EU Referendum

EU referendum: Ryanair EU campaign 'did not break law'

Remain campaigners Vince Cable, George Osborne and Ed Balls making speeches in front of Ryanair plane carrying a pro-EU slogan Image copyright PA
Image caption A Ryanair plane carrying a pro-EU slogan was the backdrop for a recent news conference

The Electoral Commission has ruled that Ryanair has not broken election law with its "campaigning activities" during the EU referendum.

Vote Leave complained after the airline hosted an event where George Osborne, Vince Cable and Ed Balls spoke in front of a "Remain in Europe" branded plane.

The Commission ruled that while the airline had been campaigning, it had not spent enough to break the law.

Campaigners who spend more than £10,000 must register with the watchdog by law.

While it is not registered as an official campaigner, the Commission found Ryanair "was undertaking campaigning activities" and said it had been in contact with the airline about these.

Spending monitored

But it said there was "no reasonable ground to suspect that a breach of PPERA [the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000] has occurred."

A spokesman added: "We are satisfied, following an assessment that the available evidence suggests Ryanair has not spent in excess of £10,000 without registering as a campaigner for the EU referendum.

"We will continue to monitor campaign spending in the run-up to the referendum and take action if it is appropriate and necessary to do so in line with our established Enforcement Policy".

Ryanair, which is registered in Ireland, has run adverts for a "Brexit special" discount on flights to passengers who want to fly home to vote to stay in the EU and had pledged to "continue to work hard to help deliver a resounding Remain majority on 23 June".

Ryanair's head of communications Robin Kiely said: "Ryanair's Fly Home to Vote Remain seat sale, which allowed UK citizens to buy a £19.99 one-way fare to fly to the UK on 22 and 23 June next, fully complies with Ryanair's policy of lowering the cost of air travel to/from the UK.

"Vote Leave must be getting really desperate if they are now objecting to low fare air travel for British citizens."

But a Vote Leave spokesman pointed to a Reuters story suggesting the airline had spent nearly £20,000 on advertisements urging customers to vote to remain in the EU.

He said: "Vote Leave is surprised by the Electoral Commission's decision given Ryanair has confirmed in its own publicity that they are spending more than the amount that the Electoral Commission state is the threshold for registering."

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