The Venice Commission, of which the UK is a full member, was established by the Council of Europe to ensure European countries protect the “Principles of Europe’s electoral heritage”. Their Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters has previously been used by the European Court of Human Rights to settle legal disputes – including challenging the ban on prisoner voting.
Millionaire Brexit backer Arron Banks and Vote Leave’s head Matthew Elliot should pay particular attention to paragraph 111 of the Code, which states the following:
“in the field of public funding of parties or campaigns the principle of equality of opportunity applies”
The referendum would here be defined as a “campaign”, which must achieve “equality of opportunity” when it comes to public funding. However, Leavers really have the government bang to rights with the later Code of Good Practice on Referendums. The 24 page document provides specific guidelines for European states looking to hold referendums, including very firm rules on public funding:
“the public authorities (national, regional and local) must not influence the outcome of the vote by excessive, one-sided campaigning. The use of public funds by the authorities for campaigning purposes must be prohibited.”
That’s section 3, subsection 3.1, paragraph b telling governments that the use of public funds must be specifically ruled out to ensure the “Freedom of voters to form an opinion”. Banks and Elliot can take their case to the European Court of Human Rights here…