The saga of who would be appointed official leave campaign for the EU referendum took another twist this afternoon after Leave.EU admitted it might not apply.
The group, funded by Ukip donor Arron Banks, has been locked in a bitter war with rival organisation Vote Leave over who should be given the Electoral Commission designation ahead of the referendum – expected to be held this June.
Numerous talks between the two groups aimed at securing a merger have broken down, with the main sticking point centering on whether to focus the Leave campaign on immigration on economic grounds.
This afternoon, a Leave.EU spokesman admitted the group was now supporting a third organisation – Grassroots Out – in its bid to be appointed the official Leave group.
When asked by Huff Post UK whether this meant Leave.EU would no longer seek official recognition by the Electoral Commission, Head of Comms Andy Wigmore replied: “We won’t necessarily go for designation.”
He added: “Grassroots Out is the only organisation that is able to bring the ‘leave’ warring factions together.”
The two groups have numerous links, with Mr Banks having poured money into Grassroots Out, Ukip leader Nigel Farage appearing at public meetings organised by the group and former Leave.EU Director of Field Campaigning Richard Murphy listed as one of the officers on the group’s official registration documents with the Electoral Commission.
Mr Wigmore rejected the notion that Grassroots Out was simply a ‘front’ for Leave.EU.
He told the Huff Post UK: “We are not Grassroots Out.
“Arron is one of five donors. They came to us and came to Vote Leave and Vote Leave didn’t support them – we did.”
The official Leave group will be given public money for the campaign, as well as a spending limit of £7million instead of £700,000 for non-designated groups.
Grassroots Out has the backing of Tory MPs Peter Bone, Tom Pursglove and Philip Hollobone, and Labour MP Kate Hoey.