Guardian News and Media /London
Jeremy Corbyn declined to disclose the source of documents used as evidence that the NHS would be “on the table” in a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal, after Reddit warned of a link to a Russian interference campaign.
The Labour leader brandished the unredacted documents at a press conference last week, saying they revealed the US was seeking “total market access” after the UK left the European Union and therefore undermined Boris Johnson’s claims that the NHS would not be part of any trade talks.
However, the Conservative party said the documents had already been online for two months and were simply readouts from meetings of the UK-US trade and investment working group. The International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, said the price that the NHS pays for drugs would not be “on the table”.
There is heightened scrutiny over the origin of the documents – the legitimacy of which has not been called into question – after Reddit said yesterday it believed they had been leaked and then posted by an account which was part of a dubious campaign reported to have originated in Russia.
But Corbyn refused to say how he obtained the documents and dismissed a suggestion as “nonsense” that Labour had benefitted from a Russian trolling operation.
“We obtained those documents,” he said yesterday at a zero-waste shop in Barry, Wales. “We believed those documents to be correct and nobody until Friday denied the correctness of those documents. The issue is there should be no interference in British politics by anybody else.
“The prime minister has answers to give, which he refuses to do, about Russian donations to the Tory party or the report that he is sitting on about Russian interference in British politics. Of course there should be no interference in our British political system by Donald Trump or the Russians.”
Boris Johnson yesterday said the source of the documents must be established. “Well I do think we need to get to the bottom of that,” he told Sky, from the side of a football pitch near Stockport.
“As far as I’m aware we haven’t yet established the truth about that. But what I certainly think is that document whatever it was intended to prove, did not prove what Corbyn and the Labour party hoped that it would prove.”
Reddit said in a statement that it was recently made aware of a post that included leaked documents from the UK. “We investigated this account and the accounts connected to it, and we believe this was part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia.”
The company said it had identified and suspended 61 accounts that attempted to further promote the leaked papers. “All of these accounts have the same shared pattern as the original Secondary Infektion group detected, causing us to believe that this was indeed tied to the original group,” it said.
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