The UK’s intelligence agencies have found no evidence that the Russian state interfered in the outcome of the Brexit referendum and the 2017 general election, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the findings in an as-yet-unpublished report from Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.
One of the sources told BuzzFeed News the finding was categorical.
The report, titled simply "Russia", is at the centre of a row between some MPs and Downing Street after the committee’s chair, former attorney general Dominic Grieve, urged Boris Johnson to release the report ahead of the Dec. 12 general election, arguing that it was “really unacceptable for the prime minister to sit on it”.
The committee sent the report to Johnson’s office on Oct. 17. It will not be released before the election unless it is cleared for publication by the beginning of next week before Parliament is dissolved for the campaign.
Raising a point of order in the House of Commons on Thursday, Grieve expressed regret that the report had not already been cleared for publication by the prime minister.
He continued: “We thus have a committee of Parliament waiting to lay before the House a report that comments directly on what has been perceived as a threat to our democratic processes. Parliament and the public ought to and must have access to this report in the light of the forthcoming election, and it is unacceptable for the prime minister to sit on it and deny them that information.”
The scope of the committee’s investigation was on the Russian “threat” to the UK, and it’s understood that direct Russian state interference in the outcome of the referendum and last election was just one of the areas assessed.
While sources say no evidence was found to substantiate that, the report could still produce evidence of other hostile acts or attempts to influence politics by Russia against the UK.
It has been reported that the dossier also covers cybersecurity attacks and continued cyber threats as well as the influence of Russian money flowing into UK politics and that this could contain revelations that would be embarrassing to the Conservative party.
Bill Browder, who heads the Global Magnitsky Justice campaign and is a leading campaigner against Russian financial influence, said on Thursday that the failure to release the report was “disturbing”.
“I gave evidence to the UK parliament’s Intelligence and Security committee about Russian operations in the UK with the assistance of British nationals. I was told yesterday that my testimony would be released this week as part of the report,” he tweeted.
A Downing Street spokesperson told the BBC there were a number of administrative steps to go through before the report can be published, saying that "this usually takes several weeks to complete”.
After Mark Urban, the diplomatic editor of BBC Newsnight, tweeted that the report focused on Russian attempts to influence the Brexit vote and the general election, there was speculation that the wrangling between Grieve and Downing Street suggested that the report contained evidence to back up the uncorroborated allegations of interference.
The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw accused Johnson of sitting on an explosive report.
Grieve said he would not comment on leaks but confirmed that the report had relevance to elections and referred BuzzFeed News back to his point of order in the Commons.
Downing Street declined to comment.