Monday, June 11, 2018

Matthew d'Ancona - The ‘bad boys of Brexit’ have some big questions to answer

under our noses, a well-developed network of far-right and nationalist forces seems to have arisen, apparently digitally mobilised and funded by Russian state actors; the law regulating elections, campaigns and referendums is woefully out of date (passed 4 years before Facebook was launched); Moscow is laughing at the rest of the world as Trump pleads its case at the G7; the far-right swoons over Vladimir Putin; and Jeremy Corbyn misses no opportunity to give the Russian president the benefit of the doubt over the use of nerve agents on British soil..

NB: Worth considering: Putin, lifelong communist and KGB man, is now a Russian nationalist and promoter of racism and fascism. What remains is the KGB - under a new name. How smoothly ideological reflexes change! The West was led by the US-UK bloc for decades and interfered all over the world, both via subterfuge and direct military action. Greece, Chile, Congo, Iran, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Iraq etc.. an endless list. Now the boot is on the other foot and we are waxing eloquent and indignant about Russian interference. A dose of honest reflection is needed. DS

As Verbal Kint says in The Usual Suspects: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.” And, as we have fresh reason to reflect this weekend, it appears that certain key Brexiteers may have played a similar trick. The popular view of them as a bunch of cheeky chaps is being challenged: their actions increasingly regarded as fitting the agenda of a global network of the populist right that stretches from Moscow to the Trump White House via the surging nationalist parties of continental Europe.

Stories in the Observer and Sunday Times about key figures in the Leave.EU campaign and their connection to Russian diplomats and businessmen are scoops of degree rather than kind. We have known for two years that Arron Banks, the pro-Brexit tycoon, and his closest henchman, Andy Wigmore, visited the Russian embassy in November 2015, just as we have long been aware of the links between Leave.EU and the Trump campaign.

What has now been revealed is the sheer scale of these contacts – including a lunch between Banks, Nigel Farage and Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador, just three days after the Leave.EU team had been granted an audience with president-elect Trump in November 2016. It appears that there were multiple meetings between Banks, Wigmore and senior Russian officials between 2015 and 2017. It also appears that the ambassador offered to help Banks broker a deal involving six goldmines in Siberia. This does not seem, in other words, to be routine schmoozing or glad-handing. It has the whiff of a nexus, suggesting a purpose, or multiple purposes… read more: