Ever since the momentous referendum nearly two years ago, there has not been a single week when Brexit didn’t make headlines in British media. But these days seem particularly busy. Not only are Brexiteers faced with a series of important votes between June 12-13 and a protest resignation from one of the conservative MPs, further Brexit campaign Russia claims have just emerged too.
On June 9, a story appeared on The Guardian’s Observer website suggesting deeper ties between Brexit campaigners and Russian officials. The article claims that the biggest pro-Brexit donor in the history of the United Kingdom, businessman Arron Banks, had had multiple meetings with some Russian officials between 2015 and 2017. Banks has now confirmed the fact of the meetings taking place but denies their nature outlined in the Observer story. The Observer claims that Banks was offered and most likely accepted various business opportunities in the Russian gold industry.
Oliver Bullough, a British author and journalist, thinks that the big picture to take away in this story is “that Russia wants to break up the unity of the West.”
“If [it is] true, this certainly fits into a pattern of the way Russia has interfered in Western democracy, not by funding political parties but by essentially giving business opportunities to prominent politicians,” he said.
Bullough also thinks the news could suggest that there might be “more doubt cast on the validity of the Brexit [referendum] result.”
In the lead-up to the referendum, Banks allegedly poured a staggering £12 million in cash, loans and services to Leave.EU, a pro-Brexit campaign. On June 12, Banks, together with his spokesman, businessman Andrew Wigmore, were quizzed by a committee investigating fake news where they downplayed the accusations.
Wigmore quite oddly claimed that he is a diplomat for Belize, a country in Central America, and the meetings were regarding a certain banana farm there.
“I was trying to find investors to look at perhaps buying a banana farm which had got into trouble. Belize couldn’t sell its bananas to places like the U.S. and the U.K. It needed someone to buy them,” Wigmore is quoted as saying by the Guardian.
But in any scenario, Bullough thinks that this situation will be beneficial to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The idea that you could have hardcore Remain voters, people who lost the referendum saying ‘well, we actually only lost because Putin did it' is really not helpful for democratic stability going forward,” Bullough says adding that the Brits arguing among themselves is “very much the thing [Putin] likes.”
But it isn’t all just about Banks, Bullough adds. “He's just an instrument that the Kremlin can use to weaken the European alliance.”
/By Maria Romanenko