After months of waiting, the Electoral Commission has announced that Vote Leave has been given the official designation for the EU referendum. This means that MPs including Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Frank Field will now become the official faces of the Leave campaign, while Nigel Farage and Ukip donor Arron Banks, who were behind the Grassroots Out campaign, will be sidelined. Britain Stronger in Europe will be the official Remain organisation.
Explaining its decision, Claire Bassett, Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission said:
'Where there are competing applicants for a particular outcome the law is clear, we must designate the applicant which appears to us to represent those campaigning for that outcome to the greatest extent.
We received two high quality applications on the ‘Leave’ side, from ‘Vote Leave Ltd’ and ‘The Go Movement Ltd’. After careful consideration, the Commission decided that ‘Vote Leave Ltd’ better demonstrated that it has the structures in place to ensure the views of other campaigners are represented in the delivery of its campaign. It therefore represents, to a greater extent than ‘Go Movement Ltd’, those campaigning for the ‘Leave’ outcome, which is the test we must apply.'
The decision also means that Vote Leave will be allowed to spend up to £7 million and will receive £600,000 worth of public funds. Ultimately though, this will amount to less than the In side, once Labour and Lib Dem funding is included. As James Forsyth noted recently, 'The Electoral Commission’s job in this referendum is to ensure as fair a fight as possible.' Given that most of the big political names backing Brexit wanted nothing to do with Farage and Banks, the Electoral Commission's decision in favour of Vote Leave now means that the fight really is on.