Brexit Party MEPs have been criticised for voting against a European Parliament resolution backing stronger EU action to counter election meddling and disinformation from Russia.
The party's representatives, including Nigel Farage, rejected the proposal which called for "monitoring of the impact of foreign interference across Europe" and put forward a plans to "address the threats of external intervention in our European elections".
The motion called for the EU East StratCom Task Force - which focuses on disinformation from Europe's eastern neighbours – to be upgraded to a permanent mission. It also asked the European Commission to shine a light on "the question of foreign funding of European political parties and foundations" by external actors.
The Brexit Party said that claims of Russian interference in elections were "baseless propaganda and scare stories used to shut down debate". But other MEPs criticised the party's vote and said disinformation was being "weaponised by hostile foreign actors".
“In the aftermath of the Skripal attack, Russia reportedly published 138 contradictory accounts of the nerve agent attack, with disinformation reaching UK citizens through social media accounts," said Antony Hook, a Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee.
"I am shocked and appalled that MEPs from the Brexit Party today refused to support measures to better tackle fake news and disinformation, which is weaponised by hostile foreign actors."
In June the Brexit party was asked to check £2.5m it has received in donations to ensure the money had come from legitimate sources. The UK Electoral Commission warned that the structure of the party “leaves it open to a high and ongoing risk of receiving and accepting impermissible donations”.
In June EU officials said Russia had tried to disrupt May's European Parliament elections by spreading disinformation and using fake stories to "promote extreme views". Russia's government denies that it acts in this way.
EU member states have seen a series of allegations of parties - most from the far-right of the political spectrum - being funded by Russian sources. In July Italy's then deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini was forced to deny that his far-right League party had sought millions from Russian investors in a secret oil deal. In Austria the leader of the far-right Freedom Party resigned after a sting operation showed him promising government contracts to a purported Russian oligarch in exchange for positive media coverage.
Brexit Party MEP David Bull, one of those who voted against the motion said: "The Brexit Party exists to remove the United Kingdom from the EU and ensure we are democratically governed. We will always vote against more power and spending by the EU.
"We won't take lessons in democracy from parties which have packed together in order to frustrate the Brexit vote, the largest democratic act in recent British history. Stories of Russian interference have been exposed as baseless propaganda and scare stories used to shut down debate. As a party of free speech, we oppose shutting down debate."
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