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UK government denies ‘sitting on’ report into Russian meddling in Brexit vote

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The Houses of Parliament are seen during a sunset in London, Britain, November 4, 2019.
The Houses of Parliament are seen during a sunset in London, Britain, November 4, 2019. -
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A report into alleged Russian interference in Britain's 2016 Brexit referendum will not be published until after the December general election – prompting accusations of a cover-up by the prime minister.

Boris Johnson’s motives were called into question after his office said more time was needed to study the dossier.

The report contains evidence from British security and intelligence services concerning claims that Moscow meddled in the 2016 EU referendum and 2017 general election.

Russia has been accused of spreading disinformation to exploit divisions over Brexit, and to undermine western democracies.

Parliament wraps up its business on Tuesday, ahead of campaigning for a general election on December 12. The delay means the parliamentary report will not be released until afterwards.

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) submitted its report, called “Russia”, to the prime minister on October 17. On its website the committee said it “expects to be in a position to publish the report imminently”.

Politicians and security experts say that as the report had security clearance, the government should normally publish such material within 10 days, or give good reasons for not doing so.

Downing Street defended the decision not to publish. “There are a number of administrative stages and processes which reports such as this, which often contain sensitive information, have to go through before they are published,” a spokesperson told Euronews.

Watch Alex Morgan's report for #TheCube on Euronews Tonight in the video player above.

The committee’s chairman, the independent MP Dominic Grieve, said publication should be a formality and on Sky News accused Downing Street of telling “whopping untruths”.

“The protocol says it should take 10 days to do, and at the end of the 10 days it had still not been signed off,” he said. “Seeing that the whole purpose was to produce something which is of information and relevance to the public, it ought to come out now. And it does have a bearing on electoral processes, because we know that the Russians have in other countries interfered in their electoral processes.”

In a House of Lords debate, the government spokesman Lord Howe also said “a number of processes” were necessary before publication – prompting a rebuke from the UK’s former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

Lord Anderson said that prime ministerial confirmation for a report that had “already been through the full redaction process” should happen “within the usual 10 days” and be “a formality”.

“This unjustified delay undermines the ISC and, I am afraid, invites suspicion of the government and their motives,” he added.

Opposition Labour MP Barry Sheerman tweeted: “The ravens are clustering over No10 as Johnson still refuses to publish damning report on Russian influence on our election and referendum!”

Speaking on Tuesday, a senior minister contradicted the evidence given by security experts and opposition politicians. Asked whether the government was sitting on the report, Michael Gove told the BBC: “Absolutely not”.

“It’s always the case with select committee reports, particularly when they deal with sensitive issues, that there is a process through which they have to go before they are published and a response is issued,” he said.

“Explanations currently advanced that the timing are too short are entirely disingenuous and grossly misleading,” Dominic Grieve said.

Grieve led attempts in the House of Commons to block a no-deal Brexit and prevent large scale legal and economic disruption.

Boris Johnson played a leading role in the “Leave” campaign in the 2016 referendum – but as prime minister his promise to make Brexit happen at the end of October failed to materialise.

The UK is now due to leave the EU on January 31 after European leaders granted a three-month flexible extension.

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