The residents of South Holland and The Deepings have recently received a leaflet through their doors entitled ‘The UK and the European Union: The facts’.
This leaflet looks official and purports to give the facts about the referendum – indeed, for more information, recipients are advised to consult www.eureferendumfacts.org
For many people, a magnifying glass will have been needed to establish that this leaflet was, in fact, compiled and distributed by Vote Leave Ltd – one of the private companies promoting Brexit.
The ‘facts’ it contains are selective, incomplete and biased towards a ‘no’ vote.
The Electoral Commission website makes it clear that the law requires all EU referendum campaigners who propose to spend more than £10,000 on their campaign to be registered with the commission and be bound by all relevant rules and restrictions.
This includes expenditure limits, donations and the legal requirements relating to campaign literature.
Troubled by the misleading nature of this promotional literature, I spoke with an officer in the Electoral Commission’s campaigns section. It would appear that their phones have been very busy.
Vote Leave Ltd has registered with the commission and will be required to satisfy all legal requirements, including a £700,000 cap on campaign spending.
It will also need to satisfy the legal requirements applied to all printed campaign material.
The EU referendum campaign, however, is officially designated to begin on April 15 and it is only from this date that campaigners will be required to abide by the rules.
I was told, therefore, that there is absolutely nothing it is required to do in respect of this recent promotional material as it falls outside the designated period and thus the legal and financial restrictions do not yet apply. A clever move by Vote Leave Ltd.
Those of us who rely on informed debate can only hope that they have not managed to fool too many of the recipients across the country.