Vote Leave has been fined £61,000 after being found guilty of breaking electoral law during the Brexit campaign. Two people have been referred to the police. But with this initial investigation concluded, Britain faces a difficult period of soul searching over what to do about this evidence of extensive wrongdoing. A democracy is only as strong as the elections that set its course. If they can be bought or subverted, then confidence in democracy and the legitimacy of the governments it installs, seeps away. But astonishingly, the details that have been gradually revealed, of illegal activity by both the official Vote Leave and the unofficial Leave.EU campaigns in the run-up to the Brexit vote, appear to have no immediate consequences. Most British elections are guaranteed by law. If evidence of serious cheating is uncovered they can be scrutinised and overturned in an “election court”, overseen by high court judges.
However, because the Brexit referendum was only an advisory vote there are no legal channels to challenge the result. Only parliament can investigate the result, declare it void or demand a re-run.
Nor have the powerful politicians who fronted the flawed Vote Leave campaign faced direct censure, even as the country is rocked by the tumultuous fallout from a vote that is now known to be flawed.
The Electoral Commission’s report established that BeLeave was operating as an arm of Vote Leave, which had won official status and the taxpayer money that entailed, partly by recruiting Conservative party luminaries.