CONTROVERSIAL Brexit backer Arron Banks walked out on MPs quizzing him about fake news, saying he had to go to lunch.
He earlier admitted that he ‘led people up the garden path’ during the 2016 referendum campaign.
The Leave.EU founder said the group used ‘alternative methods’ to influence the Brexit vote.
In often spiky exchanges with MPs on the media committee, the businessman accused them all of being Remain supporters and claimed Parliament was the real source of fake news.
Setting out Leave.EU’s approach, Mr Banks said: ‘We were not above using alternative methods to punch home our message or lead people up the garden path if we had to.’
The group’s communications chief Andy Wigmore said: ‘I’m an agent provocateur, my job is to spin. The piece of advice that we got, right from the beginning, was remember referendums are not about facts, it’s about emotion and you have got to tap into that.’
Mr Banks also addressed reports that he held a series of undisclosed meetings with Russian officials around the time of the referendum campaign, including discussing a potential business deal involving six gold mines.
He admitted seeing the Russian ambassador twice, and meeting the owner of the mines but said he did not pursue any deal. ‘We met with him. I’m a businessman, why shouldn’t I? I have got no business interests in Russia,’ he said.
Mr Banks and Mr Wigmore then stunned committee chairman Damian Collins by standing up and walking out, insisting they did not want to be late for lunch.
They had earlier questioned his right to chair the hearing, accusing him of accepting ‘hospitality from Putin’s number one man in the UK’ after reports the Tory MP had received £1,000 tickets to watch Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea.
Photos later shared online showed Mr Banks and Mr Wigmore dining with DUP MPs Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson. Mr Paisley said they had an ‘entertaining lunch’ but there was ‘no caviar or vodka’ — a reference to alleged Russian links.
Committee chairman Mr Collins later said: ‘Mr Banks and Mr Wigmore themselves put on the record that they frequently lie, exaggerate, misspeak and misunderstand. So, it is difficult for the committee to know if we should take all of their answers seriously when it comes to data sharing and misuse, campaign spending and their meetings with high-ranking Russian officials.’