New investigations released this week suggest the Russians meddled in Britain’s historic referendum last year to leave the European Union, placing an already weakened Prime Minister Theresa May in a most awkward position — just when she needs to be her strongest in Brexit negotiations. The evidence that the Russians, with possible support from the Kremlin, bombarded British targets with social media tweets and posts was splashed on the nightly news and front pages in Britain. Even so, the prime minister and her office stressed that Russian propaganda had “no direct successful influence” on the Brexit vote. Critics of May say an admission that Russia tried to dupe British voters could raise questions about the Conservative Party’s mandate to extricate Britain from the European Union.
The specter of Russian meddling also stokes internal discord among the Tories, who are divided between those who demand May secure a total, complete exit from Europe vs. those advocating a “soft Brexit.” There is also a small but stubborn rearguard of Conservatives who say Brexit is a historic blunder.
Labour Party politicians blame the prime minister for what appears to be a muddled message on Russian meddling.