The Daily Beast reports:
Britain’s Conservative government never bothered to find out whether the Brexit referendum was influenced by the Kremlin, according to a scathing report by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.
The extraordinary finding was at the heart of a report that Boris Johnson has repeatedly sought to delay — despite it being ready for publication nine months ago.
The Intelligence and Security Committee is a powerful body responsible for overseeing the security and intelligence agencies including MI6, MI5, and military intelligence. When members asked for everything they knew about Russian interference, they were shocked to find that virtually nothing had been gathered.
The UK took its “eye off the ball” in relation to Russia’s attempts to meddle in British politics and failed to investigate allegations of a Kremlin-sponsored influence campaign during the Brexit referendum, a long-awaited report says.
British security services were distracted by the post 9/11 terrorist threat and didn’t give sufficient priority to Russia’s attempts to gain influence in the UK, which Moscow regarded as one of its top intelligence targets, the UK parliament’s cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee said.
British politicians allowed rich Russians with deep ties to the Kremlin to gain influence and access in London, using it as a “laundromat” for illicit funds. Cultural institutions, PR firms, political groups and even real-estate agents became unwitting stooges of the Russian state, the report says.
Scottish MP Stewart Hosie, a member of the UK parliament’s influential Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), said it was “astonishing” the government had not looked into the possibility of interference, adding Downing Street had “actively avoided” doing so “because they did not want to know.”
The ISC report said it was “difficult to prove” allegations that Russia sought to influence the referendum. But, it added, it was clear the government “was slow to recognise the existence of the threat” even after evidence emerged of Russian interference in US presidential elections and the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.