Most non-UK citizens can’t donate to UK political parties

16 March 2018
What was claimed

Political parties can’t accept money from people who are not British citizens or businesses.

Our verdict

Parties can accept money from people on the electoral register - a wider group than just British citizens. Irish, EU and Commonwealth citizens living in the UK can be eligible as well. Generally only UK and Irish businesses can donate.

“There are strict laws on political donations in this country. They have to be given by British citizens, or British businesses … The simple reality, you can't accept money from people who are not UK citizens, or UK businesses.”

Chris Grayling MP, 15 March 2018

Political parties in the UK are restricted in who they can accept donations from. Individual donors have to be British citizens, or Irish, EU and Commonwealth citizens living in the UK.

A donation in the UK is: “money, goods or services given to a party without charge or on non-commercial terms, with a value of over £500.”

According to the Electoral Commission, UK political parties can only accept donations from “permissible donors”. Individuals must be on the electoral register to donate, which broadly means they have to be a British citizen, or an Irish, EU or qualifying Commonwealth citizen living in the UK.

You can’t register to vote if you’re solely a Russian citizen, for example, and so you wouldn’t be able to make a donation to a UK political party. Russians who have taken British citizenship can donate.

The rules also say that only UK businesses can donate to parties in Great Britain and only UK and Irish businesses can donate in Northern Ireland, and the Electoral Commission lists the details of who’s included in that for Great Britain and Northern Ireland separately.

The laws were originally introduced in 2000, partly in response to concerns that foreign sources could donate to political parties in the UK.

Parties are able to get funding from other sources too, including loans (which follow the same rules as donations), membership fees and some public funds.

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