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Decrying 'witch hunt' against Brexit-backers, Banks shuns UK lawmakers

Reuters  |  LONDON 

By Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) - Banks, the founder of Brexit group EU, pulled out of a hearing with a parliamentary committee, saying on Friday it had been conducting a witch hunt of those who want Britain to the

The has been examining how the 2016 referendum in which Britons voted to the EU might have been affected by data-sharing and misuse. Banks and Leave.EU had agreed to appear before it on June 12.

But Banks accused Members of Parliament (MPs) on the committee of being biased against those who wanted to leave the EU.

"It is perfectly clear that the committee, which comprises only Remain-supporting MPs, is conducting a co-ordinated 'Witch Hunt' of Leave groups," he said in a letter to the committee's chair, posted on the Leave.EU website.

"I am writing to inform you that and myself will not be appearing before the committee on the 12th June."

A committee confirmed that the letter had been received and that the committee was considering its response.

The lawmakers have questioned senior figures from and Cambridge Analytica as part of its investigation into "fake news" after the data of millions of users was improperly shared with the consultancy.

Although Cambridge Analytica pitched to Leave.EU, both said that no work was done on the referendum.

The Electoral Commission, which regulates votes in Britain, found no evidence that Leave.EU received donations or from Cambridge Analytica. But it has fined Leave.EU for finance breaches which Banks has said he will appeal.

Banks said the reversal of his decision to appear was linked to legal action in Mississippi, where a pro-EU group alleges Leave.EU sent data. Leave.EU denies the claim and said the committee had colluded with the campaign group by releasing evidence early from a witness.

But committee chairman, Damian Collins, said that Britain's Information Commissioner, along with the court and the all had questions for Banks.

"We will continue to follow the evidence in our inquiry and will give a formal response to their letter next week," he said on

Banks' snub comes after the of Vote Leave, which won official designation as the lead Brexit campaign group ahead of Leave.EU, also refused to appear, prompting to take the rare step of ordering him to come.

(Editing by Stephen Addison)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, June 08 2018. 21:56 IST