Calls for investigation into Russian interference in Brexit before end of transition period
PUBLISHED: 13:04 21 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:01 21 July 2020
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There have been calls for Boris Johnson to ensure there is a full assessment of Brexit interference into the Brexit vote before the transition period ends.
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Liberal Democrat leadership contender Layla Moran has written to Boris Johnson demanding he set out a clear timeline for the intelligence agencies to publish an assessment into Russian interference in the EU referendum.
The MP insisted that an assessment should be published before the transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020.
It comes after the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia Report recommended that the UK intelligence community produce a full assessment of potential Russian interference in the EU referendum alongside an unclassified summary.
The committee said it had “not been provided with any post-referendum assessment of Russian attempts at interference”.
It added: “Even if the conclusion of any such assessment were that there was minimal interference, this would nonetheless represent a helpful reassurance to the public that the UK’s democratic processes had remained relatively safe.”
Downing Street has said that it has “seen no evidence of successful interference in the EU Referendum”.
But it added that “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.”
Moran said that the government’s claim that an assessment is not needed given there is no evidence of interference was “putting the cart before the horse”.
She said the government “cannot expect to find evidence if it has not properly looked for it.”
She explained: “This damning report shows the government turned a blind eye to potential Russian interference in the EU referendum.
“The intelligence services must now carry out a full assessment of this threat to our democratic process as soon as possible.
“Boris Johnson should set out a clear timeline for the intelligence services to publish a full this assessment. Given the urgency of the situation and the potential implications for the country’s future, this should be before the end of the transition period.
“It would be doubly damaging to our democracy if the UK crashed out with no deal before the extent of Russian interference in the referendum had been properly assessed.”
It comes as the Scottish Tories called for an inquiry into Russian interference into the independence referendum.
Layla Moran’s letter to Boris Johnson
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Dear Prime Minister,
The Russia Report published today shows the government has vastly underestimated the threat posed by Russia to our democracy. As recommended, the UK intelligence community must now produce a full assessment of potential Russian interference in the EU referendum and publish an unclassified summary.
The government claims in its response to the Russia Report that is has seen no evidence of successful interference in the EU Referendum and that a “retrospective assessment” is not necessary. However, this is putting the cart before the horse. The government cannot expect to find evidence if it has not properly looked for it.
I am urging you to now set out a clear timeline for this assessment to take place, and to ensure it happens as soon as possible. Given the major implications for the UK democratic process, this assessment should be produced before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. It would be doubly damaging to our democracy if the UK crashed out with no deal before the extent of Russian interference in the referendum had been properly assessed.
The US intelligence community produced an assessment into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election within two months. The UK intelligence community should surely be able to produce an assessment within a similar timeline.
If the government are serious about tackling disinformation, they must also get a grip. It is simply unacceptable that no one organisation within government recognises itself as having an overall lead on defending the UK’s democratic processes and discourse. I therefore urge you to also introduce a nationwide awareness and education campaign to build resilience to the fake and extreme narratives present in divisive disinformation campaigns.
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