UPDATE 1-Decrying "witch hunt" against Brexit-backers, Banks shuns UK lawmakers

(Adds detail) By Alistair Smout LONDON, June 8 (Reuters) – Arron Banks, the founder of Brexit campaign group Leave.EU, pulled out of a hearing with a parliamentary committee, saying on Friday it had been conducting a witch hunt of those who want Britain to leave the European Union.
The media committee has been examining how the 2016 referendum in which Britons voted to leave the EU might have been affected by data-sharing and misuse. Banks and Leave.
EU communications chief Andy Wigmore had agreed to appear before it on June 12. But Banks accused Members of Parliament (MPs) on the committee of being biased against those who wanted to leave the EU.
“It is perfectly clear that the committee, which comprises only Remain-supporting MPs, is conducting a co-ordinated ‘Witch Hunt’ of Leave groups,” he said in a letter to the committee’s chair, posted on the Leave.EU website.
“I am writing to inform you that Andy Wigmore and myself will not be appearing before the committee on the 12th June.” A committee spokeswoman confirmed that the letter had been received and that the committee was considering its response.
The lawmakers have questioned senior figures from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica as part of its investigation into “fake news” after the data of millions of Facebook users was improperly shared with the consultancy. Cambridge Analytica was hired by Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign in 2016, and also pitched to Leave.
EU. However, the campaign group and the consultancy both said that no work was done on the referendum.
The Electoral Commission, which regulates votes in Britain, found no evidence that Leave.EU received donations or paid-for services from Cambridge Analytica.
But it has fined Leave.EU for campaign finance breaches which Banks has said he will appeal.
The regulator is also investigating Vote Leave, which won official designation as the lead Brexit campaign group ahead of Leave.EU.
The media committee has summoned Vote leave’s communications chief Dominic Cummings to answer questions, but he has refused. On Thursday Britain’s parliament took the rare step of ordering him to appear.


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