Brexit hostilities on hold as EU backs May with ‘counter measures’ against Russia

Vladimir Putin and Theresa May pictured together in 2016. (Getty Images)

Brexit hostilities have been put on hold over the chemicals weapons attack on Britain.

Some of Theresa May’s strongest critics in the EU today extended their support to the Prime Minister over the weekend’s nerve agent attack in Salisbury.

And they said the EU should discuss ramping up sanctions against Russia at next week’s European Council summit.

European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt called for “solidarity” with the UK in the face of Russian “aggression.”

“I think we need from the Council a common reaction from the EU, together with our friends in the UK, to the new aggression by the Kremlin in European soil – still European soil – in Britain,” he told MEPs meeting in Strasbourg.

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“Mrs May has said its an attack against Britain as a country and I think a common reaction in the next European Council is absolutely needed – and counter measures by the EU.

“This type of solidarity that we need to have with the UK.”

European Commission first vice-president Frans Timmermans said the EU would be “unequivocal, unwavering and very strong” in its support of the UK over the attack in order that “those responsible are really punished for what they did.”

“This should be addressed by all of us and not just left to Prime Minister May and the British Government,” he said.

“It is a collective European responsibility.”

Their comments come after Mrs May yesterday called on allies to support “extensive measures” against Russia which were being discussed today at a meeting of the National Security Council.

The outspoken support from European politicians contrasts sharply with the position of US President Donald Trump.

The White House condemned the attack but Mr Trump has been notably silent on the issue.

And today he sacked Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State – just a day after Tillerson said the Salisbury attack had “clearly” come from Russia. 

The EU this week extended its existing sanctions against Russia, which were put in place after the annexation of Crimea.

They include travel restrictions and asset freezes against 150 people and 38 companies.

Manfred Weber, the German ally of Angela Merkel who heads the European Parliament’s dominant centre-right group, said EU member states would want to see proof that Russia was behind the chemical attack before taking action.

But he said: “My main message is that we should not be naive in our relationships towards Russia.
“I only can tell you some politicians in this house are asking for more cooperation with Russia and more talks with Russia on overcoming the current problems of sanctions.

“I think, having the British experience now in mind, there is no debate possible about lowering the sanctions.

“It is even the debate necessary about appropriate actions now to create more pressure on Russia.”