Russian influence on Brexit: so what?
The report by the British parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee on Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum was published in London on Monday. To what extent Russia influenced the result remains unclear, but the report takes the British government to task, concluding that it failed to act on the suspicions of interference. Commentators are incensed.
Establishment just looked away
The fundamental point is not whether Britain would have remained in the EU without Russian interference, but how the government reacted to the suspicion of Russian influence, The Guardian points out:
“Even if such a smoking gun exists, it will probably never be found. Rather, the government had reason to suspect a violation of our democratic processes and ignored it. An admission of such a breach would have caused embarrassment. It could have made life even more difficult on the global stage. Worst of all, it would have demanded greater justification for the national self-sabotage our government has resolved, at any cost, to implement. The scandal revealed today, then, is not that our democracy was corrupted or voided by the actions of a foreign power - it's that the British establishment didn't care either way.”
National security in the wrong hands
For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the report's findings are indeed alarming:
“The fact that politicians looked the other way can't be put down to their having any special love for Russia. There were problems with Moscow even back then. Rather, it seems more likely that the Brexit campaign, which was already using questionable arguments, was under no circumstances to be exposed to further suspicion. If you then remember just how narrow the Leave campaign's margin of victory was, it can certainly give you pause for thought. Back then, the central figure in the Leave campaign was Boris Johnson. In that campaign, at the very least, his relationship with the truth seemed playful. One wonders whether Britain's national security is really in the best hands with this man.”