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Russian influence on Brexit vote ‘unquantifiable’

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Report into UK vote meddling will not be published in full until after the election, minister says

One-Minute Read

The Week Staff

Monday, November 18, 2019 – 6:03am

A long-awaited report into alleged Russian meddling in British politics will not be released until after the general election next month, security minister Brandon Lewis has said.

The cross-party intelligence and security committee (ISC) completed its 18-month investigation into allegations of Russian activity aimed at UK elections some weeks ago and it has since been cleared by the security services for publication.

However, the government has previously said the report had not been published because of necessary procedure whereby vetting it would take several weeks. Lewis told Sky News the report could not be released during the so-called “purdah” period which sets rules on government announcements during an election campaign.

“We want to make sure, particularly where national security is involved, we go through that process properly and thoroughly,” he said. “We can’t publish things during the general election… but after the general election that report will be published.”

Despite this, “Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under growing pressure to publish the report,” says Business Insider.

According to Reuters “opponents have accused the government of sitting on the report which has been cleared by the security services, because it might contain embarrassing revelations about Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his party”.

Last week, former US presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton, said it was “inexplicable and shameful” that the government had not already released its findings.

She told the BBC she was “dumbfounded” by the decision and added: “Every person who votes in this country deserves to see that report before your election happens.”

The widow of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered with a radioactive isotope in 2006, has since sent Johnson a letter telling the prime minister she planned to take legal action against the government for failing to release the findings.

Yesterday The Sunday Times published extracts from the report, revealing Russian interference may have had an impact on the Brexit referendum, but the effect was “unquantifiable” and it could not say if it had affected the result of the 2016 vote.

Nevertheless, Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, said the disclosure raised “serious questions” about the safeguards in place for the general election next month.

“Boris Johnson therefore needs to clear up the confusion, spin and speculation around this ISC report by publishing it in full at the earliest opportunity. If not, people will rightly continue to ask: what is he trying to hide from the British public and why,” she said.

The Sunday Times says the report “is understood to have criticised British intelligence services for failing to devote enough resources to tackling threats from Vladimir Putin’s regime”.

Intelligence officials who have either seen or been briefed on the document told the paper: “The government’s refusal to publish the report has been very damaging to the British intelligence community, because it suggests that we have something major to cover up.”

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