The ‘Russia Report’ reveals that the government failed to investigate Russian meddling in the Brexit vote, only “belatedly realising” the threat from Moscow.
The report is the result of an 18-month investigation by the former Intelligence committee chaired by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve.
The report states that there have been widespread allegations that Russia sought to influence voters in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU: studies have pointed to the preponderance of pro-Brexit or anti-EU stories on RT and Sputnik, and the use of ‘bots’ and ‘trolls’, as evidence.
The actual impact of such attempts on the result itself would be difficult – if not impossible – to prove. However what is clear is that the Government was slow to recognise the existence of the threat – only understanding it after the ‘hack and leak’ operation against the Democratic National Committee, when it should have been seen as early as 2014.
As a result states the report, the Government did not take action to protect the UK’s process in 2016. The Committee added that it has not been provided with any post-referendum assessment – in stark contrast to the US response to reports of interference in the 2016 presidential election. They also say that there must be an analogous assessment of Russian interference in the EU referendum.
“What is clear is that Russian influence in the UK is ‘the new normal’: successive
Governments have welcomed the Russian oligarchy with open arms, and there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business, political and social scene – in ‘Londongrad’ in particular. Yet few, if any, questions have been asked regarding the provenance of their considerable wealth and this ‘open door’ approach provided ideal mechanisms by which illicit finance could be recycled through the London ‘laundromat’. It is not just the oligarchs either – the arrival of Russian money has resulted in a growth industry of ‘enablers’: lawyers, accountants, and estate agents have all played a role, wittingly or unwittingly, and formed a “buffer” of Westerners who are de facto agents of the Russian state.”
- Russian influence in the UK is the new normal. Successive
Governments have welcomed the oligarchs and their money with open
arms, providing them with a means of recycling illicit finance through
the London ‘laundromat’, and connections at the highest levels with
access to UK companies and political figures.
- This has led to a growth industry of ‘enablers’ including lawyers,
accountants, and estate agents who are – wittingly or unwittingly – de
facto agents of the Russian state.
- It clearly demonstrates the inherent tension between the Government’s
prosperity agenda and the need to protect national security. While we
cannot now shut the stable door, greater powers and transparency are
- UK is clearly a target for Russian disinformation. While the mechanics
of our paper-based voting system are largely sound, we cannot be
complacent about a hostile state taking deliberate action with the aim of
influencing our democratic processes.
- Yet the defence of those democratic processes has appeared
something of a ‘hot potato’, with no one organisation considering itself
to be in the lead, or apparently willing to conduct an assessment of
such interference. This must change.
- Social media companies must take action and remove covert hostile
state material: Government must ‘name and shame’ those who fail to
- We need other countries to step up with the UK and attach a cost to
Putin’s actions. Salisbury must not be allowed to become the high water
mark in international unity over the Russia threat.
- A number of issues addressed in this published version of the Russia
Report are covered in more depth in the Classified Annex. We are not
able to discuss these aspects on the grounds of national security.
The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) is the committee of Parliament with statutory responsibility for oversight of the UK Intelligence Community. In its own words, Under the Justice and Security Act 2013 and the accompanying Memorandum of Understanding, the ISC oversees the policies, expenditure, administration and operations of MI5, MI6, GCHQ, Defence Intelligence, the Joint Intelligence Organisation, the National Security Secretariat (NSS) and the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism.
The Committee sets its own agenda and work programme, taking evidence from Ministers, the Heads of the intelligence and security Agencies, senior officials, experts, and academics as it considers necessary.