The document, compiled by Parliament’s intelligence and security committee, was published yesterday, and claimed the Government failed to establish the extent of Russian effort to interfere in the UK political process four years ago. The report further suggested intelligence services should investigate and make their findings public – but the Government has largely dismissed the claims, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggesting there was simply no proof.
Speaking today, Mr Shapps told Sky: “There needs to be some evidence that there’s an issue there – which there isn’t.
“I don’t think its the case that the intelligence services took their eye off the ball.”
Mr Shapps’ remarks built on those of a Government spokesman yesterday, who said: “We have seen no evidence of successful interference in the EU referendum.”
An inquiry was not required because the UK’s spy agencies made “regular assessments” of the Russian threat, the spokesman said.
He added: “Given this long-standing approach, a retrospective assessment of the EU referendum is not necessary.”
Meanwhile a spokesman for Mr Johnson said the Prime Minister was confident the referendum result to leave the EU was fair.
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When asked for evidence on suspected Russian meddling in the vote, Britain’s main domestic intelligence agency MI5 produced just six lines of text, the committee said.
The report suggested was a Russia as a hostile power which posed a significant threat to Britain, and which was involved in a range of clandestine activities, from espionage and cyber to election meddling and laundering dirty money.
It added: “It appears that Russia considers the UK one of its top Western intelligence targets.”
On the question of Russian election meddling, Stewart Hosie, a Scottish National Party member of the committee, told reporters: “The key point is they had not sought even to ask that question and that is at the heart of this report.”
Russia has repeatedly denied meddling in the West, casting the United States and Britain as gripped by anti-Russian hysteria.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Russia has never interfered in the electoral processes of any country in the world – not the United States, not Britain, nor any other countries.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova cast the report as “Russophobia in a fake frame”.
Mr Johnson is likely to be quizzed on the subject during Prime Minister’s Questions today.
Irrespective of the specifics, security services are set to be given extra powers to try to prevent foreign interference in British democracy.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to be ready to strengthen counter-espionage laws in the wake of the bombshell study by the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).