Brexit backer faces quiz over Russia links

British MPs set to question Arron Banks over his lunches with Russian ambassador

This July 10, 2016 file photo shows millionaire Brexit campaigner Arron Banks in London. The chairman of the British Parliament's media committee says a millionaire backer of the successful campaign to leave the European Union has questions to answer about his contacts with Russian officials. Damian Collins says the Culture, Media and Sport Committee plans to question Arron Banks about a report in the Sunday Times on Sunday, June 10, 2018 that he had undisclosed meetings with Russian officials around the time of the June 2016 referendum on EU membership. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP, file)
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The British businessman who bankrolled a prominent Brexit campaign is to be questioned by MPs about his links with Russia.

Arron Banks will face questions on Tuesday over his meetings with Russia’s ambassador to London amid claims of Moscow-meddling in the 2016 vote to leave the European Union.

Mr Banks had previously spoken of a six-hour lunch with ambassador Alexander Yakovenko but reports at the weekend, based on leaked emails, pointed to further meetings that included discussions on a business opportunity involving Russian gold mines.

Mr Banks says that he is a victim of a ‘witch-hunt’ after funding the Leave.EU campaign that is credited with mobilising support for Brexit. His supporters have claimed that plotters are seeking to undermine the result of the 2016 poll to force a re-run to try to keep the country within the economic union.

Voters backed leaving the EU by a vote of 52 per cent to 48 but talks on the detail of Britain’s departure from the world’s largest trading bloc have been dogged by splits within the ruling Conservative party and disputes with EU negotiators over key details.

Mr Banks will go before lawmakers investigating ‘fake news’ who are trying to establish if Russia tried to influence public opinion before the vote. Mr Banks said that he will tell the lawmakers about his connections with many countries during the campaign.

“It wasn't just the Russians: we met all sorts of nationalities, we also briefed the State Department in Washington, we also met with the top embassy officials in London,” he told Reuters.

Mr Banks had cancelled his planned appearance last week – only to perform a second u-turn and agree to appear after the weekend’s newspaper allegations. His appearance comes as Theresa May, the premier, faces potential rebellions in a series of key votes over the state of the Brexit negotiations.