UK PM Boris Johnson clears way for Brexit ‘Russian meddling’ report

An investigation was launched in November 2017, in response to concerns about attempts by Russia to influence the 2016 US presidential election and fears of meddling in Britain’s referendum vote the same year to leave the European Union. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 09 July 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson clears way for Brexit ‘Russian meddling’ report

  • The committee finished the 50-page report in March last year
  • Report was cleared by intelligence agencies in October

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson cleared the way Thursday for a long-awaited parliamentary report into alleged Russian interference in British politics to be published “as soon as possible.”
A government spokesman said parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) will be re-formed next week, and will then be free to publish its findings into concerns about disinformation and meddling in the 2016 Brexit vote.
The committee finished the 50-page report in March last year and the report was cleared by the intelligence agencies in October.
But Johnson failed to authorize its publication before the committee was disbanded ahead of the December general election, and it was then delayed until the committee was restored.
The nominations for the new committee members are expected to be published later Thursday and put to a vote by lawmakers next Monday and Tuesday. The new members will then elect their own chairman.
Committee members have to be approved by the PM.
Johnson’s spokesman said publication of the Russia report “will be a matter for the new committee but we would encourage them to publish it as soon as possible.”
The ISC launched the investigation in November 2017, in response to concerns about attempts by Russia to influence the 2016 US presidential election and fears of meddling in Britain’s referendum vote the same year to leave the European Union.
Then prime minister Theresa May had accused Russia of “planting fake stories” to “sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions.”
The 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English town of Salisbury, which London and its Western allies blamed on Moscow, only added to the ISC’s concerns.
Former ISC chairman Dominic Grieve had accused Johnson of deliberately delaying the report until after the election — something Downing Street denies.
Politicians in the main opposition Labour party have alleged the report could contain evidence of links between Johnson’s Conservative party and Russian billionaires.


UK PM says schools must open in September

Updated 11 min 31 sec ago

UK PM says schools must open in September

  • A study has warned that Britain risks a second wave of COVID-19 this winter if schools open without an improved test-and-trace system
  • The government wants all pupils to return to school by early September

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said reopening schools in September was a social, economic and moral imperative and insisted they would be able to operate safely despite the ongoing threat from the pandemic.
His comments follow a study earlier this month which warned that Britain risks a second wave of COVID-19 this winter twice as large as the initial outbreak if schools open without an improved test-and-trace system.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Johnson said restarting schools was a national priority. Schools would be the last places to close in future local lockdowns, he was quoted by another newspaper as telling a meeting on Thursday.
Schools in England closed in March during a national lockdown, except for the children of key workers, and reopened in June for a small number of pupils.
The government wants all pupils to return to school by early September in what Johnson has called a “national priority.”
“Keeping our schools closed a moment longer than absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible,” Johnson wrote.
The economic costs for parents who cannot work if schools are shut are spiralling, and the country faces big problems if children miss out on education, the prime minister warned.
“This pandemic isn’t over, and the last thing any of us can afford to do is become complacent. But now that we know enough to reopen schools to all pupils safely, we have a moral duty to do so,” he wrote.
The Sunday Times newspaper reported that he has ordered a public relations campaign to ensure schools open on time and told the meeting last week that they should be the last places to close behind restaurants, pubs and shops.