10 reasons why we need a Mueller style inquiry into the 2016 referendum.

We know that the referendum was tainted by deliberate deception (Turkey’s imminent accession to EU membership, £350m a week spent on EU membership that would be spent on the NHS after Brexit….), foreign influence and blatant ignoring of the rules concerning spending by certain leave campaign organisation.

That is quite apart from the promises of the easiest trade deals possible, and that the EU would be falling over itself to accommodate the UK during the withdrawal negotiations.

Fair Vote are pursuing a challenge for a judicial review of Theresa May’s failure to initiate a public enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the 2016 referendum.

Fair Vote have engaged John Halford at Bindmans LLP to represent them. We know John well as he represented us during the “Miller” case, directed the compilation of the Three Knights Opinion for us and worked with us on our Millions in the Margins campaign.

Fair Vote have made their initial written submission for permission to proceed with the case for the judicial review. This initial submission has been refused, perhaps unsurprisingly in this highly charged political climate, and they are now planning to make an oral submission to be allowed to proceed

However, the reasons for refusal seem specious to say the least, even to a layman. They are all based on the rejection of the case for a judicial review being sought by Sue Wilson and Otrs.

This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the reasons behind Fair Vote’s submission and how it is very different to the challenge being pursued by Sue Wilson.

Fair Vote’s submission is based on the damage being done to the UK’s system of democracy as a result of the lies, external influence and illegal spending perpetrated by certain people and organisations during the 2016 referendum campaign.

Fair Vote do not claim to be able to overturn the 2016 result or reverse Brexit. What they are seeking to do is something even more important – establish why the rules governing our democratic process broke down and what should be done to stop it happening again.

Fair Vote’s challenge is an extremely important, probably up there with the challenge to the government over its intended use of Royal Prerogative that we initiated 2 and-a-half years ago.

Here are 10 specific reasons why Fair Votes challenge should succeed:

  1. Only an inquiry could reach comprehensive, robust, independent, evidence-based conclusions about what really happened in the EU Referendum – including involvement of individuals, companies and donors abroad and exploitation of loopholes in electoral law – to ensure the truth is known, lessons are learned for the future, and public confidence is restored.
  2. Only an inquiry would allow the UK to take the lead on investigating issues of Russian interference in the 2016 Referendum (avoiding the lead investigation by default being Robert Mueller’s examination of the role of Russian influence in the US elections). There is no Police, National Crime Agency or any other form of investigation happening at present that can compel Russia to publicly explain its actions. The need for accountability of this kind was why an inquiry had to be ordered by Teresa May herself into Alexander Litvinenko’s killing. That happened because Marina Litvinenko won a judicial review challenging Mrs May’s refusal to establish one.
  3. Only an inquiry would be in a position make factual findings on evidence other bodies – such as the Electoral Commission and Information Commissioner – have been unable to secure because of the limits on their jurisdiction. An inquiry would allow for a form of accountability for wrongs that are not currently crimes or regulatory offences (or which may be, but cannot practically be prosecuted).
  4. Inquiries can require witness attendance, cross-examination and the production of documents. The unwillingness of individuals – like Dominic Cummings – and organisations – like Facebook– to co-operate with investigations to date can be overcome using these special investigatory powers which other bodies lack.
  5. Only an inquiry will be able to do these things publicly. There would be clear transparency benefits. As well as having a narrow focus on commission of offences, Police, National Crime Agency and Electoral investigations are inevitably be conducted in private. By contrast, an inquiry allows core participants to engage in the Inquiry and, where permitted by the Chair, to cross-examine witnesses in public and to examine documents, and for the media to report fully on the steps taken in the investigation.
  6. The process of the inquiry and action on its recommendations for changes in the law could help address the threat to democracy and restore trust and confidence in the machinery needed to guard against it, especially because of its functional independence.
  7. That functional independence could address concerns about the role of senior public figures. For instance, a number of senior politicians, including those who sat on the Vote Leave Board and/or the Vote Leave Campaign Committee. To date, only Mr Cummings has been asked about his role and he flatly refused to be questioned about it publicly (by the Commons DCMS Committee). Only an inquiry will be able to put questions to them and require answers.
  8. An inquiry would not be starting from scratch. It would draw on the expertise of the Electoral Commissioner and Information Commissioner and build on the evidence gathering those bodies have undertaken so far along with that of the Commons DCMS Committee.
  9. An inquiry would be able to draw lessons from events and prevent events from re-occurring by making recommendations, including for law reform. The recommendations already made by the Electoral Commission, Information Commissioner and Commons DCMS Committee could be considered and endorsed if appropriate, but the main purpose of the inquiry would be to make evidence-based recommendations based on its own investigation, not to duplicate the work of others.
  10. Public Inquiries are powerful things. Exposing the facts surrounding the 2016 referendum will help with understanding the extent of the damage done to public confidence (including that arising from one country having interfered in the domestic affairs and democratic processed of another country) and re-establishing the integrity of our system of democracy. An inquiry would allow an acknowledgement of what went wrong and ensure that the record is set straight. And if information about the commission of crimes came to light as a result of an inquiry, this could be separately dealt with by the police prosecutors – as happened after the phone hacking inquiry.

Please support Fair Vote’s Crowd Justice campaign if you can. They have already raised nearly £90,000 and need to raise at least £100,000 in order to proceed to an oral hearing seeking permission to proceed with the challenge. You can find their main submission here  and the submission explaining why Fair Vote’s case has nothing to do with the one being pursued by Sue Wilson & Otrs here.

We know from our experience with the “Miller” case that seeking justice and ensuring the rule of law does not come cheaply, particularly when you have a government whose priorities seem to be self-interest and obfuscation.

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Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.

This entry was posted in Democracy, Political Integrity, Public Inquiry 2016 referendum and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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