Russia might not have invaded Ukraine without Brexit, says Guy Verhofstadt
Vladimir Putin might never have invaded Ukraine if Britain had not voted for Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt has said.
Mr Verhofstadt, a federalist who backs a United States of Europe and is a former prime minister of Belgium, was the European Parliament’s Brexit boss during the torturous UK-EU negotiations.
On Monday, Mr Verhofstadt said he had a “dream” that the UK and Ukraine could join the EU in the next five years.
Speaking to LBC on Tuesday, the third anniversary of the day the UK left the EU, he said: “A united Europe, certainly on defence matters, would make an enormous difference. I think maybe that without Brexit, maybe there was no invasion. I don’t know.
“Let’s hope that Britain can rejoin and let’s hope that Ukraine can join, and why not within five years?”
He admitted that might be a “little bit optimistic concerning the UK”, but claimed that “people understand that Brexit was a wrong choice and that it has done a lot of damage to Europe and certainly to the UK”.
'Let's hope that Britain can rejoin!.'
Former EU Brexit Coordinator Guy Verhofstadt says he feels Brits now 'understand that Brexit was the wrong choice' and leaving the EU has done 'a lot of damage to the UK.'@NickFerrariLBC pic.twitter.com/zRA5lXwpo1
— LBC (@LBC) January 31, 2023
Mr Verhofstadt, nicknamed “The Hof”, has long called for an EU army to deter autocrats such as Putin. In 2018, he called for the EU to make itself capable of launching missile strikes after Britain, France and the US attacked Syria.
“This war, this brutal invasion started with Putin and Russia,” he added. “It’s really an attempt by Putin to restore the old Soviet Union. The only difference is the Communist Party is replaced with his own cronies.”
Mr Verhofstadt’s influence has waned since the years of the Brexit negotiations, when he was a bogeyman for Leavers. He no longer leads on the European Parliament’s relations with the UK, or the liberal group in the European Parliament.
Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said: “Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine has nothing to do with Brexit, and in fact I think the invasion has demonstrated the UK’s commitment to European security.
“We have from the start been working extremely closely with our European allies, which is a real tangible demonstration of the UK’s continued commitment to the security of the continent. That will not change. So clearly it is a nonsense to suggest otherwise.”
Gavin Barwell was Theresa May’s chief of staff when she was prime minister in the first years of the Brexit negotiations. He wrote on Twitter:
Putin will certainly have celebrated Brexit because it was bound to distract the UK and EU for a few years and create some rancour between them, but as usual Verhofstadt goes too far - Putin invaded Crimea in 2014 when the UK was still in the EU https://t.co/5xPtNsY3tH
— Gavin Barwell (@GavinBarwell) January 31, 2023