Arron Banks quits commitee to go for lunch

Arron Banks

Lawmakers want to question Brexit backer on Russia meetings

The Leave.EU founder Arron Banks has insisted there is "no evidence" the campaign "took Russian money" following reports he had more extensive contact with the Kremlin than previously acknowledged. You may have better intel than me. Asked whether Banks should be subject to a police investigation, the Labour MP said: "Some of the allegations are particularly serious and will no doubt need to be investigated by other authorities as well".

Setting out the campaign's approach, Mr Banks said: "We were not above using alternative methods to punch home our message or lead people up the garden path if we had to".

But, accusing the MPs of being Remain voters trying to discredit Brexit, he said Leave.EU succeeded by "ruthlessly" focusing on immigration, which mattered to voters but not to Labour or the Conservatives, and by effectively using social media.

As they were not MPs, he said he and Mr Banks were not required to officially record who they met but he said he would give MPs details of all their meetings, including with Central Intelligence Agency officers in the United States embassy in London.

Mr. Banks was the biggest financial backer of the pro-Brexit side during the 2016 referendum, contributing £9.4-million, or $16-million, to a group called Leave.EU that was led by Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party.

Mr Banks said he first met the Russian ambassador over a "boozy lunch". "You then ask me a question based on it, and you spread fake news".

The paper said it saw emails showing he also discussed a potential business deal involving six Russian gold mines with ambassador Alexander Yakovenko after being introduced to him by a suspected Russian spy.

Arron Banks, the outspoken founder of the Leave.eu campaign, faced almost three hours of questioning by British lawmakers probing the spread of misinformation online.

Banks was attending the select committee inquiring into fake news, in the aftermath of the leak of a cache of emails belonging to him, Wigmore and others which suggested that his dealings with Russian Federation were far more extensive than previously thought. "We gave them a telephone number", Banks said.

Mr Wigmore added that "the piece of advice that we got, right from the beginning, was remember referendums are not about facts, it's about emotion and you have got to tap into that emotion".

But he did say that during a second meeting, he gave the phone number of President Donald Trump's transition team "because the Russians wanted to get hold of" them.

Facing questions about his firms, Mr Banks snapped: "I pay a shed-load of tax, probably more than the entire committee put together".

Mr Paisley later joked about the Russian reports, tweeting a picture of himself with the pair and his East Antrim colleague and saying; "Great to catch up on a busy day with Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore to discuss Brexit and beyond over an entertaining lunch".

The hearing began with an attempt by the two men to unbalance the chair, Damian Collins, by pointing out that according to the register of members' interests he had received hospitality and two tickets from Roman Abramovich's Chelsea to watch a game against Crystal Palace.

"You can join us if you want".

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