Who is Richard Tice?
Brexit Party Ltd Chairman Richard Tice has gone from being a complete unknown in politics, to one of the country’s most recognisable hard Brexiteers, in a few short years.
The multi-millionaire property tycoon, who serves as the Brexit Party’s MEP for the East of England, has been parachuted in to replace the original Brexit Party candidate in the Labour-held seat of Hartlepool, County Durham, a post-industrial town recovering from years of austerity.
But what do we know about Richard Tice?
- In July 2015, alongside former UKIP-donor Arron Banks, Tice co-founded Leave.EU, the unofficial pro-Brexit campaign, and served as co-chair. Unabashedly influenced by Donald Trump’s aggressive, deliberately outrageous style and open disdain for facts, Leave.EU relentlessly exploited fears around immigration in the build up to the Referendum, and contributed to the poisoning of the debate.
- Tice, who left Leave.EU shortly after the Referendum, is now keen to dissociate himself from his former outfit, throwing a tantrum on Sky News in October when asked about its recent activities. However, Tice was a key public-facing figure at Leave.EU in the build up to the Brexit vote, as it pumped out anti-immigrant propaganda more extreme than Farage’s notorious Breaking Point poster (which Tice recently refused to condemn as racist). Banks described Tice as one of the “Bad Boys of Brexit”, calling him “the acceptable face of Leave.EU […] The one they’d want speaking to the police if they were all in a car and got pulled over”.
- Below is a selection of Leave.EU’s activities, before Tice left the organisation:
- The conducting of polling, just days after Jo Cox MP’s murder, on whether her death had changed the public’s opinion on Europe. This was defended by Banks.
- Channel 4 has reported that Leave.EU paid for adverts targeting supporters of the far-right extremist National Front, the British National Party (BNP), Britain First and the English Defence League (EDL). Channel 4 claim that Arron Banks repeatedly lied to the BBC in order to cover-up this story.
- In addition, in May 2018, the Electoral Commission slapped Leave.EU with a maximum fine of £70,000 for failing to declare “at least” £77,380 of election spending during the Referendum. Tice recently claimed that this breach of electoral law by Leave.EU did not constitute “cheating”.
- Below is a selection of Leave.EU’s dogwhistle and xenophobic, anti-immigrant output during the campaign:
- After leaving Leave.EU, Tice formed Leave Means Leave (LML), which laid the foundations for the Brexit Party.
- Despite railing against the “metropolitan elite”, Richard Tice is a multi-millionaire CEO of the Mayfair-based asset management company Quidnet Capital Partners LLP. Grandson of the hugely successful property developer Bernard Sunley, Tice was born in Surrey and attended Uppingham School, a public boarding school, of which he is currently the Vice Chair.
- Tice was a member of the Conservative Party “for much of [his] adult life”, to which he has “given money on many occasions over the last 20 years or so”. Last summer, Tice put his name forward in a failed bid to become the Tory candidate for London Mayor. According to The Independent, he arrived at the 2018 Tory conference in a white open-topped van, promising “free non-EU booze to anyone who could spare five minutes to talk to him”, but no one turned up.
- An investigation by openDemocracy (OD) has alleged that two offshore firms own big shareholdings in Sunley Family Limited, Tice’s family business, of which he was a director for 25 years. OD reports that Tice claims to have no knowledge of who runs the two offshore companies which have owned shares in Sunley for over 25 years and have now reached a combined 42% stake. Tice strongly denied that most of his former company’s dividends go through tax havens when facing questions at Al Jazeera’’s “Head to Head” debate. Tice said “I’m a UK taxpayer. I was one of the shareholders, there were about a dozen shareholders in that business. There were UK shareholders and they pay UK tax”. He also denied that he or his family has ever received dividends from these companies.
- Given this background, it may not be surprising that one of the top priorities of Tice and the Brexit Party Ltd is to scrap inheritance tax. The tax, which Tice has described as “mean” and “wrong headed”, raised £5.3bn last year, and scrapping it would only benefit the well-off; those whose estates are valued below £325,000 are exempt from the tax, and it only applied to 4% of UK cases in 2015-2016. Scrapping the tax would also worsen regional inequality in favour of London and the South East, which pay double the inheritance tax of any other region.
- As reported in The Guardian, Tice has claimed that the whole government, including the NHS, “could be made more efficient if successful businessmen such as himself were parachuted into the civil service”. Tice stated: “I ran a multinational real estate company with a portfolio over a billion pounds – I think I know how to spend money”.
- Despite presenting itself as a “movement for democracy”, very little of it seems to exist within the Brexit Party Ltd, over which Tice and Farage have an almost dictatorial control. Farage told The Sunday Telegraphthat he is “running a company, not a political party”, and that Tice and he “are not afraid to make decisions”. This explains how Tice was able to decide to stand in Hartlepool, which is viewed as a winnable seat, despite having zero local connections.
- Tice has quite offensively compared Farage to Emmeline Pankhurst, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Tice later stood by his claims.
- He is also the author of an article for Conservative Home titled “This negotiation was our Isandlwana. Now let’s have a Rorke’s Drift.” Here he makes some bizarre comparisons between Brexit negotiations and the Anglo-Zulu war.
- Tice refused to condemn Farage’s dangerous and divisive language, including his claims he would “don khaki, pick up a rifle and head for the front lines” if May failed to deliver Brexit “properly”, and that “once Brexit is done, we will take the knife” to civil servants (Farage later stated that he “should have said ‘take the axe’”). When challenged, Tice said “everybody’s different, I would use different language, its fine”.
- Tice was left dumbfounded after hearing Farage’s comments in which he said that, in the EU Referendum, had Leave lost by a margin of 52% to 48%, it would be “unfinished business by a long way”.