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Brexit paved the way for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, says chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt

LEADING BRITAIN'S CONVERSATION - Emma Soteriou - JAN 31, 2023


Without Brexit Russia may not have invaded Ukraine, former chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt has said.

Without Brexit Russia would not have invaded Ukraine, says Guy Verhofstdat. Picture: Alamy

The Belgian politician, who served as the country’s Prime Minister until 2008, said a "stronger and united Europe" would have been enough to stop Putin from launching the invasion in Ukraine.



Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on LBC, Mr Verhofstadt explained working closer together, especially on "defence matters" could have made a big difference.

"This war, this brutal invasion, has started with Putin and Russia," he said.

"It has nothing to do with the extension of Nato, or the European Union, it's really an attempt by Putin to restore the old Soviet Union.


"The only difference is the Communist party is replaced by his cronies.

"A united Europe, certainly on defence matters, would make an enormous difference.

"I think maybe without Brexit there would be no invasion. I don't know, but I think he would see a far stronger and united Europe on the other side."


On the threat of nuclear weapons, Mr Verhofstadt said: “He can do a lot of things but not starting a nuclear war.“Nuclear war will be a devastating war and he understands that.


"I hope that he understands that.


“If he is winning this war in Ukraine it will be the beginning of World War 3 like some people are saying.


"The next attack will be against the Baltic states, it could be against Poland, could be against another central or Eastern European country.


“We have to avoid it.“The best way to avoid World War 3 is Ukraine wins this battle in 2023.”


His comments come as Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a plea for fighter jets from the West.


Joe Biden has said the US will not provide Ukraine with any F-16s despite the calls from Ukraine’s leadership.


French President Emmanuel Macron has said France does not exclude sending fighter jets to Ukraine, but laid out multiple conditions before such a significant step might be taken.


France has sent Ukraine air defence systems, rocket launcher units, cannons and other military equipment and has pledged to send armoured surveillance and combat vehicles, but has stopped short of sending battle tanks or heavier weaponry.


Asked at a news conference in The Hague on Monday if France is considering sending warplanes, Mr Macron said "nothing is excluded" as long as certain conditions are met.


Among those conditions: that providing such equipment would not lead to an escalation of tensions or be used "to touch Russian soil", and that it would not "weaken the capacities of the French army", Mr Macron said.He also said Ukraine would have to formally request the planes.


Mr Macron noted that he will meet visiting Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov in Paris on Tuesday.


Ukrainian officials have been stepping up demands for heavier weapons from western allies to push back Russia's forces.


At Mr Macron's side, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Ukraine has not formally requested Dutch F-16 fighter jets so far.


He struck a cautious stance after the Dutch foreign minister told legislators earlier this month that there were "no taboos" about sending the warplanes.


"There is no talk about delivering F-16s to Ukraine. No requests," Mr Rutte said.


"There are no taboos, but it would be a very big next step."It is very important we keep supporting Ukraine and that Ukraine articulates to us what they need.


"He welcomed recent German and US announcements about sending tanks to Ukraine.


"As the Netherlands, we will keep looking at what we can do," Mr Rutte said.


"We don't have Leopard 2 tanks, we lease them. We've said if it helps, we're prepared to buy them and pass them on. Maybe it's better to use those leased Leopard 2s somewhere else. ... Whatever works."




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