Leaked documents on US-UK trade talks deployed by Jeremy Corbyn in election campaign were ‘almost certainly’ spread by Russian actors in an attempt to influence the result
Leaked documents on US-UK trade talks deployed by Jeremy Corbyn during the election were ‘almost certainly’ spread by ‘Russian actors’, the government said today.
The papers were brandished by the then-Labour leader during the campaign for the December poll as evidence that the NHS was at risk from a Transatlantic deal.
He said at a series of press conferences that the 451-page dossier showed there had been discussion about drugs pricing and proved the health service was ‘for sale’
But the government furiously denied the claims as ‘nonsense’ and launched an investigation with the National Cyber Security Centre after complaining that the material had been circulated by Russians.
The papers were brandished by the then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during the campaign last year as evidence that the NHS was at risk from a Transatlantic deal.
In a statement to MPs today, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said during the campaign – which resulted in a huge Tory majority – a ‘cross-Government election security cell was stood up to coordinate responses to threats and hazards relating to the election’.
‘On the basis of extensive analysis, the Government has concluded that it is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 General Election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked Government documents,’ he said.
‘Sensitive Government documents relating to the UK-US Free Trade Agreement were illicitly acquired before the 2019 General Election and disseminated online via the social media platform Reddit. When these gained no traction, further attempts were made to promote the illicitly acquired material online in the run up to the General Election.
‘Whilst there is no evidence of a broad spectrum Russian campaign against the General Election, any attempt to interfere in our democratic processes is completely unacceptable. It is, and will always be, an absolute priority to protect our democracy and elections.
‘There is an ongoing criminal investigation and it would be inappropriate for us to say anything further at this point.
‘The Government reserves the right to respond with appropriate measures in the future.’
The leaked documents played a huge part in Labour’s election campaign as they argued they proved the government could not be trusted to protest the NHS in a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.
Mr Corbyn refused to reveal the source of the material – although there is no suggestion it was provided to Labour directly by Russian actors.
Online forum Reddit later suspended a slew of accounts saying unredacted versions were uploaded as ‘part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia’.
Speaking at the time, Mr Johnson said ‘we do need to get to the bottom’ of the leak.
But he insisted he had not seen evidence of ‘any successful interference by Russia in any democratic event in this country’.
Mr Raab said the UK would ‘continue to call out and respond to malign activity, including any attempts to interfere in our democratic processes, alongside our international partners’.
‘We fully support the recent action taken by our German partners who exposed Russian responsibility for the hack of their Parliament in 2015 as well as their intention to act against those responsible under the cyber sanctions regime,’ he added.