Putin billboard
© Reuters/Peter Nicholls
London billboard spoof of Putin's 'role' in Brexit
THE LONG delayed report on Russian interference into UK politics from the Intelligence and Security parliamentary committee is due to be published this week. I've no doubt, however, that some commentators will be very disappointed. A bit like 'Who shot JFK?' there will be lots of conjecture, lots of smoke - but no real fire. I can't see it revealing anything concrete.

The background to the report is clear. Russian interference in Brexit has become a mythical mantra for hardcore Remainers as they sought to try to discredit the result in any way they could.

The narrative that the Russians were behind the victory of Donald Trump in 2016 and Brexit gained currency on both sides of the pond.

In the United States the Democrats used committees in Congress to set up the Mueller investigation which disgracefully tried every trick in the book to discredit President Trump. They were finally forced to announce that he had been exonerated. They found nothing. We are living in an age where political opponents are not prepared to accept defeat at the ballot box and use other methods.

© Getty Images
US President Donald Trump
I and some fellow Leave EU supporters were the first overseas visitors to meet President Trump three days after his election and within a week, a report was issued by a powerful political think tank accusing me of having links to the Russians and that the source of funding for Brexit was dubious. This report was then used by CNN and others to create a fake news narrative which started to circulate.

We wrote a book about our referendum experiences which openly mentioned an alcohol-fueled six-hour lunch we had with the Russian ambassador, famously with special vodka ordered by Stalin. The mere fact that you had lunch with someone is now enough to condemn you as somehow connected to the Russian state and therefore guilty!

A sign of the sad times we live in.

Exactly mirroring the events in the United States, the UK Parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media And Sport select committee, led by Damian Collins - who voted to remain in the EU - seemed to start their own version of the witch hunt.

After a massive media campaign fueled by 50 MPs writing to the Electoral Commission, I was referred to the National Crime Agency (NCA). The NCA investigation lasted 18 months and turned my life upside down. I was completely exonerated, with the NCA saying they found no evidence of any third party money and that the funds came from my companies.

The report this week will undoubtedly point to contacts and links between political figures in the Conservative Party and the Russian businessmen or government figures. But why should this come as any surprise to anyone? BACK in 2016 before the Russian "witch hunt" had started, the UK government was actively encouraging companies to do business with Russia, arranging trade missions and welcoming wealthy Russians to base themselves in the UK. Diplomatic relations were thawing and it was Government policy to have a better relationship.

Indeed, the Russian ambassador said he'd had lunch with a senior Conservative figure. Similarly, if you look at government policy on China in 2016 compared with today, you could argue that dozens of other British establishment figures were then cozying up to yet another foreign power.

But today things have changed and we are part of a new Cold War with Russia and China.

I believe the Intelligence and Security Committee report is the last in a series of attacks intended to undermine not only Brexit but the Conservative Government. The previous committee was dominated by Remainers and was led by Dominic Grieve, who finally resigned the Conservative whip over the issue. He was one of 29 MPs targeted by our Leave.EU campaign for deselection, so he's not a fan!

Hopefully, the new committee, under the leadership of Julian Lewis, will move away from politically motivated hit jobs and do their job properly.