A cross-party report into illicit Russian activities in Britain could have been suppressed because it raises questions over the validity of the referendum result, a senior Whitehall source has revealed.
The inquiry into illicit Russian activities in Britain, which heard evidence from MI5, MI6 & GCHQ, “could not rule out” that Kremlin-sanctioned disinformation campaigns influenced the landmark vote in 2016, The Times has revealed.
The report was blocked earlier this month by Downing Street and is expected to be published after the general election takes place in December.
A senior Whitehall source said: “Downing Street are concerned that if this emerges it would raise questions about the validity of the referendum result, which is the central issue in the general election campaign and could compromise the Tories pitch to the electorate to get Brexit done.”
Publish the report imminently
The House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee began its investigation following allegations of Russian interference in both the 2016 US election and the Brexit referendum earlier that year.
The committee sent its report to Johnson for review on October 17, saying it expected to “publish the report imminently.”
Emily Thornberry, the opposition Labour Party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said the leaks raise questions that deserve answers ahead of the December 12 poll.
“Boris Johnson therefore needs to clear up the confusion, spin and speculation around this [intelligence committee] report by publishing it in full at the earliest opportunity,” she told the Times.
“If not, people will rightly continue to ask: what is he trying to hide from the British public and why?”
Cleared by British security services
Johnson’s government has said it needs more time to review the security implications of the report.
Critics have alleged the report is being withheld because it shows Russians have made large donations to the Conservative Party, which is seeking to win a majority that would allow Johnson to push his Brexit deal through Parliament.
Committee Chairman Dominic Grieve has criticised Johnson’s government for failing to release the document amid media reports it has already been cleared by British security services.