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Sunak says Ukraine crisis and Brexit 'not directly analogous' after fierce Boris backlash

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Lionel Barber rips into Boris for likening Ukraine to Brexit

In a speech at the Conservative Party’s spring conference in Blackpool, Mr Johnson said Britons, like Ukrainians, had the instinct “to choose freedom” and that the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU was a “recent example”. Mr Johnson said: “I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time. I can give you a couple of famous recent examples.

“When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners.

“It’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.”

Mr Johnson’s comparison of the fight of Ukrainians against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion has been widely condemned by politicians across both the UK and Europe.

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Defence Select Committee, tweeted: “If we are to ultimately defeat Putin we require international leadership and unity.

“Comparing the Ukrainian people’s fight against Putin’s tyranny to the British people voting for Brexit damages the standard of statecraft we were beginning to exhibit.”

Donald Tusk, former president of the European Council, tweeted: “Boris, your words offend Ukrainians, the British and common sense.”

Rishi Sunak

The chancellor stopped short of defending the prime minister’s comments. (Image: GETTY)

Boris Johnson

The prime minister made the comments at the Conservative party’s spring conference in Blackpool. (Image: GETTY)

When asked about the Prime Minister’s comments on Sunday morning, Chancellor Mr Sunak said he did not think the war in Ukraine and Brexit were “directly analogous”, adding: “I don’t think the Prime Minister was saying that the two were directly analogous either.”

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, he said: “I don’t think those two situations are directly analogous. Clearly, they’re not directly analogous. I don’t think the Prime Minister was saying they were directly analogous either.

“One is a democratic referendum in a country where they were able to debate ideas in peace.”

Mr Sunak added: “Look, people will make up their own minds. I certainly don’t think those two situations are directly analogous, and I don’t think he does either.”

The Chancellor’s muted support for the Prime Minister comes amid growing criticism of Mr Johnson’s comments – both within the Conservatives and opposition parties.

READ MORE: Lionel Barber rips into Boris for likening Ukraine to Brexit

Mariupol

Destruction in Mariupol, which has been under heavy fire by Russian forces for several weeks. (Image: GETTY)

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak

Boris Johnson’s comments have been criticised across the political spectrum. (Image: GETTY)

Conservative peer Lord Barwell condemned the comparison and pointed out that Ukraine is currently seeking to join the EU.

He tweeted: “Apart from the bit where voting in a free and fair referendum isn’t in any way comparable with risking your life to defend your country against invasion + the awkward fact the Ukrainians are fighting for the freedom to join the EU, this comparison is bang on.”

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves called the comments “crass” and urged the Mr Johnson to apologise.

Also speaking to Sophy Ridge’s programme, she said: “It is utterly distasteful and insulting to compare the fight for freedom against the aggression of the Russian state to the decision to leave the EU.

“It is insulting to the Ukrainian people, who are fighting for their very freedom and their very lives, and it is insulting to the British people as well.

“If the Prime Minister didn’t mean that analogy, he shouldn’t have made it and he should take those words back and apologise to the Ukrainian people and the British people for those crass remarks.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the comparison was an “insult” to Ukrainians while SNP’s leader at Westminster Ian Blackford called the speech “morally repugnant”.

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Some of Boris Johnson’s allies have rallied to defend the prime minister in response to the backlash. 

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday morning, Theresa Villiers, a pro-Brexit cabinet minister, said that Mr Johnson was not “comparing Brussels with Moscow” but was making a “broader point about freedom”. 

She said: “Of course, emotions are running high. This is a hugely anxious time for everyone affected by the Ukrainian conflict. But the prime minister was making a broader point about freedom.”

She added: “These are probably not words I would use myself, but they don’t detract from his strong record of leadership on Ukraine.”

Political journalist Isabel Oakeshott also responded to the criticism of Mr Johnson. 

Ms Oakeshott tweeted: “Boris comparing the fight for Ukraine to the fight for Brexit may have been clumsy, but surely at this point there are bigger badder things to screech about? The endless confected indignation over words that don’t cause any real harm is so very wearing.”

A father and child surrounded by rubble in Ukraine.

Nearly 3.5 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee the country. (Image: GETTY)

European leaders have also condemned the comments.

Nathalie Loiseau MEP, a former French EU affairs minister and close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, said: “Does the British Prime Minister really compare Ukrainians fleeing war and death to the UK exiting the EU?

“Respectfully, Prime Minister, words have a meaning. A majority of British people voted peacefully to exit the EU. Their democratic choice was respected. Brexiters went at length against free movement. Ukrainians are forced to flee.

“Ukrainians desperately want to join the EU. There were EU flags in 2014 in Maidan square; there are still in Kyiv bomb shelters.”

Alexander Stubb, former prime minister of Finland, also voiced criticism of the comments.

Mr Stubb said comparing the EU referendum to Ukraine’s fight for freedom against Russia’s brutal invasion was “about as vulgar as it gets”.

He added: “Winston Churchill, who understood freedom, must be turning in his grave.”

Guy Verhofstadt, the former prime minister of Belgium who led the EU’s Brexit negotiating team, said a comparison between the issues was “insane”.



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'Have to kick the pedal to the metal' Ex-Ukrainian leader slams Macron tank aide hesitancy

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Ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk sat down on LBC Radio to discuss NATO leaders. NATO has been allying themselves with Ukraine, sending help and weaponry and taking fleeing Ukrainian refugees. NATO members held a conference on the Russian invasion earlier this week to discuss more ways to help Ukraine.

Mr Yatsenyuk pushed for Macron to send over military tanks as promised, slamming him for dragging his feet, and claiming that the war in Ukraine affects the security of every European country.

Mr Yatsenyuk said: “That’s what Putin is closely watching, as for now, Putin didn’t expect this kind of unity and consolidated and concerted actions against the Russian federation.

“But you know, the time is running and we don’t have enough time to wait until some EU member states decide to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

“Or to impose tougher and stronger sanctions on the Russian Federation, so the EU has to be decisive and they have to speed up the process of new sanctions.

“And the shipment and delivery of weapons to Ukraine, because it’s not just about Ukraina and they realise it clearly, this is about the free world.

“And this is about the security of every single nation in the European Union, so the French have to kick the pedal to the metal.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained this week that he expected “serious steps” from Western-allied countries.

Mr Zelensky repeated the calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to be imposed by NATO forces and complained that the Western allies had not yet provided Ukraine with sufficient planes, up to date modern anti-missile systems, tanks or anti-ship weapons.

Mr Zelensky added: “At these three summits we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who sold us out and betrayed us.”

President Zelensky also expressed that he was grateful for the support Ukraine was continuing to receive from individual NATO member countries from around the world.

Mr Zelensky added: “But NATO has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people,” he said. “It feels like we’re in the grey zone between the West and Russia, but we’re protecting all our and your shared values.

READ MORE:Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

Mr Johnson added: “We’ve got to tighten the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today, as we are, sanctioning the Wagner Group, looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves, and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been playing an active role in trying to de-escalate the war with Russia by imposing tight sanctions on Russia to try and stop Putin’s warpath of destruction.

Ms Truss has warned that infighting between NATO countries at the moment could be highly detrimental for progress in ending the war.

Mr Truss said: “Russia’s targeting of critical national infrastructure is calculated and dangerous.

“It shows Putin is prepared to risk lives to sow division and confusion among allies.”



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Brexit news: What happens when Article 16 is triggered?

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After Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) was confirmed, the two parties have been attempting to renegotiate terms for a special Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland. Coined the Northern Ireland protocol it’s been a point of contention that’s led to threats from each side of triggering a mechanism called Article 16. But what is it?

What is Article 16?

The UK and EU agreed to the creation of the Northern Ireland protocol, in October 2019.

By allowing goods to flow freely between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland the deal removed the threat of a hard border.

But the arrangement has also resulted in what’s been labelled as an ‘Irish Sea border’.

READ MORE: ‘Totally undeniable’ MPs colluded with Remainers to try stop Brexit

Goods that now arrive into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are subjected to more stringent checks and controls.

In the scenario that either the UK or EU feel that the protocol is leading to significant issues or hampering their capacity to trade, then they have the option of activating Article 16.

The component sets out the process for taking unilateral “safeguard” measures, which in reality would amount to suspending parts of the deal.

Specifically, Article 16 says safeguard measures can be taken if the protocol is leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties” that are liable to persist.

He said: “Triggering Article 16 now would severely disrupt the unity of the UK and EU response to the war in Ukraine.

“It is thus perhaps not surprising that key US figures chose this week to restate that any uncertainty around the stability of the Good Friday Agreement would hinder a future UK-US trade deal.”

In recent months talks between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic have stalled, leading to calls from Brexiteers for the UK to act.

However, Professor Menon cautioned that triggering Article 16 won’t “rid” Britain of the protocol.

He added: “I think the British Government if it triggers Article 16 will do something relatively small and contained.

“And then there’s not a massive bust-up. You don’t end up getting rid of the protocol. You end up with months if not years of negotiations, mediation and arbitration.

“So, it’s a way of doing something but it’s not a way of solving anything. In a sense you’re still stuck with the protocol and you’re still negotiating about the future of the protocol.”

In essence, were Article 16 to be triggered it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the ground.

Many of the checks on goods flowing from Britain to Northern Ireland have already been unilaterally suspended.

Triggering the mechanism itself would only start a formal dispute process that requires both sides to go into talks to resolve.



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NATO slammed as former US Army chief exposes ‘two big issues’ in united Russia response

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US Army vice chief of staff general Jack Keane, sat down on LBC radio to talk about the NATO conference which took place earlier this week. Mr Keane discussed the possibility that Putin could deploy chemical biological weapons on the battlefield. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already used the highly condemned thermobaric weapons since the war started just over a month ago.

The US Army chief acknowledged there had been no public policy declaration on the consequences Putin would face if he was to take such a barbaric action.

Mr Keane said: “Listen I was very disappointed by the NATO summit.

“I totally applaud the fact that they’re going to increase by 40k troops in Eastern Europe.

“And they’re increasing sanctions and it seems like a sense of unity.

“But on two big issues, it’s got to be disappointing, there’s no NATO public policy declaration.

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Mr Keane added: “At the end of that summit to deal with this particular issue, chemical biological weapons and nuclear weapons which the Russians have been waving in front of our face now for almost 30 days.

“What we need is… Think policy statement, not something that’s left to a reporter to ask a question on.

“And then you get a statement that you just repeated, which leads to more confirmation than anything else.

“A much better statement, using my words… I don’t want to put words into other people’s mouths.

READ MORE: Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

“But with me, the use of any form of WMB would be unacceptable.

“We will not let it stand, it will result in decisive consequential actions and all options are on the table.

“Words to that effect, in a public policy statement, and we didn’t get it and it’s really unfortunate.

“And what it does it leaves in the minds of Putin and his  leaders just what would the reaction be, ambiguous like that and I think it’s very unfortunate.”

DON’T MISS: Russia scaling back invasion as troops retreat to eastern Ukraine after weeks of stalemate

Fear of the Russian military deploying chemical biological weapons has been heightened.

Ukrainian outlet InformNapalm has warned that: “Our conclusions may sound premature or too apocalyptic, but after the missile attacks and bombing of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, which the Russian army resorted to, we believe that it is necessary to make these data public and try to thwart any such intentions of Russia.”

And NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Thursday: “We’ve tried to be very clear about the gravity of the use of any such chemical weapons.

“These are agents that should never be employed and certainly not on the battlefield, as we are concerned Russia might.”



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