Nigel Farage
Electoral Commission gave the lead 'leave' designation to Boris Johnson backed Vote Leave Getty

Ukip leader Nigel Farage will not be the official face of the campaign to leave the EU as the UK's electoral watchdog backed a rival Brexit group as the lead campaign.

The Electoral Commission ruled in favour of Vote Leave, which has the support of outgoing Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Justice Secretary Michael Gove, because the group represents Eurosceptics "to the greatest extent".

"We received two high quality applications on the 'Leave' side, from 'Vote Leave Ltd' and 'The Go Movement Ltd,'" said Claire Bassett, chief executive of the Electoral Commission.

"After careful consideration, the Commission decided that 'Vote Leave Ltd' better demonstrated that it has the structures in place to ensure the views of other campaigners are represented in the delivery of its campaign.

"It therefore represents, to a greater extent than 'Go Movement Ltd', those campaigning for the 'Leave' outcome, which is the test we must apply."

The decision means Leave.EU and Grassroots Out (GO), which was founded by two Tory MPs Peter Bone and Tom Pursglove as well as Labour MP Kate Hoey, will miss out on a grant of up to £600,000 ($853,020), a £7m spending limit and broadcast slots. The ruling will be a blow to Farage and Ukip donor Arron Banks, who backed Leave.EU and GO.

Bone congratulated Vote Leave on securing the designation, with more than two months to go before the 23 June ballot. "We are motivated by a deep sense of patriotism and the unflinching belief that the UK will be safer, stronger and more independent outside the EU," the Conservative MP said.

"We will be able to control our own borders, build our prosperity by trading freely with the whole world, and restore our historic right to self-government. We look forward to working closely and productively with all those who want to see the UK set free to determine its own destiny."

Meanwhile, Britain Stronger in Europe, which is chaired by former Marks and Spencer boss Lord Stuart Rose, was assigned the lead 'remain' campaign designation.

Will Straw, the executive director of Stronger In, said: "I'm delighted that the Electoral Commission have recognised that Britain Stronger in Europe has the breadth of support, the unity of purpose and the campaigning organisation to be the official Remain campaign in the upcoming referendum.

"Britain is stronger, safer and better off in the EU than we would be out on our own. Being part of the EU Single Market brings growth, investment and jobs to the UK, and keeps prices down.

"If we left, growth would be hit, jobs would be lost, prices would rise and there would be less money to fund public services like the NHS. Leaving is not a risk worth taking.

"I congratulate Vote Leave on their designation on the other side of the campaign but now is the time for them to come clean with the British people and say what Out looks like. That is the least this vital debate deserves."

UPDATE (17:13 BST): Leave.EU are considering a legal challenge to the ruling.

"Leave.EU has consulted counsel and will make a decision about whether or not to proceed with a judicial review of the Electoral Commission's award of lead campaign designation to Vote Leave by noon tomorrow, 14 April," a spokesperson said.

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