A pair of shadowy campaign groups have put thousands of pounds behind hard Brexit adverts on Facebook without disclosing how they are funded.
Unlike groups campaigning for a second referendum, the major pro-Brexit campaigns such as Leave.EU, Leave Means Leave, StandUp4Brexit and Change Britain have spent little to nothing on advertising in recent months.
But a pair of shadowy new campaign groups have stepped into the breach to promote a hard-Brexit agenda on Facebook in a move that mirrors the secrecy of pro-Brexit digital campaigning in the referendum.
One such group is Britain’s Future, which joined Facebook under the name “Britain 2.0” in late 2017 before it changed its name and began to pump thousands of pounds into adverts in the last few months.
Amongst a raft of adverts aimed at promoting a hard Brexit, dozens are targeted exclusively at the constituents of Labour MPs, asking them to “tell [your] MP to oppose the Remain establishment’s Second Referendum”. A majority of the group’s adverts are aimed solely at people over the age of 35, with a particular focus on those aged 65 plus.
The only name attached to the project is that of Tim Dawson, a conservative writer and journalist who is described by the Britain’s Future website as its editor. Conservative activists Alastair Thompson, Chris Rose and Lewis Fielder have contributed articles in recent weeks, but the organisation does not appear to be listed on Companies House and it offers no information on how it is funded.
The group’s first advert, which ran from November to December last year, may offer a clue to its links with other groups. It promoted a report from the European Research Group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg with a link to a glowing write-up on the Britain’s Future website.
Another group named We are the 52% came into being in November, around the time that Britain’s Future began advertising. Its adverts promote a similar pro-hard Brexit and anti-establishment message, and include one featuring Jewish billionaire George Soros that warns “the elites are conspiring to overturn democracy”.
Like Britain’s Future, We are the 52% names only former Vote Leave staffer Theodora Dickinson as its editor, and its first adverts promote another campaign, in this case Leave Means Leave run by John Longworth, Richard Tice and Nigel Farage.
The existence of two such opaque groups campaigning for a hard Brexit shows that issues of transparency have not been substantially addressed since Vote Leave’s alleged use of proxies and secretive digital campaigning techniques in the referendum.
The Red Roar has approached both Tim Dawson and Theodora Dickinson for comment, but had not received a response from either at the time of publication.