(CNN)Arron Banks, the backer of the biggest campaign behind Brexit, asked a controversial data firm co-founded by Steve Bannon to draw up plans for raising funds from the United States as early as 2015, newly leaked emails reveal.
In an email on October 24, 2015 to his associate Andy Wigmore, on which Bannon was copied, Banks said he would like Cambridge Analytica to “come up with a strategy for fund raising in the States and engaging companies and special interest groups that might be affected by TTIP,” a transatlantic trade deal between the US and EU to which Bannon was hostile. It was subsequently scrapped by Trump.
“It’s clear major donors are sitting on the fence but we aim to do something about that,” Banks wrote. “Our first and only priority is to win the nomination and be ahead,” Banks added, referring to his bid for Leave.EU to become the official campaign for Britain to give notice on its EU membership.
Theresa May stands firm, defends Brexit draft
Banks also wrote in the October 24 email that Cambridge Analytica’s fund-raising strategy could target “people with family ties to the UK.”
Under UK electoral law, campaigns cannot accept donations from individuals and firms overseas.
The emails will raise fresh questions about how Banks funded the Leave.EU campaign in the lead-up to Britain’s 2016 referendum.
Banks is under criminal investigation after the Electoral Commission said it suspected that the true source of the funding for the campaign came from “impermissible sources” and suggested it had reason to believe “numerous crimes may have been committed.”
In a text message, Wigmore, who also acts as a spokesperson for Banks, told CNN the email exchanges were “old old old.”
When asked whether Banks or Wigmore solicited or accepted funds for Leave.EU, Wigmore replied “No and No.”
When questioned by a parliamentary committee in June, Banks said he had only entered into initial discussions with Cambridge Analytica but did not engage their services.
Nix and Cambridge Analytica also said they did not do any work for the Leave.EU campaign.
The company filed for bankruptcy and announced its closure last May amid allegations it used the personal Facebook data of millions, claims the company denied.
Bannon has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
The leaked emails have emerged at a pivotal time, just days after UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced she had agreed to a Brexit deal with Brussels, and was prepared to face down the “hard,” or no-deal, Brexit factions within her government, at the expense of facing a no-confidence vote.
Banks, a businessman, emerged from political obscurity in 2014 when he made a $1.3 million donation to the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party, led at the time by Nigel Farage.
Since then he has pumped approximately $12 million into Leave.EU and has faced questions about whether any of that money came from Moscow, after it emerged this summer that he had been offered sweetheart deals at meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko.
Banks has always denied he accepted any Russian money but the question of cash from America has not yet arisen.
In a statement on November 1, Banks told CNN he “never received any foreign donations.” Bilney declined to comment on the NCA probe.
Labour MP Ian Lucas, a member of the UK Parliament’s Digital, Media, Culture and Sport committee, told CNN the emails showed evidence of the depth of the relationship between Banks’s campaign and the controversial data company launched by Bannon and funded by US conservative donor Robert Mercer, a link that UK parliamentarians had been hitherto unaware.
“It’s clear this was a closely co-ordinated, international group sharing techniques and information in pursuit of a common political goal,” said Lucas.
“Very few people were aware of the scale and impact of its activity,” he said.
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