Politics

‘We can no longer pretend EU doesn’t exist’ Marr warns Boris must work with bloc

Ursula von der Leyen says NATO is the ‘strongest alliance’

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As a new sovereign nation now outside of the EU, the UK has launched its own response to help Ukraine following the invasion from Russia, providing humanitarian aid totalling almost £400 million and providing defensive weapons. This includes more than 3,600 anti-tank missiles, and essential civilian supplies like generators and medicines. Separately, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced an emergency package of €500million (£416million) to deal with the humanitarian consequences of the crisis in Ukraine.

As part of this, €93million (£77million) has been made available or humanitarian aid programmes to help civilians affected by the war in Ukraine, providing food, water, healthcare, shelter and help cover people’s basic needs.

Since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, the UK and EU have exchanged furious jibes, and continue to be at loggerheads over trading arrangements in Northern Ireland.

But veteran broadcaster Mr Marr has suggested the Ukraine crisis perfectly illustrates how London and Brussels need to put their differences to one side to form a closer bond.

Writing in The New Statesman, he said: “In the earthquake caused by this war, a grand reshaping around the world, relations between Britain and the EU must again become our biggest near-at-hand argument.

“Almost nobody in mainstream British politics wants to talk about this.

“For Brexiteers any other issue may, in theory, be reopened, from tax promises to Scottish independence; but Brexit is a sacrosanct and holy victory that must remain forever untouched.

“Pro-European politicians largely agree, although out of fear of English nationalism rather than pride.

“Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, this cannot be allowed to stand.

“If we are really looking at the world as it is – if we are really in a sternly pragmatic mindset as Europe confronts Vladimir Putin – then the relationship between the UK and the political alliance on the continent can no longer be treated as the great unmentionable.”

Mr Marr made clear the UK will never again be a full member of the EU, “but returning and turning are two different things”, insisting a “European turn is becoming perfectly possible”.

He pointed to a growing UK understanding over the formation of an EU army and while the UK Ministry of Defence “is not thinking about this, other parts of Whitehall are”.

The veteran broadcaster also believes the rhetoric from the Foreign Office over the Northern Ireland Protocol “has become noticeably more moderate”, and the “relentless exchange of childish insults between Paris and London has virtually stopped”.

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He said: “Any sense that the EU was ‘the enemy’ has evaporated in the face of a real enemy. The question is, where and how far does new thinking on Europe go?

“My colleague Paul Mason has made the current pro-European argument as well, I think, as it can be made.

“He argues that in this new world, “proximity matters” and that the UK needs to be part of continental solutions to energy as well as defence.

“Mason asserts that, far from the EU being a declining brand and breaking up, as hard Brexiteers expected, the Russian threat means it is re-emerging as a strategic power.

“Once it does, ‘the UK will become its satellite’.

“British politicians can no longer pretend the EU doesn’t exist, or if it does, somehow doesn’t matter.”

He claimed he has yet to see any reliable evidence about how far the Ukraine crisis has “shaken Brexit England’s belief in going it alone”, but dismissed any notion the current events are having no effect.

The veteran journalist concluded: “There will come a day when ‘Brexit, Brexit, Brexit’ isn’t enough of a slogan for anyone. Put it another way: aren’t we all Ukrainians now?”

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