During a fiery Prime Minister’s Questions today, the last before Parliament rises for its summer recess later in the day, Boris Johnson said the Labour leader had “sat on his hands and said nothing while the Labour Party parroted the line of the Kremlin” after the Salisbury poisonings of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
After being questioned on the Russia report released by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ICS) yesterday, which found the Government was slow to recognise the potential threat posed by Russia to British democratic processes, Mr Johnson said: “Let’s be in no doubt what this is really all about – this is about pressure from the Islingtonian Remainers who have seized on this report to try to give the impression that Russian interference was somehow responsible for Brexit.
“That’s what this is all about. The people of this country didn’t vote to leave the EU because of pressure from Russia or Russian interference, they voted because they wanted to take back control of our money, our trade policy and our laws.”
He accused Sir Keir of being unable to “bring himself to accept that”.
But Sir Keir replied: “I stood up and condemned what happened in Salisbury and… I supported then-prime minister (Theresa May) on record, so I’d ask the Prime Minister to check the record.”
He said he was “absolutely clear” in condemning Russian aggression in Salisbury, adding he was previously involved in bringing proceedings against Russia on behalf of the family of poisoning victim Alexander Litvinenko.
And during PMQs the Labour Party circulated a clip from the BBC’s Question Time where Sir Keir condemned the Salisbury attack at the time.
He said the PM was reading “pre-prepared answers” rather than addressing national security concerns.
Mr Johnson said: “There’s no other Government in the world that takes more robust steps to protect our democracy, to protect our critical national infrastructure and to protect our intellectual property from interference by Russia or by anybody else.”
Mr Johnson said the criticisms are “motivated by a desire to undermine the referendum” on EU membership.
Sir Keir pressed for action against “Kremlin-backed disinformation” and suggested the Prime Minister should “look again” at the licensing for broadcaster RT, formerly Russia Today, to operate in the UK.
Mr Johnson said Sir Keir should have called out Labour former leader Jeremy Corbyn “when he took money for appearing on Russia Today”, adding: “The Leader of the Opposition has more flip-flops than Bournemouth beach.”
But Sir Keir said: “Pre-prepared gags on flip-flops, this is the former columnist who wrote two versions of every article ever published.
“In case the Prime Minister hadn’t noticed, the Labour Party is under new management and no frontbencher of this party has appeared on Russia Today since I’ve been leading this party.”