Emily Maitlis clashes with Tory MP who blamed media over Brexit and Russia report

‘I do think this is rehashing a rather stale debate,’ says head of powerful foreign affairs committee – after Russia report found government ignored potential interference in 2016 vote

Emily Maitlis clashes with Tory MP who tried to blame media for talk surrounding Brexit and Russia report

A leading Conservative MP clashed with Newsnight host Emily Maitlis after he blamed the media for “rehashing the stale debate” about the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has urged the government to investigate potential Russian interference in the 2016 EU referendum – a call immediately rejected by the government.

Bob Seely MP, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, was dismissive of the idea of “looking over the past” and pointed out that “we’ve left the European Union” during his appearance on the BBC programme.

“On the debate about Brexit, I can understand why the media is going for this, but I do think this is rehashing a rather stale debate about Brexit,” he said.

The Newsnight host fired back: “Hang on a second … the media is not having that debate – you heard it raised by the ISC, who called for an inquiry to be opened.”

Ms Maitlis added: “[The media] are looking at the calls from the committee – and the reason we’re looking at it because there was absolutely no curiosity on the part of your government and successive governments to actually find out what went on.”

The ISC concluded that the government “did not want to know” if there had been Russian interference in 2016 vote – and had “actively avoided looking for evidence”.

Mr Seely conceded that the “lack of protection in the Scottish referendum and the lack of protection and care in the Brexit referendum were both wrong”.

The influential MP added: “We’ve left the European Union. We can go back and have a look at whether something happened, and I’m not opposed to that – I just think there are far more serious things now, actively, that we should be considering.”

The committee chair suggested the government could consider introducing legislation to toughen up on espionage and foreign lobbying in the UK, “rather than going back and looking over the past”.

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