Government rejects call for assessment of alleged Russian activity during Brexit referendum

PUBLISHED: 11:54 21 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:46 21 July 2020

The front door of number 10 Downing Street in London.

The front door of number 10 Downing Street in London.

PA Archive/PA Images

The government has rejected the call for an assessment of alleged Russian activity during the Brexit referendum.

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In a 20-page response to the report, it said: “We have seen no evidence of successful interference in the EU Referendum.

“The Intelligence and Security Agencies produce and contribute to regular assessments of the threat posed by hostile state activity, including around potential interference in UK democratic processes.

“We keep such assessments under review and, where necessary, update them in response to new intelligence, including during democratic events such as elections and referendums.

“Where new information emerges, the government will always consider the most appropriate use of any intelligence it develops or receives, including whether it is appropriate to make this public.


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“Given this long standing approach, a retrospective assessment of the EU Referendum is not necessary.”

It also rejected the suggestion it had “badly underestimated” the Russian threat.

MORE: Russia report says government has not investigated interference in Brexit referendum

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“The government has long recognised there is an enduring and significant threat posed by Russia to the UK and its allies, including conventional military capabilities, disinformation, illicit finance, influence operations, and cyber-attacks,” the official response to the report said.

“As such, Russia remains a top national security priority for the government.”

European Movement Chair Stephen Dorrell said the lack of curiosity is astounding.

“After more than a year and a half of delay, the long awaited Russia report has now been published. The report’s conclusion that the government ‘did not take action to protect the UK’s process in 2016’ is extraordinary. The European Movement does not challenge the result of the 2016 referendum, but it does challenge the government to expose the extent to which Russia sought to influence the outcome. Failure to do so exposes the government to the charge of complicity in distortion of our democratic process.”

MORE: Whitehall source claims ‘most interesting parts’ of the Russia report have been left out

“Those most in favour of the Brexit project love to speak about British sovereignty - yet fall remarkably silent when presented with concrete evidence of foreign interference in our democracy. The foreign secretary speaks of ‘hostile actors’; this report challenges him to follow up his words with actions.”

Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said Johnson is “sticking his head in the sand”.

“Boris Johnson refusing to launch an inquiry into Russian election interference is a green light for them to do it in the future. The Government have been told by a cross-party group of MPs that we must establish what role Russian interference played in the Brexit referendum in order to protect our democratic process, but still refuse to pursue it.

“You cannot hope to deal with interference if you do not even check if it is happening. Rather than sticking his head in the sand, Boris Johnson must ask the intelligence community to launch a wide-ranging and properly funded investigation so that we can understand just what influence Russian interference had on our democracy.”

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Almost four years after its creation The New European goes from strength to strength across print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus outbreak, climate change and international politics. But we can only rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press with your support. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

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