Tory tweet
  • Cameron's office says referendum will not be delayed

Where Is the Momentum in U.K.'s 'Brexit' Debate?

Britain’s Electoral Commission named Vote Leave to be the official lead campaigner for a vote to quit the European Union in the June 23 referendum, sparking a legal threat and reassurance from Prime Minister David Cameron’s office that the plebiscite won’t be delayed.

QuickTake Will Britain Leave the EU?

Leave.EU, which backed Grassroots Out, one of the groups that failed to win approval from the election watchdog, said it will seek a judicial review of the decision. Vote Leave will receive a state grant of as much as 600,000 pounds ($850,000) and be permitted to spend as much as 7 million pounds, compared with 700,000 pounds for other registered campaigners. They will also be allocated television broadcasts and free mailshots to voters.

“After careful consideration, the commission decided that ‘Vote Leave Ltd.’ better demonstrated that it has the structures in place to ensure the views of other campaigners are represented in the delivery of its campaign,” Claire Bassett, the chief executive officer of the Electoral Commission, said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday. “It therefore represents, to a greater extent than ‘Go Movement Ltd.,’ those campaigning for the ‘Leave’ outcome, which is the test we must apply.”

There has been a struggle between the rival “Leave” groups amid disagreements over tactics and leadership. Nigel Farage, the head of the anti-EU U.K. Independence Party, is one of the leading members of Grassroots Out, which also includes some prominent Euro-skeptic rank-and-file lawmakers from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party as well as Kate Hoey, the most vocal Brexit campaigner in the opposition Labour Party.

Gove, Johnson

The Vote Leave group, by contrast, has drawn the support of anti-EU members of Cameron’s government including Justice Secretary Michael Gove and London Mayor Boris Johnson, as well as UKIP’s only member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell. The other unsuccessful bidder, the labor-led Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, has a much lower profile.

Arron Banks, a co-founder of Leave.EU, said he will seek a judicial review of the decision and warned it could lead to the vote being delayed until the fall. He said a tweet from Steve Bell, chairman of the Conservative Party Convention, the night before the official announcement suggested that he had knowledge of the decision before it was made public.

“The official announcement smells of political corruption from our high-minded establishment and cannot be allowed to pass without challenge,” Banks said in an e-mailed statement. “It is to be regretted that this process may put the referendum back until October but if we are to avoid the most important vote of our lives being rigged then I feel duty bound to take this course of action.”

Noon Deadline

In a second statement shortly afterward, Leave.EU said a decision whether to pursue the legal challenge would be made by noon London time Thursday.

Cameron’s spokeswoman Helen Bower said the vote would not be delayed.

“The date is set in law,” Bower told reporters when asked if the referendum might be put back to October.

Stronger in Europe, the only bidder to lead the “Remain” campaign, was confirmed in the role by the commission.

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