Boris Johnson’s apparent likening of Ukraine’s struggle against the Russian invasion to the UK’s vote to leave the EU is offensive to our European partners and shows nothing he says can be taken seriously, the Rejoin EU Party says.
Johnson told a Tory conference in Blackpool it was “the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom every time” and said those people who voted for Brexit “wanted to be free.”
Only weeks ago, Johnson said he believed Ukrainian EU membership was “entirely reasonable” as part of wider efforts to improve European security.
Rejoin EU Party leader Richard Hewison said: “Johnson’s comments would be offensive if they weren’t so laughable. The fact he and some Brexiters feel ‘their struggle’ is on a par with what Ukrainians are facing today just shows how narrow, facile and self-centred their world view is.”
The party believes the government’s lacklustre reaction to the Ukraine crisis highlight how Russian influence may have played a key role in Brexit and why it needs to be reversed.
It suggests the government’s reported links to Russia and its embrace of Russian funding have compromised its ability to join partners and allies in effectively responding to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The UK has dragged its feet in sanctioning Russian oligarchs and been left playing catch-up with the EU and US.
Estimates based on Electoral Commission information reportedly suggest either Conservative Party HQ or Tory MPs have received almost £1.9m in Russia-linked donations since Johnson became PM.
A parliamentary committee report on suspected Russian interference in British politics published in 2020 said the UK was ‘clearly a target for Russian disinformation’ and accused the UK government of avoiding investigating how Russia may have influenced the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum, the Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies said.
The report left open the possibility that Moscow-based information operations, especially through social media and Russian state-funded broadcasters and backed-up by targeted support to influential voices in UK politics, may well have been a significant factor, the CSIS said.
The Rejoin EU Party believes the government’s response exposes its compromised position and the UK’s loss of political influence following Brexit.
Hewison said: “While the US and the EU have played a significant role in responding to this Ukraine crisis, the UK, beyond the usual platitudes and meaningless soundbites, has had very little involvement and has ended up following in their footsteps.
“The UK’s thrown away its seat at the top table and been reduced to making excuses and blustering belatedly from the sidelines. There’s a distinct possibility the Russian contribution to Brexit itself might become apparent from this crisis and significantly affect British public opinion of leaving the EU.
“If Putin favoured Brexit and did what he could to bring it about, we should ask ourselves whether the UK should continue with this flawed, rotten project.”