Brexit Party loses £22,000 court case over unpaid election bill

The Brexit Party has been ordered to pay just over £22,000 after losing a court battle over an unpaid advertising bill incurred during the 2019 general election campaign.

Then led by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, the party’s organisation was described as “shambolic” by a party official as it struggled to cope with its popularity and decision to pull hundreds of candidates from the ballot paper ahead of polling day.

The court case arose after a dispute between the party and VMS Enterprises and its director, Victor Shields, around payment for election billboards in London during the general election campaign.

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Nigel Farage was the leader of the Brexit Party during the 2019 election.

Despite paying some of the invoices sent by the Glasgow-based company, several went unpaid by the party amid claims a volunteer did not have the authority to charge the party for the billboards.

However, the bill will have to be paid to Mr Shields’ company after the court ruled the party’s failure to question the invoices incurred by the candidates meant the party was liable for the costs.

Court documents describe confusion within the party around what candidates could use their campaigning budget for, with each candidate for Mr Farage’s party was initially given a £5,000 budget and T-shirts, stickers and flyers to use as part of their campaigning.

Howard Jones, a company director who worked as a co-ordinator for up to 18 central London constituency candidates, and was central to the dispute after hiring billboards from VMS Enterprises, also known as Giant Advertising, for political advertising.

The party argued Mr Jones did not have the authority to commit the party to the contract. However, a failure by party officials to question the payment of the invoices led Sheriff Reid to conclude the money was indeed owed by the organisation.

During testimony Mr Jones described the Brexit Party’s internal financial systems as “shambolic” during testimony, court papers state.

Describing the “beyond chaotic” scenes as the general election of December 2019 raced into view, Mr Jones said the party’s organisational structure “visibly started to fall apart” and was “very unprofessional”.

The court papers state this was “exacerbated by the subsequent withdrawal of hundreds of Brexit candidates from Conservative-held seats”, adding it became “near impossible to contact anyone in head office to obtain approval of anything … suppliers were not being paid”.

Commenting after the publication of the judgement, Mr Shields said he was left “dismayed” and “disappointed” by the court process as a whole and added he had yet to be paid by the party.

Prior to the court case, Mr Shields said he was left frustrated after dealing with the Brexit Party’s campaign manager Paul Oakden.

Speaking to The Herald, he said: “He could not care one bit about his obligations to pay people and he has personally done nothing bar anger, annoy and distress me.

“I have supplied media to all the major political parties across the UK and in 12 years, this is the first time we have had an organisation as such do this with a debt."

Reform UK, previously the Brexit Party, was contacted for comment.

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