Brexit Party Candidates Elected to the European Parliament
Brexit Party MEPs will now sit in Europe’s highest law-making body as the elected representatives of the people of Britain. Who are they and why does it matter?
Compiled using public records and media sources.
In a strange twist to last month’s European Parliament elections, a new cluster of Brexit party MEPs have been elected to the very institution they claim to despise. They harbour deep links to organisations who wish to destroy Britain’s relationship with Europe. Several also hold positions of power within business and industry, potentially bringing personal agendas that risk significant conflicts between private interests and public good.
They will now sit like toxic chocolates at the very heart of European power. Despite the fact that they actually are not a majority in terms of the Remain: Leave balance within the British delegation, their disruptive agenda has potential to do harm, and some transparency regarding their interests is called for.
Remain – Leave balance
The Brexit Party won 29 of the 73 British seats in the European Parliament elections. It has been claimed that this is a victory, but when the facts are analysed, the claim can be challenged. The 29 seats reflect an increase of just 5 over the 24 MEPs elected in 2014 for Farage’s old party, UKIP. Even when the 4 Conservatives are added, it makes a total Leave position of 33.
By contrast, the combination of 16 Liberal Democrats ( +15) and 11 Green/SNP/Plaid Cymru (+5) with 10 Labour (who are pro-EU), creates the basis for a strong Remain coalition of 37, (38 if joined by Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson). It’s a turnaround from the 2014 result, where the combined Remain groups totalled 28 and the combined UKIP/Brexit Party / Conservatives came to 44. Arguably, this is a re-balancing of British MEPs towards the Remain position, and it should bode well to improve British influence in the European Parliament.
A new cluster
However, it’s not just about numbers. The underlying factors around the agenda of the Brexit Party are potentially damaging to British interests.
The European Parliament is used to the grandstanding of Nigel Farage, using its media facilities for his own aggrandisment and a voting record that takes the mickey out of the trust that his constituents have placed in him. For example, he only voted in 40% of roll call votes.
In the 2014 Parliament, the UKIP MEPs were mostly ordinary individuals who were well-meaning, but ineffectual, and just voted ‘no’ to everything. By May 2019, 11 of these (excluding Farage himself) had transferred from UKIP to the Brexit Party. All but 2 of them – Jonathan Bullock and Nathan Gill – did not stand again for election in 2019. This in itself is unusual.
The private and business dealings of these new Brexit Party MEPs would seem to risk a conflict of interest. They will have to be declared in accordance with the European Parliament Rules of Procedure.
However, the new bunch of Brexit Party MEPs are quite different. They are already powerful, and rich, and they have a destructive agenda. There does not appear to have been a formal selection process for the Brexit Party, as the other parties did. It seems that some of the Brexit Party candidates were found for the party by a public relations company – a highly unorthodox method of seeking people for elected office. The Brexit Party list was the announced at the last minute before the deadline on Friday 26 April enabling candidates to be switched around in response to other Parties’ lists that had been announced earlier in the week – all others had announced their candidates by 24th April.
Curiously, the former office manager for Jonathon Arnott MEP, is now an elected MEP, whereas Arnott did not stand. John Edward David Tennant, elected for the North-East, is said to have been a member of UKIP team for the past 10 year and close to Nigel Farage.
The two Leave campaign leaders, Richard Tice and John Longworth, have both been elected to the European Parliament. Longworth and Tice are co-directors of Leave Means Leave, the hard right campaign for Britain to trade under WTO rules. Tice is a property millionaire and director of the Brexit Party and understood to have taken charge of the Brexit Party’s election campaign. He was a director of Leave.eu at the time of the 2016 referendum. Leave.eu was fined for breaking data protection law and separately fined by the electoral commission over breach of electoral law.
It has also been referred to the Metropolitan Police regarding illegal overspending. There are many unanswered questions regarding the sources of Leave.eu funding, a matter which is strictly regulated under British law. Allegations persist that the 2016 Leave campaign was procured through corrupt and illegal processes. Although there have been calls for an inquiry, one has yet to take place. Now that he has been elected to public office, greater transparency is called for regarding his role.
It’s notable that the Brexit Party got a media operation up and running very quickly, in a way that potentially wrong-footed other Parties. The new batch of Brexit Party MEPs includes some who previously worked on public relations or media activities for UKIP or Leave campaign groups.
Brian Monteith, elected for the North-East, lives in Trevien, France and is a PR consultant who worked with Leave.eu during the 2016 referendum. He is on the advisory council to the Freedom Association, a right-leaning group that runs the Better Off Out campaign, where another of the Brexit Party candidates, Andrew Allison, is head of campaigns (Mr Allison was not elected).
Alexandra Lesley Phillips (who should not be confused with the Green Party’s new MEP for the South-East, who is also called Alexandra Phillips) was previously UKIP’s press spokesperson. She is said to have left the role with UKIP after an incident involving Nigel Farage’s wife, Kirsten, as reported in the Daily Mail. She recently re-appeared as head of media for Nigel Farage. In between those jobs, she worked in Kenya on the controversial 2017 election campaign for the Jubilee party of President Kenyatta – a campaign that was marred by strange deaths of election officials and the result later annulled.
She posted on her ‘Speechwright’ Twitter account pictures of herself with the Jubilee comms team, and wearing a campaign hat. Speechwright was her business name on her LinkedIn page. She is understood to have been working with Cambridge Analytica which was paid around $6 million for data analytics services related to the Jubilee campaign. She has avoided questions from The Guardian. Given that she now holds a high public office, her role in the Kenyan election merits further transparency.
Another element in the Leave PR machine is its web presence. This includes the right-wing Westmonster website, run by Michael Heaver, who is also now an elected MEP; and Brexit Central, the website established by Matthew Elliott of the Tax Payers’ Alliance. Three of the newly elected MEPs write for Brexit Central. They are Martin Daubney (former Loaded “lads mag” editor); Lucy Harris and David Bull.
Ms Harris is an ex-opera singer and former corporate communications specialist. She formed Leavers of London and other groups claiming to be “grassroots”, but questions have been raised about whether these groups were truly formed at grassroots level.
David Bull has been hired by a London PR consultancy Pagefield Communications – the public relations company that is alleged to have sourced the candidates. He will advise its healthcare division. He promotes himself as Dr Bull, but is no longer a practising doctor according to the General Medical Council records. He lives in Los Angeles and is a host on American television programmes about food and health, and attends awards ceremonies for for health charities.
As elected representatives, how will they balance power with responsibility?
Quite a few of the Brexit Party candidates identified as forming a moneyed elite, have been elected. They include the hedge fund manager Robert Rowland (elected in South East), and his friend the investment banker Rupert Lowe, who is a director at the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (LIFFE) (elected in West Midlands). There’s also the expert in derivatives trading, Jake Pugh (Yorkshire and Humber).
Their background in hedge funds and the related fields of futures and options and derivatives trading, is significant. Hedge funds are opposed to the EU attempts to regulate them, such as the Alternative Investment Fund Managers’ Directive (2011/61/EU). Hedge funds have been major backers of the Leave campaign, and they are said to have made millions out of betting on the outcome of the 2016 referendum by ‘shorting’ the pound. Some 300 hedge funds are said to have been involved. Any responsibility that hedge funds could have had for the illegal and criminal procurement of the referendum is unclear, and yet to be established. It would be in the interests of transparency to know more about the business interests of these new MEPs.
Then there’s Belinda de Camborne Lucy, also known as Belinda McKeeve. She is married to Raymond McKeeve who is a partner with the US law firm Jones Day. The firm has advised Donald Trump. One of Mr McKeeve’s specialist areas is healthcare private equity.
They are joined by Annuziata Rees-Mogg, wealthy daughter of a former newspaper editor and sister of British politician Jacob Rees-Mogg; property tycoon Benyamin Habib; property investor Louis Stedman-Bryce, and estate agent Andrew Kerr Finally, there is the smoked salmon millionaire Lance Philip Anisfeld, also known as Lance Forman. Incidentally, his son, Oliver Anisfeld, plays a leading role in Turning Point, the alt-right Trumpian youth organisation.
The private and business dealings of these new Brexit Party MEPs would seem to risk a conflict of interest. They will have to be declared in accordance with the European Parliament Rules of Procedure. It is in the public interest, and in the British national interest, that there is transparency of any possible influences on their ability to scrutinise European law. Their responses could make interesting reading.