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FormationJuly 2015 (2015-07)
FoundersArron Banks and Richard Tice[1]
PurposeUnited Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union
HeadquartersMillbank Tower, London
Region served
United Kingdom
Key people
Formerly called
The Know

Leave.EU was a political campaign group that was first established to support the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union in the June 2016 referendum.[2] Founded in July 2015 as The Know, the campaign was relaunched in September of that year with its name changed to "Leave.eu" to reflect altered wording in the referendum question.

The campaign, along with rival organisation Vote Leave, aimed to be formally designated as the lead campaign for the "Leave" referendum vote by the Electoral Commission;[6] however, on 13 April 2016, Vote Leave was designated as the official campaign.[7]

The campaign was fined £70,000 in May 2018, after the Electoral Commission found that they failed to report at least £77,380 in spending. In February 2019, Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance owned by its founder Arron Banks were fined £120,000 over data law breaches.[8]

A number of prominent members of the campaign have subsequently been linked to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum.


The campaign was co founded by Bristol based businessman and UKIP donor Arron Banks, with property entrepreneur Richard Tice and early financial backing from Jim Mellon.[1] It initially set about bringing together a range of different Eurosceptic groups under the umbrella of The Know.[9]

As the campaign was being renamed Leave.EU,[10] UKIP leader Nigel Farage gave a public endorsement at the party's annual conference in Doncaster on 25 September 2015.[6] Farage later clarified that he backed both Leave campaigns as they targeted 'different audiences.'[11]

The campaign was then reportedly refused access to the Conservative annual conference and the TUC annual congress, while being allowed to attend the Labour and Liberal Democrat conferences.[12] American political strategy firm Goddard Gunster was appointed for its expertise in winning referendums.[13]

In November 2015, Banks wrote to the Vote Leave group proposing that the two groups should merge. He cited his concern that having two rival Eurosceptic groups was damaging the chances of a campaign victory.[14] On 17 November 2015, Leave.EU held its launch event, according to The Guardian.[15]

On 18 November 2015, Arron Banks would have had the opportunity to invest in a Russian gold mine, according to The Guardian, although the deal was announced in July 2016.[15] Nonetheless, gold mine discussions had no result, according to Banks.[16]

The campaign petitioned the BBC, ITV and Sky over their alleged conflation of the European Union with the continent of Europe in their output, which it said was an example of media bias.[17] In March 2016, financial supporter, Peter Hargreaves,[18][19] wrote to 15 million householders in the United Kingdom asking them to support the leave campaign.[20]

When rival organisation Vote Leave was designated by the Electoral Commission on 13 April 2016 as the official referendum campaign in favour of leaving the EU, Andy Wigmore said that Leave.EU would apply for a judicial review of the decision. He suggested that the referendum could be delayed until 23 October 2016 while the review took place.[7]

However, the next day (14 April 2016), chairman Arron Banks announced that Leave.EU would not be pursuing the judicial review any further. While the campaign states that "according to legal experts" it is clear they would win, they have decided that it is time to turn their focus fully towards "the real opponents in this campaign: those who are repeatedly trying to scare the British public".[21]

Leave.EU and Grassroots Out organized Bpoplive for 8 May 2016, the day after local and regional elections, in an attempt to reach the key youth demographic, but the event was cancelled.[22][23]

After Farage was not included in a referendum debate, Leave.EU retaliated by publishing the private contact details of BBC officials and Vote Leave members including UKIP MP Douglas Carsell and former UKIP deputy Suzanne Evans.[24] Arron Banks claimed that "facts don't work ... You've got to connect with people emotionally. It's the Trump success."[25]

Shortly after the referendum, Tice left Leave.EU, and co-founded the pressure group Leave Means Leave.[26]

In April 2019, Channel 4 News reported that an anti-immigration viral video produced by Leave.EU during the referendum campaign was faked, and that the group appeared to have staged photos of immigrants attacking women in the United Kingdom. Banks accused Channel 4 News journalists of creating "fake news" themselves.[27]

Legal issues[edit]

Leave.EU have been investigated and fined multiple times for their actions, including issues relating to electoral spending, data protection and libel.

On 1 October 2020, Leave.EU were forced to apologise and pay damages for libel to Labour MP Naz Shah after they made a social media post which accused her of being a "grooming gangs apologist". In a statement, Leave.EU said that their post was "ill-judged and untrue" and described Shah as a "vociferous campaigner for victims of grooming gangs".[28]

Referendum spending investigation[edit]

On 21 April 2017, the Electoral Commission announced that it had launched an investigation into the electoral spending of the campaign group at the EU Referendum, saying that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that potential offences may have been committed. The investigation will focus on whether impermissible donations were taken and whether the group's spending return was complete. Banks said the group "...will be vigorously defending" the allegations.[29]

In May 2018, Leave.EU was fined £70,000 for breaking electoral spending laws by failing to report spendings of at least £77,380 during the 2016 EU Referendum.[30]

On 1 November 2018, the Electoral Commission referred Banks and Liz Bilney to the United Kingdom's National Crime Agency regarding the source of money used to fund Vote Leave's activities during the referendum campaign.[31][32] On 13 September 2019, the Metropolitan Police halted their investigation into Leave.EU's spending during the referendum campaign due to insufficient evidence, on the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). They did however state that there had been "technical breaches" of electoral law by Leave.EU.[33] Later in the month, the National Crime Agency concluded that it had "found no evidence that any criminal offences have been committed under PPERA or company law by any of the individuals or organisations referred to it by the Electoral Commission" with regards to spending during the EU referendum campaign. They therefore chose not to take any further action against Leave.EU.[34]

Data protection investigation[edit]

Banks's company, Eldon Insurance's Bristol headquarters was also the HQ for Leave.EU.[35] Brittany Kaiser, a former director of Cambridge Analytica has said that when she visited in the end of 2015, she saw Eldon employees staffing a call centre for the campaign. Adding that she thought the staff, most who had never participated in politics before, were calling leads or current customers of Eldon.[36]

It was reported in April 2018 that the UK Information Commissioner's Office was investigating whether Eldon shared data with the Leave.EU campaign. Although Banks had previously admitted advertising insurance products to campaign supporters, he stated “Eldon has never given or used any data to Leave.EU. They are separate entities with strong data control rules. And vice versa.”[35]

In February 2019, Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance owned by its founder Arron Banks were fined £120,000 over data law breaches.[37]

EU domain name[edit]

In an attempt to continue using their .EU internet domain name after the UK had left the European Union, the organization moved its registered address to the Republic of Ireland at the end of 2020. Access to their website was temporarily suspended in January 2021 following disputes about the validity of the move.[38][39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Hope, Christopher (11 July 2015). "Millionaire Jim Mellon backs £20million 'anti-politics' campaign to leave EU as name revealed". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Our Campaign". leave.eu. Archived from the original on 13 October 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ a b Tim Ross (3 October 2015). "EU Referendum: grassroots 'out' campaign wins business and Tory backing". The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Key players in the EU referendum debate: Who wants to stay and who wants to leave?". ITV News. 12 October 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  5. ^ "The Campaign Against Euro Federalism (CAEF) supporting the Leave.EU Campaign". leave.eu. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  6. ^ a b "EU referendum: Who's who guide to the UK exit campaigns". BBC News. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b Jon Stone (13 April 2016). "Vote Leave designated as official EU referendum Out campaign".
  8. ^ "Brexit: Leave.EU and Arron Banks' firm fined £120,000 over data breaches". BBC News. BBC. 1 February 2019. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  9. ^ "Nigel Farage to Eurosceptics: Stop bitching and start campaigning". BBC News. 30 July 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  10. ^ "Leave.EU goes live and goes big". leave.eu. 28 September 2016. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  11. ^ "UKIP's Nigel Farage: I support both EU 'Out' campaigns". BBC News. 11 October 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  12. ^ Hall, Macer (11 September 2015). "Why union bosses are walking into a trap". Daily Express. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  13. ^ Heffer, Simon (26 September 2015). "Suddenly, leaving the EU looks within reach". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  14. ^ Faulconbridge, Guy (24 November 2015). "British EU 'out' leader proposes merger with rival to boost campaign". Reuters. London. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  15. ^ a b Cadwalladr, Carole; Jukes, Peter (9 June 2018). "Arron Banks 'met Russian officials multiple times before Brexit vote'". The Guardian.
  16. ^ "Lawmakers want to question Brexit backer on Russia meetings". Townhall. Associated Press. 10 June 2018.
  17. ^ McCann, Kate (19 October 2015). "BBC accused of 'dishonesty' and bias over EU referendum coverage". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  18. ^ Michael Yong (31 March 2016). "Bankrolling Brexit: How two Bristol businessmen put in millions of pounds". Bristol Post. Retrieved 1 April 2016.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Howard Mutoe (18 March 2016). "EU referendum: Founder of FTSE 100 broker backs EU exit". BBC News. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  20. ^ Damian Fantato (23 March 2016). "Peter Hargreaves signs 15m letters backing Brexit". FTAdviser. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  21. ^ Banks, Arron (14 April 2016). "Judicial Review: Statement from Arron Banks". Leave.EU. Archived from the original on 24 June 2016.
  22. ^ Marina Hyde (26 February 2016). "Leave Aid: Grassroots Out's anti-EU festival is the hottest music event of the year". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  23. ^ Marina Hyde (15 April 2016). "Clear your diary – the anti-Europe pop gig is off". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  24. ^ Jim Waterson (24 May 2016). "Anti-EU Campaign Publishes Private Phone Number of Rival Eurosceptic MP". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  25. ^ Michael Deacon (9 July 2016). "In a world of post-truth politics, Andrea Leadsom will make the perfect PM". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
  26. ^ "Donald Tusk: EU's 'heart still open to UK' over Brexit". BBC News. 16 January 2018. Archived from the original on 31 July 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  27. ^ "Revealed: How Leave.EU faked migrant footage". Channel 4 News. 16 April 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  28. ^ "Bradford MP Naz Shah gets apology for 'horrendous' Leave.EU post". BBC News. 1 October 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  29. ^ Stone, Jon (21 April 2017). "Electoral Commission launches investigation into Leave.EU referendum finances". The Independent.
  30. ^ "Brexit: Leave.EU fined £70,000 for breaking electoral law during referendum". BBC News. 11 May 2018.
  31. ^ "Arron Banks faces Brexit referendum spending probe". BBC News. 1 November 2018.
  32. ^ "Arron Banks, Better for the Country and others referred to the National Crime Agency for multiple suspected offences". Electoral Commission. 1 November 2018.
  33. ^ "Met Police drop criminal probe into Leave.EU spending". BBC News. 13 September 2019. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  34. ^ "Public statement on NCA investigation into suspected EU referendum offences". National Crime Agency. 24 September 2019. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  35. ^ a b Cadwalladr, Carole (14 April 2018). "Leave.EU, Arron Banks and new questions about referendum funding". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  36. ^ Paul Lewis; David Pegg; Paul Hilder (17 April 2018). "Arron Banks staff worked on Brexit campaign, MPs told". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  37. ^ "Brexit: Leave.EU and Arron Banks' firm fined £120,000 over data breaches". BBC News. BBC. 1 February 2019. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  38. ^ Pro-Brexit lobby group Leave.eu joins the EU - Deutsche Welle, 7 January 2021
  39. ^ Woodcock, Andrew (16 January 2021). "Brexit group's website suspended in row over its bid to move to EU". The Independent. Retrieved 16 January 2021.