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How loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to win

A string of emails released under Freedom of Information laws to WhatDoTheyKnow and seen by openDemocracy demonstrate the full scale of the loophole in Britain’s electoral rules which allowed Grimes and Vote Leave to spend this extraordinary sum – and the worrying implications it has for British democracy www.opendemocracy.net

Last year a young fashion student from County Durham called Darren Grimes registered a pro-Brexit social media campaign, aimed at persuading young people to vote to quit the EU. It was called BeLeave. At first, not many people noticed.

In its first ten weeks, BeLeave raised the sum total of £107 for its activities. But in the ten days before the Brexit referendum, Darren Grimes spent more than £675,000 on a pro-Brexit social media campaign.

Now, a string of emails released under Freedom of Information laws to WhatDoTheyKnow and seen by openDemocracy demonstrate the full scale of the loophole in Britain’s electoral rules which allowed Grimes and Vote Leave to spend this extraordinary sum – and the worrying implications it has for British democracy.

By the usual measures, BeLeave wasn’t much of a social media success. Its launch met with the traditional fate of campaigns aimed too obviously at young people: it was briefly mocked on Twitter, and then ignored. To this day, it has a sum total of 4,139 followers on Twitter. Its Facebook page seems to have been taken down, but was reported on Buzzfeed to have reached fewer than 6,000 fans. We can’t find an Instagram account.

Grimes is now deputy editor at BrexitCentral (who controversially got a press pass for the Westminster lobby recently.)

Investigations by Buzzfeed, Private Eye and the Observer have all reported on the sudden and extraordinary £675,000 spent by BeLeave in the ten days before the referendum.

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