MEPs demand international investigation into Tory handling of the EU elections

“Brexit is a crime scene, yet our efforts to ensure the perpetrators face justice using the agencies available in the UK...have so far failed."

A cross-party group of 38 UK MEPs has called on a high-level international legal commission to intervene over ‘declining democratic standards’ in the UK.

The letter (below) to the Venice Commission has been signed by almost half the UK’s newly elected MEPs, as well as some outgoing MEPs. It raises concerns over the exclusion of specific groups of voters and undemocratic standards in both the EU referendum in 2016 and this year’s European elections.

The Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat MEPs have asked the commission to investigate breaches of spending rules and data-protection laws as well as the exclusion of non-UK EU citizens residing in the UK from voting during the 2016 referendum.

They have also asked them to investigate the disenfranchisement of UK citizens resident in other EU countries and non-UK EU citizens resident in the UK from the European elections this year.

It comes as MPs prepare to take the Met police to court, after the force has failed to investigate alleged offences by Brexit campaigners for nearly a year. Vote Leave was fined £61,000 last July after the Electoral Commission after found that the campaign group had coordinated with BeLeave in breach of referendum rules.

The government may also face court action after thousands of EU citizens in the UK were denied a vote in the European elections. The European Parliament is investigating the #DeniedMyVote scandal.

Labour MEP, Claude Moraes, who is Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee, said:

“It is clear that this Conservative Government has refused to take seriously the disenfranchisement of citizens who were entitled to carry out their most important democratic right to vote.

“The deafening silence from this Government to calls for an inquiry or even any signs of concern suggests a decline in democratic standards and force us to take this serious step of reaching out to a respected, high-level legal body, the Vienna Commission. Brexit is producing many negative consequences – a decline in our democratic standards should not be one of them.”

Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, who coordinated the letter, added:

“It is clear that our existing government, and certainly none of the contenders for the Tory leadership, have the slightest intention of addressing the worrying decline in our democratic standards. People are being excluded and laws have been broken. But most worryingly of all, it is our democracy itself that is broken.

“Brexit is a crime scene, yet our efforts to ensure the perpetrators face justice, using the agencies available in the UK such as the Electoral Commission and National Crime Agency, have so far failed. It is time to look further afield to international bodies upholding democratic standards and protecting the rule of law, which is why we are taking our case to the Vienna Commission.”

Letter: To the Chair of the Council for Democratic Elections Venice Commission

Dear Mr Kask,

We must begin by congratulating you and your team on your excellent work upholding democratic standards and protecting the rule of law.

For some time, we have had concerns about declining democratic standards in our own country and we believe an intervention by the Venice Commission would be timely and supportive.

Our concerns are fairly wide-ranging and involve the exclusion of specific groups of voters as well as an increasing sense that both the European elections this year and the EU referendum 2016 did not reach the standards we would expect from a well-established democracy.

The specific instances of concern are:

  • The breach of spending rules and data-protection laws during the EU referendum in June 2016.
  • The exclusion of non-UK EU citizens residing in the UK from the franchise for the EU referendum.
  • The government’s approach to the European Elections last month, which involved leaving planning very late and put intolerable pressure on electoral services departments of local authorities.
  • The disenfranchisement of UK citizens resident in other EU countries whose postal votes did not arrive in time.
  • The disenfranchisement of non-UK EU citizens due to the two-step process for registration in the UK and including a declaration by post that citizens were not voting elsewhere in the EU.

These individual instances where the UK has not met adequate democratic standards form part of a picture of a democracy under pressure and we are not convinced that our existing government has either the will or the capacity to address these issues.

We would appeal to you to offer your legal expertise in support of our democratic standards and to undertake an investigation into the issues raised here.

With thanks and best wishes,

  • Molly Scott Cato MEP
  • Claude Moraes MEP
  • Richard Corbett MEP
  • Jackie Jones MEP
  • Seb Dance MEP
  • Wajid Khan MEP
  • Clare Moody MEP
  • Jude Kirton-Darling MEP
  • Theresa Griffin MEP
  • Julie Ward MEP
  • Derek Vaughan MEP
  • Ellie Chowns MEP
  • Magid Magid MEP
  • Gina Dowding MEP
  • Alex Phillips MEP
  • Catherine Rowett MEP
  • Scott Ainslie MEP
  • Jean Lambert MEP
  • Keith Taylor MEP
  • Jill Evans MEP
  • Alyn Smith MEP
  • Aileen McLeod MEP
  • Catherine Bearder MEP
  • Bill Newton Dunn MEP
  • Barbara Gibson MEP
  • Lucy Nethsingha MEP
  • Irina Von Wiese MEP
  • Dinesh Dhamija MEP
  • Luisa Porritt MEP
  • Chris Davies MEP
  • Jane Brophy MEP
  • Sheila Ritchie MEP
  • Anthony Hook MEP
  • Judith Bunting MEP
  • Caroline Voaden MEP
  • Martin Horwood MEP
  • Phillip Bennion MEP
  • Shaffaq Mohammed MEP

Separately, the Brexit Party has been told by the Electoral Commission to check its donations and tighten up its processes, after a loophole was revealed that could allow foreign donations to the party.

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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11 Responses to “MEPs demand international investigation into Tory handling of the EU elections”

  1. Tom Sacold

    The British people decided fair and square by a majority of over 1.28 million votes to Leave the EU.

    Respect the democratic decision of the British people !!!

  2. Tom Sacold

    We need to reopen the issue of ID cards for UK citizens. Given that we need ID now to do a large number of admin tasks in our lives, it seems logical for the Government to issue them.

    Voter ID should be required in all UK elections. Postal voting should only be available to those with a valid reason not to be able to attend in person.

  3. Jennifer Evans

    I fully support our MEP’s demanding an International investigation into the lack of democratic standards by the Conservative government that has allowed Brexit politicians to use the 2016 Referendum to seize power and by not investigating the illegal activities of Vote Leave and Leave EU through an independent public enquiry they have not acted in the best interests of UK citizens or EU citizens in the EU elections.

  4. steve

    How about the Blairite MEPs demand an investigation into the behaviour of the electorate?

    Clearly, the Leave-voting majority provided only a ballot-box, self-declaration of their severe cognitive incapacity.

    May I suggest that, in all future elections, only those who boast a starry-eyed admiration for Tony Blair be allowed to vote.

    This is the best way of delivering unquestioning support for military interventions, light-touch banking regulation, NHS privatisation, secretive TTIP-style, pro-corporate trade deals and the neoliberal EU.

  5. Cole

    Gee, people still whining on about Blair.

    For all his faults he won 3 elections for the Labour
    Party. Under Corbyn it’s just come 3rd with 14% of the vote.

  6. steve

    “he {Blair] won 3 elections ”

    That’s an interesting observation.

    Blair won a landslide in ’97 – on a promise of delivering an economy that worked for all (see Singapore speech). This is identical to Corbyn’s promise today. However, as Blair failed to deliver, the Labour vote declined at every subsequent election. Blair’s majority was only sustained by the ’97 landslide. The experience of New Labour in government was much less appealing than New Labour’s pre-government pledge.

    By the end, Labour had lost nearly 5 million votes. Even New Labour-lite’s representative, the hapless Ed Miliband, couldn’t revive New Labour’s fortunes and managed to lose 40 Scottish Labour MPs into the bargain.

    No doubt the Blairites will tell us rejection of New Labour was instance of the electorate getting it ‘wrong’.

    Perhaps they’ll call for an ‘international investigation’…

  7. Patrick Newman

    Accusations of illegal and corrupt source and use of funds and data by the Leave referendum campaigns remain unresolved. It is surprising that the Remain organisations have not pressured the authorities to progress investigations/prosecutions of Leave groups and officers!

  8. Paul Johnstone

    Finally, a step in the right direction! What powers do the Venice Commission have to hold our government to account? I strongly believe though that the criminal activity actually begun when Boris Johnson (yes, he who is highly likely to become our PM through a highly undemocratic process) created wildly exaggerated stories as a journalist, casting the EU in a negative light back in the 80s and 90s;* in doing so the right wing press jumped on this bandwagon and successive governments were able to use the EU and a convenient scapegoat. This is a matter of public record and here he is some 30 years later about to become PM as a result. He is culpable in the long term brainwashing of the UK public which has led us into this sorry situation. Imho the best way out would be to take the following steps:

    1) Revoke article 50.
    2) An enquiry into the long term misinformation campaign against the public conducted by members of the Media and Government, conducted by a body with real powers of investigation and sentencing.
    3) Set up a citizens assembly (aided by experts in all the relevant fields) to investigate what Brexit would actually mean for the UK in detail.
    5) Disseminate the findings of this process to the general public.
    6) Hold another referendum, this time to be voted on by a public who this time are actually informed and being treated respectably by their Government.
    7) Act on the results of the new referendum.
    8) Prosecute those responsible for systematically misleading the public with the full weight of the law.
    9) Government to prioritise the investigation into , and prevention of, manipulation of public opinion by foreign powers/businesses.

    This is what a responsible leader should be proposing. Unfortunately it will never happen 🙁

    *This is a matter of public record, for example: //www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/15/brexit-boris-johnson-euromyths-telegraph-brussels

  9. Dave Roberts

    What is as important is an investigation into the postal vote scandal in Peterborough.

  10. pedro agno

    NOBODY Wants to Crash the UK’s Economy on the 31 October – just a handful of rich tax-avoiders, who are lying to the rest of us through the press.

  11. Michael Dennis

    A so called democratic result based on a pack of lies and one with appalling consequences for this country is not one to be respected. Equally, a Brexit campaign partly funded by Russian money should not be accepted either. Final say vote ASAP!

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