The Tory, Liberal and New Labour donors involved with anti-Corbyn ‘stop Brexit’ youth group

Exclusive report by Conor Boyes for the Red Robin

An anti-Brexit youth group, Our Future, Our Choice made a splash with a series of advertisements attacking Labour’s stance on Brexit, but a look at their supporters reveals their anti-Labour and Corbynsceptic origins.

The campaigning group is running a series of attack ads against sitting Labour MPs, modelled upon a notorious Tory election poster from 2015, which depicting Ed Miliband in then SNP leader Alex Salmond’s pocket. 

They also jointly organised a disruption to Labour’s “LabourLive” music festival event, with a banner demanding that Labour “Stop Backing Brexit”. 

Our Future Our Choice has claimed that the funding for the ad campaign came from a crowdfunding exercise the group ran back between January and March, although that fundraising effort only raised £12,762 of the £40,000 the group were seeking. 

Who Are OFOC?

Our Future, Our Choice is one of a myriad of groups set up during and immediately after the referendum on European Union membership, with leading figures from the right of the Labour party, Liberal Democrats and Europhile Tories. 

The group’s homepage admits that “OFOC is powered by: Best for Britain, Open Britain, The European Movement, and the GCG [Grassroots Co-ordination Group]”, all large established pro-Remain groups, predominantly funded by Tory, Liberal and former Labour donors.

The Red Robin enquired into whether the campaign was entirely funded through crowdfunding, or whether being “powered by” these series of other groups meant funding, administrative support of the type which would have to be declared to the electoral commission in the event of a referendum, seconded staff, or use of office space, but OFOC did not reply to our questions. 

In April of 2018 most of the larger anti-Brexit campaigns moved in to premises in Milbank together, in order to set up the “People’s Vote” campaign, fronted by Labour MP Chuka Umunna. 

This includes the ‘For our Future’s Sake (FFS)’ group, who had claimed to represent “just under one million students”, although this figure appears to be the group counting students where their  students union has signed up to the campaign as “supporters”, even if they do not back the group individually. 

Where’s the pro-EU money coming from?

The best funded group, Best For Britain (BfB), reported spending £353,118 between June 2016 and June 2017, and backed several candidates against Labour candidates, including the Liberal Democrat’s Tom Brake and Ed Davey.

BfB currently has a staggering £2.4m in funding, and is currently looking for a further £3.2m according to Tim Farron’s former spokesperson, Paul Butters, who now serves as BfB’s director of communications. 

Although Best for Britain claims much of its funding comes from small donors, significant sums have been given to the group by Tory Donor, Stephen Peel, Liberal Democrat Anatole Kaletsky, as well as Virgin billionaire Sir Richard Branson.

The European Movement meanwhile is predominantly funded by former Progress donor, Lord David Sainsbury.

With friends like these…

Although OFOC were portrayed in the Guardian as “a group of young pro-European Labour members”, it’s obvious the groups they’ve affiliated with do not share their attachment to the Labour party. 

With Labour now behind Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer's proposed Brexit deal, which would keep Britain’s access to the European internal market and customs union, it’s clear any serious pro-EU campaign should focus their fire on the Conservatives seeking a catastrophic hard-Brexit, rather than the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn.

Our Future Our Choice did not respond to a request for comment for this story. 

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