LONDON • More than half the money donated to groups campaigning in Britain's European Union membership referendum was given by 10 individuals or companies, according to research published yesterday, raising questions over the outsized influence of the wealthy on politics.
Anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International UK said 95 per cent of donations to the "Leave" and "Remain" campaigns in the run-up to the June 23 Brexit vote were made by only 100 donors.
"The debate around the biggest question we have faced in a generation was financed by an astonishingly small group of exceptionally wealthy donors. That is a dangerous place for any democracy," said Mr Duncan Hames, Transparency International UK's director of policy.
"It illustrates the general dependency of our country's political parties on a millionaires' club of some 50 donors, many of whom also sit in the House of Lords," he added in a statement, referring to the Parliament's upper chamber.
Transparency International said public trust in politics was falling, with 76 per cent of respondents to a poll run by the group saying wealthy individuals were using influence on government to benefit their own interests and 28 per cent saying most or all Members of Parliament were involved in corruption.
It said the two largest donors in the Brexit vote were Mr David Sainsbury, former chairman of supermarket Sainsbury's, who donated £4.2 million (S$7.14 million) between January and June, and stockbroker Peter Hargreaves, who gave £3.2 million.
Transparency International recommended a cap on political donations of £10,000 per donor per year, as well as tighter rules over declaring and companies donating.
Britain was rocked from 2006 to 2007 by a "cash for honours" scandal when police investigated allegations that the then ruling Labour Party had rewarded some donors with appointments to the House of Lords. No charges were brought.