The UK Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee did not find any solid evidence of past Russian interference in British politics, but said that the risk of such meddling could still exist in the future, Bloomberg reported, citing two sources familiar with the findings of a secret report.
The committee conducted an inquiry into Moscow’s alleged meddling in Britain's internal political process following the government’s repeated accusations that Russia was interfering in the UK's 2016 Brexit referendum by providing misleading media coverage and resorting to fake social media accounts to influence the vote, but no “smoking gun” evidence of these allegations has been reported so far.
The dossier was purported to have already been approved by intelligence agencies themselves as part of a long clearance process that started in late March 2019. Downing Street was expected to sign off on the report by the end of last week, as a final draft was reportedly sent on 17 October. However, the British government asserted that the report was still in need of passing a final clearance by the prime minister’s office, and therefore should not be published before the snap elections on 12 December.
The delay caused a row in British Parliament on Tuesday, which was the final day before the legislative body was dissolved amid the upcoming general election. The committee’s chairman, Dominic Grieve, particularly accused Boris Johnson of trying to prevent the publication of the document, while rejecting the government’s claims that it needed “more time” to ensure that the sources of the information remained secret.
“I have no idea why Downing Street decided to sit on it, but it’s a sad day for government and Parliament”, Grieve said in an interview, as cited by Bloomberg. “I don’t know what impact it will have on the election – not zero impact, but probably not much”.
While the government official insisted that the report contained nothing that the Conservative government wished to hide, the delay came in the midst of Britain’s upcoming general election, the results of which are currently believed to be difficult to predict.
In 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, with the British government later raising concerns that Russia had played a part in influencing the outcome of the vote, but failed to provide any solid evidence. Boris Johnson has never publicly endorsed claims that Russia could have meddled in Britain’s electoral process.