The Electoral Commission has begun an investigation into whether Ukip broke election funding laws by apparently using money from a European parliament group to fund Nigel Farage’s failed attempt to win a Westminster seat, and in the Brexit referendum.
The elections watchdog announced the move in the wake of a ruling by a committee of senior MEPs that a Ukip-dominated group in the European parliament misspent more than €500,000 (£427,000) of taxpayers’ money.
The committee asked the Ukip-controlled Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE) to return €172,655. Officials found the party had breached EU rules by putting money into the 2015 general election and the EU referendum.
A report from the parliament’s finance team concluded the ADDE had funnelled cash into Nigel Farage’s failed attempt to win Thanet South, and opinion polls to test the public mood in the run-up to the EU referendum campaign.
In a statement on Tuesday 22nd November, the Electoral Commission said its investigation into Ukip would seek to discover whether the party “accepted impermissible donations” from the ADDE and its affiliated foundation, the Initiative for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE).
The ADDE can legitimately accept EU grants for political work, but they cannot be used for direct or indirect funding of national parties or election candidates, the statement said.
UK election law has strict rules on permissible donations, which must be recorded and checked to ensure they are from a proper source. If they are impermissible they must be returned within 30 days, or the party and its treasurer may have committed an offence. Fines can be up to £20,000 for each offence, and the money in question has to be repaid.
The Electoral Commission statement did not say how long the inquiry would take.
The European parliament report found the ADDE paid for polling in the UK between February and December last year, including pre-election surveys in Thanet South, and other Ukip target seats such as Great Grimsby, Thurrock, Rochester & Strood and Cardiff South & Penarth.
The money was also wrongly used for nine opinion polls ahead of the 2015 election and the EU referendum, the report found.
Notification of the Electoral Commission investigation was sent to to Ukip’s treasurer, John Bickley, who finished second to Labour in the Oldham West and Royston byelection last December.
The investigation centres on the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Under the part of the act the commission is examining, both a party and its treasurer are guilty of an offence if they have not taken reasonable steps to ensure donations are permissible.
GONE WITH THE WIND: After over 40 years of membership, Britain has voted to leave the EU
The UK will leave the European Union and David Cameron will resign as Prime Minister.
This is the breaking news that Brits woke up to on Friday 24th June as the face of the EU changed forever.
After months of debate, threats from both ends of the political spectrum and some often misleading propaganda, the British public voted in favour of exiting the 28-nation bloc by 17,410,242 (51.9 per cent) to 16,141,241 (48.1 per cent).
It was the highest turnout for a vote in the country for almost 25 years, as 72.2 per cent of the nation’s eligible voters had their say on whether to continue the EU membership. In comparison, last year’s general election witnessed just a 66.1 per cent turnout.
The announcement at around 8.30am outside the steps of 10 Downing Street came as little surprise to many in the political world as David Cameron announced his intentions to resign as Prime Minister.
Describing his patriotism for the country, as well as his desire to see the Leave campaign ultimately succeed, he said: “I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.
RESIGNATION: David Cameron will resign as Prime Minister of the UK following the county’s decision to leave the EU
“This is not a decision I've taken lightly but I do believe it's in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required.
“There is no need for a precise timetable today but in my view we should aim to have a new Prime Minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October.”
Cameron will continue in his post momentarily but also confirmed that he believes a new leader in the UK should be in place by October this year.
He added: “I said before that Britain can survive outside the European Union and indeed that we could find a way.
“Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way and I will do everything I can to help. I love this country and I feel honoured to have served it and I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed.”
Pound slumps in global markets
The pound fell more than 10 per cent against the dollar following the confirmation of the victorious ‘Leave’ vote – the biggest one-day fall in history.
Not since 1985 have the pound-to-dollar levels been so low, with Chancellor George Osborne describing the situation as a ‘DIY recession’.
It had earlier been acknowledged by some in the ‘Leave camp’ that a ‘blip’ might be initially seen in the currency markets yet such a fall still came as a surprise.
TEAM LEAVE: Nigel Farage celebrated the decision, labelling it Britain’s ‘Independence Day’
The dramatic result also reportedly wiped an estimated £122 billion of the value of the FTSE 100 within minutes.
Bank governor Mark Carney said in a statement on behalf of the Bank of England: “Inevitably, there will be a period of uncertainty and adjustment following this result.
“There will be no initial change in the way our people can travel, in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold.
“And it will take some time for the United Kingdom to establish new relationships with Europe and the rest of the world.
“Some market and economic volatility can be expected as this process unfolds.”
There is no denying that the UK’s eventual exit from the EU is the biggest crisis the organisation has had to face in its 59-year history.
Will other nations now hold their own referendums and what will the UK’s working relationship be like with the remaining members? These are the questions we will have to wait to find out the answers for.
HEAD CAMPAIGNER: Boris Johnson said the public had voted to ‘take back control’
In the meantime, reaction from leaders around the world remains mixed. Angela Merkel’s close ally, Manfred Weber - a senior German conservative MEP – said ‘no special treatment’ can be given to the UK.
He said in four tweets: “We respect and regret the decision of the British voters. It causes major damage to both sides.
“This was a British vote, not a European vote. Co-operation within Europe is a question of self-assertion of the continent.
“We want a better and smarter Europe. We have to convince the people and bring Europe back to them.
“Exit negotiations should be concluded within two years at max. There cannot be any special treatment. Leave means leave.”
Elsewhere, the Dutch anti-immigration leader, Geert Wilders, saw the UK’s vote as a catalyst for other nations to hold their own referendums.
“We want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy,” he said in a statement.
Polls and opinions in Sweden, France and Italy also suggest other nations are worried about a weakened EU due to the Brexit.
How the UK voted
52 per cent of the country voted for an EU exit.
In Scotland, all 32 local authority areas voted in favour of remaining in the EU, with 62 per cent opting against leaving.
Questions will now be raised as to whether another Scottish Independence referendum is needed as the voice of the people north of the border seemingly went unheard.
55 per cent of people in Northern Ireland also voted to remain members of the EU, whilst the Leave voters were victorious in Wales with 51.9 per cent.
When looking at the different regions in England, a clear north-south divide can be seen.
In Yorkshire, the North East, North West, West Midlands and East Midlands, the ‘Leave’ campaign triumphed. Meanwhile, in the metropolitan capital of London, 59.9 per cent voted ‘Remain’.
What happens next?
The UK, in many ways, is heading into unchartered territory.
Only Greenland has ever left the EU previously - in 1985 - yet the UK’s power and presence in the political union is much more substantial.
Firstly, the decision of when to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon has to be made. In Lehman’s terms this means the beginning of the formal and legal process of the UK leaving the EU.
There is a two-year deadline in place meaning the Prime Minister of the day, whoever that may be, has limited time to negotiate new trade deals with the EU before the nation ceases to remain a member.
The UK may revert back to trading with the EU under World Trade Organisation rules, according to some Remain campaigners, which would result in exporters being hit with import taxes and tariffs.
IMPORTANT MEETING: The communiqué said that an exit from the EU would be extremely bad for the UK’s economy
A meeting which brings together the world's leading seven industrialised nations -known as the G7 - discussed Britain’s exit from the EU this past week.
They agreed that should the UK leave the European Union, it would pose a ‘serious threat to global growth’.
The group, who gathered together in Japan, warned in itsfinal statement that a UK exit from the EU would reverse the trend of increased global trade, investment and jobs.
G7 set global growth as a priority for dealing with threats to security and the world's economy.
As Britain prepares for a referendum on 23rd June, the warning about the economic consequences of the UK leaving the EU comes just in time.
A vote to leave would “reverse the trend towards greater global trade and investment, and the jobs they create,” the G7 leaders said.
Prime Minister David Cameron has been campaigning for Britain to stay within the 28-country bloc, with recent polls suggesting a lead for those who support remaining.
President Barack Obamahas already urgedBritain to remain a member of the EU, warning last month that a decision to leave, known as ‘Brexit’, would put the country ‘at the back of the queue’ for a free trade deal with the US.
The G7 has also released an action plan to tackle terrorism and said they would improve border control and aviation security.
GRIDLOCK: Traffic came to a standstill in Dewsbury due to the amount of people that attended the funeral
Transport brought to a standstill for funeral of influential leader
People from across the UK and Europe flocked to Dewsbury last week to pay their respects to one of the most influential Muslim leaders, Hafiz Patel, who passed away aged 92.
A funeral was held for the renowned cleric, who was involved in the creation of the Markazi Mosque in Savile Town, on Thursday 18th February.
Crowds - some of whom had travelled from as far afield as France and Portugal - were described as ‘an ocean of people’ on social media and Twitter was awash with tributes.
It was estimated that 10,000 mourners turned up to Savile Town playing fields for the open air service.
Omar (@opthomar), on Twitter wrote: “Almost feels like a pilgrimage, thousands of people walking the streets of Dewsbury on their way to #HafizPatel's janazah.”
Mr Patel arrived in Dewsbury in 1960 and was instrumental in setting up the town’s first mosque, which is the largest teaching mosque in Europe and European headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat movement.
Even the transport around Savile Town in Dewsbury came to a standstill due to the influx of mourners and was in gridlock for some hours.
Community leader, Solly Adam, said: “He was my relative and also a very close friend. We played cricket together when I was a little child.
“I wasn’t surprised that so many people turned up to his funeral. He deserved double the turnout for what he had done for the community in his lifetime.
“He’s been here for fifty years and changed the country for the good. It is unbelievable what he’s done for the community.”
He added: “Mr Patel was a true gentleman who had a very soft nature. He listened to everyone and would never dictate his views. We went to Germany and Turkey together. He was a genius. He sacrificed his whole life for the sake of his community.”
OPEN AIR FUNERAL: The funeral was held at Savile Town playing fields
Councillor Masood Ahmed for Dewsbury South also shared his memories of the cleric.
“Mr Patel was a very approachable and welcoming person,” he said. “Whoever you were, whatever walk of life you were from, he would always give of his time.
“He will certainly be a hard act to follow if anyone has to step into his shoes. It’s a massive loss to us all.
“Mr Patel was the pillar of the community. I can’t fault the man.”
VOTE LEAVE: Boris Johnson thinks Britain should leave the EU and the 28-nation bloc
Boris Johnson wants to leave EU
The EU referendum debate has been transformed by Boris Johnson who announced ‘after a huge amount of heartache’ that he wants to take Britain out of the EU.
On Sunday, the London mayor said he will campaign for a leave vote after concluding that David Cameron’s deal will not deliver the reformed EU he promised.
Speaking outside his home in Islington, London, the colourful politician said his decision had been ‘agonisingly difficult’.
He added: “I would like to see a new relationship based more on trade, on cooperation [...] so that is where I’m coming from and that is why I have decided, after a huge amount of heartache, because the last thing I wanted was to go against David Cameron or the government, I don’t think there is anything else I can do.
“I will be advocating Vote Leave – or whatever the team is called, I understand there are a lot of them – because I want a better deal for the people of this country, to save them money and to take control. That is really what this is all about.”
David Cameron said: “We are approaching one of the biggest decisions this country will face in our lifetimes. Whether to remain in a reformed European Union – or to leave.
“This choice goes to the heart of the kind of country we want to be. And the future that we want for our children.
“This is about how we trade with neighbouring countries to create jobs, prosperity and financial security for our families.
“And it is about how we co-operate to keep our people safe and our country strong. I know there will be many passionate arguments over the months ahead.
“My responsibility as Prime Minister is to speak plainly about what I believe is right for our country. I do not love Brussels. I love Britain.
“I am the first to say that there are still many ways in which Europe needs to improve – and that the task of reforming Europe does not end with yesterday’s agreement.
“And I will never say that our country couldn’t survive outside Europe.
“We are Great Britain – we can achieve great things.
“That is not the question in this referendum.
“The question is will we be safer, stronger and better off working together in a reformed Europe or out on our own. I believe we will be safer in a reformed Europe, because we can work with our European partners to fight cross border crime and terrorism.
“I believe Britain will be stronger in a reformed Europe because we can play a leading role in one of the world’s largest organisations from within, helping to make the big decisions on trade and security that determine our future.
“And I believe we will be better off in a reformed Europe because British businesses will have full access to the free trade single market, bringing jobs, investment and lower prices.
“Let me be clear. Leaving Europe would threaten our economic and our national security.
“Those who want to leave Europe cannot tell you if British businesses would be able to access Europe’s free trade single market or if working people’s jobs are safe or how much prices would rise.
“All they are offering is risk at a time of uncertainty - a leap in the dark.
“Our plan for Europe gives us the best of both worlds.”
The agreement will take effect immediately if the UK votes to remain in the EU. It will include changes to migrant welfare payments, safeguards for Britain's financial services and making it easier to block unwanted EU regulations.
The Financial Times reports that bosses of about half of Britain's 100 biggest companies are preparing to back Mr Cameron's campaign to keep the country in the union.
FOOTBALL: Sheikh Salman is the bookies’ favourite to succeed Sepp Blatter as head of FIFA later this month
Governing body would not relocate should Bahraini candidate land top job
As the race for the FIFA presidential hot seat gathers pace, candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, has said he plans to retain the name FIFA and keep its base in Europe, should he be elected.
Votes will be cast later this month to see who replaces the ousted Sepp Blatter, with Salman considered the odds-on favourite to land the prestigious position.
“FIFA has always been in Zurich,” he said to the Zurich daily Tages-Anzeiger when asked how often he, as a Bahraini citizen, would be in the city if he succeeded Swiss-born Blatter. “I see no reason to change that ... I will be in Zurich as often as needed.”
A number of investigations are currently being carried out into FIFA officials, leading to a scandal-ridden nature at the top of world football.
Salman said this is something that needs addressing immediately and denied allegations that he had previously used funds from Bahrain’s football association to win a FIFA executive committee seat.
“It's the work that must change, not the name,” he said. “We need zero tolerance against misconduct, fraud and corruption.”
Salman has previously stated that he is paying out of his own pocket to fund his campaign, having previously made similar moves for his position on the FIFA executive committee in 2009 and presidency of the Asian soccer body in 2013.
Asked if Blatter could attend a FIFA congress to elect his successor, he said: “I respect the FIFA rules. If they say banned officials cannot take part, then that's the way it is. The rules are for everyone.”
Votes will be cast and counted on 26th February.
The other election candidates are UEFA interim chief Gianni Infantino, ex-FIFA executive committee member Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, former FIFA deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne and South African Tokyo Sexwale.
Seatbelt defect shows that it wouldn’t provide full protection in a crash
Tesla has announced a full recall of every Model S sold since 2012 after it discovered a potential manufacturing defect in one of its cars.
One Model S in Europe was found to have a defective seat belt assembly. Tesla has stated that while this vehicle wasn’t involved in an accident, the seatbelt would not have provided full protection in the event of a crash.
As such, all 90,000 Model S cars are being recalled. Tesla has never been a mass-market manufacturer, especially not in the UK where there are around 1,000 on the roads.
The luxury full-electric saloon is currently priced from £57,335 to £89,435 for the P85D range topper.
The issue was highlighted by a Tesla owner in Europe earlier in November, leading to the carmaker inspecting 3,000 vehicles worldwide and its assembly process to identify where the problem lied before contacting owners.
Tesla said there have been no accidents linked to this issue but is recalling the cars out of an 'abundance of caution'.
In a statement, the company said: “Even though we have since inspected the seat belts in over 3,000 vehicles spanning the entire range of Model S production and found no issues.
“We have decided to conduct a voluntary recall as a proactive and precautionary measure to inspect all front Model S seat belts and make absolutely sure that they are properly connected.” He added that there are no concerns regarding seat belts in the rear of Model S.
The all-electric Model S is a large executive lift back that competes with conventional cars from BMW and Mercedes.
On a full charge, the Model S can cover 250 miles and the latest P85D model has an astonishing 0-62mph time of just 2.8 seconds — the same as an £866,000 McLaren P1 supercar.
News that safety features could be defective on their cars could damage the reputation of the startup, after questions over reliability were raised earlier in the year.