Tom Slater

What’s the real reason for the hold-up in the police’s Brexit probe?

What's the real reason for the hold-up in the police's Brexit probe?
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Brexiteers are occasionally depicted as being a little paranoid. If you listen to some elite critics of Brexit, you would think that a sizeable chunk of those who voted to Leave are sharing dodgy anti-George Soros memes long into the night. You might think, too, that a few Brexit voters see elite stitch-ups everywhere and never let the truth get in the way of their anti-Brussels prejudices. But if there is a paranoid style in British politics at the moment, it is not being practised by the 17.4million. It’s coming from that small set of elite Remainers in politics and the media who are resorting to desperate measures in their campaign to overturn the referendum result and stop Brexit. 

Just look at the recent spat between the Metropolitan Police and a ragtag group of plucky Remainer conspiracy theorists. When the blame for Brexit couldn't quite be pinned on the superior meme-making of Russian bots or the mind-control techniques of Cambridge Analytica, fire has been turned on the police instead. The plod haven’t outright been blamed for Brexit. Yet. But they have been accused of being pressured into ‘soft-pedalling’ criminal proceedings against the Leave campaign.

Earlier this month, 77 politicians, including Vince Cable and Chuka Umunna,  signed a letter to the Met and the National Crime Agency, raising concerns ‘that you remain in the phase of assessing evidence and that this may be the result of the political sensitivity of the case’. In July, in a highly controversial decision, the Electoral Commission had ruled that Vote Leave broke electoral rules by donating money to a youth Brexit campaign BeLeave and referred the case to the police. For some Remainers, the fact that prosecutions aren’t already underway smells of a stitch-up. 

The response to this letter, from specialist crime commander Stuart Cundy, is devastating. He says the police only received the 2,000 documents relating to the case from the Electoral Commission last month and so they haven't had nearly enough time to determine whether a criminal case can be brought against Vote Leave. What’s more, in response to the accusation of meddling, Cundy says ‘there has been no contact from any government representative’. He goes on to say that: ‘the only approach from any elected politician, political party, official or representative has been your correspondence, or similar correspondence from others seeking the MPS undertakes a wide ranging investigation into the EU referendum’.

In short, the only attempts at political meddling in this investigation have been made by the Stop Brexit crew. This hilarious misfire echoes a much-mocked tweet by Observer reporter Carole Cadwalladr earlier this month, in which she said ‘the police cannot be subject to political interference. It's so fundamental. MPs must act’ (my emphasis).

Whatever happens with the allegations against Vote Leave, it is clear some Remainer conspiracy theorists care little about getting to the truth. If anything, they’re likely to interpret the Met’s rebuff as further proof of an establishment fix. There’s a word for that: paranoia.