British MP Demands 'Mueller-Style' Investigation Into Brexit Over Russia Interference

The deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party in Britain is demanding a "Mueller-style public inquiry" into suspicions of Russian interference in the 2016 referendum on Brexit, saying it is "time we followed the money and the lies."

Tom Watson, a member of Parliament, wrote to British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. He called for an investigation as concern grows about the actions of Russian intelligence services, accused of attempting to subvert Western democracies, including the U.S.

In the U.S., special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He has racked up a number of indictments and guilty pleas, with more expected to follow.

Watson's letter comes on the same day British and Dutch intelligence agencies revealed evidence of attempts by Russian spies to cyberattack the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The OPCW is investigating the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal—a former Russian intelligence colonel who spied for the British—in England using novichok, a banned chemical weapon. Skripal's daughter was also poisoned but both survived.

Two others—a couple who found the perfume bottle used in the attack—were also poisoned, and one died as a result.

"It is impossible to understand how the UK can be dedicating so much time and resource to investigating infiltration by Putin's regime around the world and ignoring glaring concerns here at home," said Watson's letter.

"This is not about undermining the result of the 2016 referendum. This is about defending our democracy and protecting ourselves from foreign infiltration and influence."

He added: "I have called for a Mueller-style full public inquiry into Russian interference in the referendum with the power to force unwilling participants to co-operate. Does the Government oppose such an inquiry or will you grant one?"

Watson cited reporting by Carole Cadwalladr, a journalist for The Observer, who has unearthed links between Russian officials and a campaign for Brexit. He also noted an investigation by the U.K. Election Commission that found the official Vote Leave campaign in the referendum had broken the rules by overspending.

"We know that the Leave campaign broke legal spending limits, although we have not yet had any clarification about where the money donated by their biggest funder, Arron Banks, came from," Watson wrote.

"Banks is known to have visited the Russian embassy multiple times in the run-up to the E.U. referendum. We know that Russian Twitter accounts active during the U.S. presidential election were also active during the E.U. referendum.

"As many as 150,000 Russian linked Twitter accounts were tweeting about Brexit. We know that Russia's media outlets here in the U.K., RT and Sputnik, offered 'systematically one-sided coverage' of the referendum."

Arron Banks is a high-profile Brexit supporter and a millionaire businessman who bankrolled campaigning to leave the E.U.

"Do you honestly think the authorities have not investigated this already—they are naive if they think that every spy agency has not already looked into this forensically," Andy Wigmore, a spokesman for Banks, told Newsweek.

"There is no evidence. They have found no evidence because we did nothing wrong and the allegations are just another attempt by the desperate people who want a second referendum and want to discredit the original referendum by stating categorically that Russia paid for Brexit—it's nonsense."

The U.K. Foreign Office and the Russian Embassy in London did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In June 2016, the British voted by 52 percent to 48 percent in favor of leaving the European Union, a process dubbed Brexit. Britain is on course to formally exit the 27-member EU in March 2019. But there are calls for a second referendum on the final terms of the Brexit deal, with the potential that the U.K. could remain inside it if voters prefer.

Tom Watson Brexit
British politician Tom Watson arrives at the High Court in London on June 4, 2015. Watson is demanding a "Mueller-style" public inquiry into the Brexit referendum and Russian meddling. NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images