It could make the politics of EU withdrawal more challenging
So now we have got ten months late the document and the headline in the Times report “Downing Street failed to protect EU referendum, says Russia report” sets out the political challenge for ministers only five months before the EU transition period comes to an end.
This is how the Times is reporting it:
The government failed to protect the EU referendum from interference by Russia and the intelligence agencies should conduct a retrospective investigation, the intelligence and security committee has found. It said that Downing Street only “belatedly realised the level of threat” posed by Russia after the “hack and leak” of thousands of emails during the US presidential election in 2016. It also criticised the intelligence agencies for failing to assess whether Russia interfered in the EU referendum. It said that when it asked MI5 for any information it received a response that was just six lines long.
The government’s position is not helped by all the reports and action in the US over the alleged effort by the Russians at WH2020 to get Trump elected. It is hard in this context to assume that anything less happened in the UK in the runup to June 23rd 2016.
In a way the efforts that Johnson made to try to impede the publication of the document highlights even more its importance. If there was nothing to hide why did he go to such lengths to defer publication?