- The Intelligence and Security Committee is set to hear evidence on Russian interference in British democracy, according to a letter seen by BI.
- Remain campaigner Dominic Grieve could interrogate witnesses on whether the Kremlin meddled in the EU referendum.
- The government has said consistently that there is no evidence Russia subverted Brexit.
British parliament’s powerful Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) is set to hear evidence on the possibility that Russia interfered in the EU referendum, according to a letter seen by Business Insider.
The ISC, which has the power to call intelligence officials as witnesses, is set to reassemble in the coming days following the June general election, at which point it will decide on its work programme.
Prime Minister Theresa May put forward her nominations for the committee of MPs on Wednesday and they included Conservative MP Dominic Grieve QC, who chaired the group previously and is favourite to resume the role.
The Guardian reported that the ISC could reform as early as next week and there is pressure on it to examine the role of Russia in major democratic votes in the UK. It follows growing concerns that the Kremlin intervened in Brexit through propaganda on Twitter and Facebook.
The ISC takes evidence behind closed doors and detailed information about its activities is not routinely made public. But Business Insider has seen a letter from Grieve in which he makes clear that Russian interference is a matter of interest.
The former attorney-general, who campaigned to remain in the EU and is now regarded as a leading opponent of the government’s Brexit vision, was responding to Labour MP Ben Brashaw, who asked whether the committee was interrogating witnesses about Kremlin subversion.
“The issues you raise are all legitimate questions within the ISC’s purview. Whilst I can assure you that the ISC questions witnesses on this kind of matter, I am sure you will appreciate that we are unable to disclose evidence we hear in private,” Grieve said in his March letter, the full copy of which is published here.
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman declined to comment on the specifics of the ISC’s work programme.
The committee’s activity is documented in heavily redacted annual reports to Parliament. It can also produce reports for the prime minister” on matters which are national security sensitive.”
The government has said consistently that there is no evidence Russia meddled in Brexit. This is despite Prime Minister May this week accusing Vladimir Putin’s regime of weaponising fake news to “sow discord” in the west and “meddle in elections.”
But Labour’s Bradshaw has accused the government of “stonewalling” for political reasons. He said May “doesn’t want to undermine the referendum result or embarrass Donald Trump and jeopardise a post-Brexit trade deal.”
He wants the ISC to help provide answers — and he is not alone. Pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain has written to the committee calling on it to conduct an inquiry into the issue.
“Russian hacking is up there with terrorism as a real threat to our way of life,” said CEO Eloise Todd. “It is time to get to the bottom of the murky relationship between Russia, Brexit, and attacks on our media and democracy.”
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