Russia Brexit interference: Russia report slams UK’s “failure to prepare”

By Lucy Ingham

The Russia report has criticised the UK Government, intelligence and security agencies for failing to prepare for or launch an adequate retrospective assessment of potential Russian interference in the Brexit referendum.

The report found that the Intelligence and Security Committee could not conclude whether Russia did interfere in the Brexit referendum, but in a heavily redacted section stated that this was because only limited information has been provided by the intelligence and security agencies.

“We have not been provided with any post-referendum assessment of Russian attempts at interference, ***,” the report states, with “***” indicating a section that has been redacted.

It added that this was in “stark contrast to the US”, where an assessment was completed within two months of the 2016 presidential election.

It also said there had been a “failure to prepare” for potential interference prior to the Brexit referendum, particularly in light of “credible open source commentary” suggesting Russia had interfered in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. However, much of this section is redacted, making the precise details of the committee’s findings in this area unclear.

Russia report: Redactions cloud picture of Brexit referendum efforts

While the Russia report is generally critical of the UK Government’s efforts to protect the Brexit referendum from interference, or investigate it afterwards, the level of redactions in this section of the report make some of the findings unclear.

For example, it acknowledged that “the Intelligence Community did learn lessons” from the hack and subsequent leaking of Democratic National Committee emails in the US, the action it took is unclear with the report stating:

“In May 2017, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) concluded that “***” and that “***”.”

However, it is clear that the action was not to assess risk to the Brexit referendum, as the following line states:

“Had the relevant parts of the Intelligence Community conducted a similar threat assessment prior to the referendum, it is inconceivable that they would not have reached the same conclusion as to Russian intent, which might then have led them to take action to protect the process.”

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