Why isn’t Russian interference in the Brexit referendum being investigated?

If the allegations are true, the Brexit vote would be utterly invalidated.

It is becoming ever clearer that the process by which the country voted to leave the EU was far from democratic. We must take back control from those who distorted the result of the EU referendum

To many who support Brexit, the European referendum was the greatest exercise in democracy in the whole history of the United Kingdom.

On just one day, a decision to leave the EU was taken by over 17 million people; a decision David Davis trumpeted as ‘the biggest mandate that’s ever been given to a government by the British people.’

But now the legitimacy of the referendum result is beginning to crumble.

There were of course the bundle of deceitful promises for which people voted, of which the most flagrant and often quoted was the £350m for the NHS.

But in recent weeks a far more sinister question mark hangs over the result: that of interference by the Kremlin in the referendum campaign.

It has become clear that Russian attempts to subvert democracy did not originate with the US presidential election but that the techniques used successfully then were honed during the Brexit referendum campaign.

In the US there is a full-scale FBI investigation into Kremlin meddling but in the UK almost nothing has taken place. We appear to be leaving the back door to our democratic processes open and Russian intelligence has walked right in.

Although Carole Cadwalladr and other online journalists have been publishing evidence for some time, the story really only broke when the Prime Minister warned of Russia ‘weaponising’ information and planting ‘fake stories and photoshopped images’ in a recent speech at Mansion House.

What Theresa May and other commentators appear to have deliberately omitted was any connection with the Brexit campaign.

But that connection is becoming ever harder to avoid. There is mounting evidence of links between British politicians and the Russian government.

We now know there were over 156,000 Russian-based Twitter accounts engaged in a concerted campaign to support the Leave side.

The Electoral Commission has also launched an investigation into whether donations and loans from Brexit campaigner Arron Banks and one of his companies broke campaign finance rules in the run-up to the EU referendum.

Given the alleged links between senior Conservatives, Conservative friends of Russia, and the very highest levels of the Tory government – and of course the powerful influence of Russian oligarchs in London – it comes as no surprise that there has been little appetite by the government to investigate further.

But it is truly shocking that the subversion of our democracy by a foreign power should have been treated so lightly.

The European Union has been more active against Russian propaganda, setting up an East StratCom taskforce, whose work has been largely focused on documenting what disinformation looks like and debunking myths spread to confuse citizens. It is also supporting genuine journalism in the former Soviet bloc.

Because the EU referendum and the decision to leave the EU has been one of the most divisive and destructive our nation has ever experienced, it is right that any and every effort possible be taken to investigate allegations of corruption and interference.

For my part I have asked the StratCom taskforce to commence investigations into Kremlin involvement in the EU referendum campaign and asked our own House of Commons Library to clarify who is our equivalent to the FBI and why they have not acted.

I have also initiated a cross-Party group of MEPs to raise concerns with the European Commission about Russian influence in the referendum campaign (our letter to the EU Commission is here).

Green, Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative MEPs have jointly signed a letter to the Commission in which we have asked how much they know, and about the techniques used; whether they consider such interference an attempt by the Kremlin to attack and destabilise the EU; and whether they will use EU Agencies to investigate the allegations.

Russian influence casts a long shadow over the Brexit result. It is therefore more essential than ever that the British public are provided another opportunity to vote to accept the deal negotiated by the government or choose to remain in the EU.

The idea of a ‘ratification referendum’ on the final deal agreed between the EU and the UK has long been Green Party policy.

However, last weekend, support for such a referendum was also agreed by the European Green Party at their conference in Sweden.

We simply cannot let arguments about ‘largest ever mandate’ and the ‘will of the people’ steamroller our democracy. It is time to take back control from a corrupt gang of Brexiteers.

Molly Scott Cato is MEP for the South West and Green Party speaker on Brexit. She tweets here. 

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12 Responses to “Why isn’t Russian interference in the Brexit referendum being investigated?”

  1. Dee Dee Ramone's Guitar Pick

    This rant is nothing more than unsubtantiated anti-Russian propaganda. You have NO CONCRETE EVIDENCE whatsoever. None.

    Although I abstained from the referendum vote (conflicted feelings) nothing annoys me more than people on the soft left persistently failing to address the true reasons for the Brexit/Trump phenomena. This turmoil is the end result of 25 years of unchecked globalisation followed by a financial crash and punishing austerity all of which has bolstered the power of elites to unprecedented levels.

    Until the Hilary Clinton’s and Molly Scott Cato’s of this world understand that the cause of all this is their own failed policies we are likely to see many more demagogues like Trump in the future. This current anti-Russian propaganda is nothing more than an attempt at distraction from the issues, naked fear of the powerful in danger of losing their power.

    I may not necessarily agree with all 17 million Brexiters but I really doubt that all of them are so stupid that they would respond to something as lightweight as a tweet when they can see grinding poverty increasing all around them.

    Postscript: Did you know that our top politicians not only come from the same schools but also did the same degree course? Blair, Cameron, May, Osbourne etc all studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford. This is how entrenched power is in our society today – you need to have access to a single university course to become a decision-maker. Can you guess what degree Molly Scott Cato did? This is the true driver of this article

  2. Will

    It would be naive to expect the large number off fanatical Leave voters to accept that the Referendum was invalid, no matter how convincing the evidence of malpractice, whether organised abroad or in the UK.
    Just imagine how former UKIP voters would react to the news that they had been duped!

  3. Jonathan Bagley

    How exactly did Russia alter the voting intentions of 500,000 people. As we are constantly remoanded, most leave voters are too old, too out-of-touch and too thick to use a computer – let alone sign on to face book.

  4. William

    In a perfect world we would be facing another election sometime in January.
    One ballot paper with two votes, one for a general election and another as another referendum on the membership of the EU.
    The main thing that is missing in this country at the moment is honesty. We are being dictated to by the biggest bunch of liars in history and it is de-stabilising the whole of Europe.
    With this crew in government as an example, what is the next generation going to be like knowing that the best way to get on in life is to lie and scheme and shit all over the people who are the most vulnerable.

  5. Jon Eccles

    Will: we don’t need to reach the fanatics. We only need to reach the floating voters. The only thing keeping many of them in the Leave camp after the steady drip drip drip of bad news is the belief that having voted for it once we’re now stuck with it. If the first vote can be shown to be contaminated by electoral fraud and the involvement of foreign intelligence agencies, the case for a second one becomes overwhelming.

  6. Chris Shaw

    The Greens showing their true liberal colours again and complete disdain for the people. If the public were so easily duped by Russia then we should abandon democracy because the public are obviously easily manipulated mob. If only we were all as intelligent as Molly.

  7. Martyn

    Research by the Guardian and by Open Democracy has revealed that there has also been interference from linked commercial, military and alt-right interests in the USA.This also should be investigated. Indeed interference from both countries pre-dates the Brexit vote.

  8. Ieuan Einion

    It seems to me extraordinary that you can level this accusation against Russia when hundreds of US companies/banks lobbied against Brexit and President Obama even flew to London to support their case. I don’t remember President Putin even having expressed a view.

  9. Brian

    Bookies are smart people, their livelihood depends on it. Their odds are well researched. So why did they put Leave at 3:1 and Remain at 4:1 on? i.e. Remain was an almost sure fire certanty. Similarly Trump’s odds began at 150:1 and shortened to 14:1with Clinton on evens. There must have been something pretty significant beind the scenes going on to affect both result so dramatically. With the demographic power of Facebook able to identify thousands of swing voters and target them with fake information it’s possible to alter minds without anyone noticing and cause these upsets. and in both cases huge social distress and economic weakness in the US, UK and EU. Now who would want that?

  10. LondonBob

    Because it is nonsense. The epitome of which is accusing the Legatum Institute, a sinister neocon think tank long ago exposed by the journalist Mark Ames as a purveyor of new cold war disinformation, as actually being linked to the Russian state.

    Obama interfered, Remain was bankrolled by US investment banks and the Irish encouraged their citizens to vote in our referendum. The Russians seemed to be one of the few who didn’t.

  11. Dave Johnson

    We shouldn’t worry too much, the whole leaving episode will almost certainly turn out to be a brief interlude, a minor diversion from the Tory party’s main slash a sell policies. The multi trillion dollar consortium of PLCs known as the EU are hardly going to allow little old Britain to slip from their thumb, there will be some excuse made and we will slide back into our neat little position in their privatisation money-train. I mean, the whole basis of the EU is contempt for democracy, the so called parliament is a talking shop where even the subjects are dictated by the bureaucrats next door, and the votes actually have little effect beyond delaying whatever policy has been submitted. An organisation like that is never going to pay any attention to a democratic decision, some sort of soap-opera excuse will be made and it will be back to snafu. If we can get a Labour government before this happens then we MIGHT manage to nationalise a few things and reinvigorate the NHS before the standard regulations re-impinge, at least that would buy us a few years. Hope for the best 🙂

  12. Dave Johnson

    One more detail, people should remember there are good regulations and bad ones. A good democracy can match good regulations and ignore bad ones. A manipulated democracy will sign up to all of them in one go. The bad regulations include those that insist that all State run and financed (presumably infrastructure style) services MUST play along with the billion dollar corporations, and MUST allow them to cherry pick the activities they can (claim) to undertake more ‘cheaply’ than the state. Do we really want our postal service to be auctioned off even AFTER we manage to take control of ‘Royal’ Mail again? Do we want our railway service chopped up into regions and divided into Stations & Tickets / Locomotives & Carriages / Tracks & Maintenance, even AFTER we manage to get British Rail back under government ownership? Most importantly, would we want the Tory trick of chopping the NHS up into neat saleable units (US Accountable-Care-Association style) to be regulatorily perpetuated? What are people doing? We don’t need to revert to the PLC behemoth, we need a decent government that will jump enough of the hoops demanded by said behemoth to be ‘allowed’ to export stuff we make and to import stuff that they make while sorting out our infrastructure into the good solid ‘all in one piece’ style under which it was once run. We also need our new government to present enough basic facts about humanity being all of one piece and the benefits accrued by folk joining our playpen that the racists no longer have a leg to stand on. Please Please stop mistaking our escape as the cause of the disasters inflicted by the Tories, they’ve only done ahead of schedule what awaits anyhow under the corporate talking shop called the EU.

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