Mark Francois: EU project is almost akin to a religion
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Following Russia’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, Brexit Britain has been heaped with praise for the support it has offered to Kyiv. When Boris Johnson addressed the Rada earlier this month, the Prime Minister received a standing ovation as he invoked his wartime hero Winston Churchill and commended Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky.
But Mark Francois, who released a self-published memoir titled ‘Spartan Victory: The Inside Story of the Battle for Brexit’ in 2021, has even claimed the UK has established its position as a leading ally of Ukraine thanks to its departure from the European Union.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, the European Research Group chairman said: “Because we’ve left the EU, we can pursue an independent foreign policy with regards to Ukraine.
“We’ve given the Ukrainians tremendous amounts of support in the face of Putin’s barbaric and illegal invasion.
“We’re leading Europe and providing leadership.
“Whereas the Germans and the French have been much more hesitant, the United Kingdom has not.
“If we were tied into the EU and trying to agree on a collective approach on everything, we wouldn’t practically be able to do that.
“We now stand on our own two feet on the world stage, responsible for our own destiny, a friend to many but beholden to none and that is the kind of global Britain that I believe I and many of my constituents voted for in 2016.”
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The Rayleigh & Wickford MP added: “We talked about global Britain, we are now walking the walk.
“Go and ask Volodymyr Zelensky if he thinks the UK is not backing them up sufficiently.
“Go and ask them in Warsaw, where I was recently with the Defence Committee.
“Go and ask them in the Baltic states.
“The Brits are back and they’re providing reliable support, both military and diplomatic, with our allies and it could be that some of the larger countries in the EU do well to follow our example.”
EU member states, including France and Germany, came under fire earlier in the crisis after they hesitated on whether to back Britain’s bid to expel Russia from the international banking system SWIFT.
Moscow’s expulsion, which was considered to be a part of “the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen”, was eventually agreed to by the bloc after Berlin and Rome dropped their opposition to the move.
Earlier in the conflict, a poll conducted by Lord Michael Ashcroft revealed that more than half of Ukrainians said they thought Britain had been doing enough to help Kyiv.
In comparison, less than half of respondents indicated they thought the European Union and the United States had been doing enough.
Issues in the EU have also brought into question whether the 27-member states should retain the bloc’s unanimity requirement after the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, suggested “pragmatic federalism” could better equip the continent to deal with issues of defence and foreign policy.
However, while the UK has been lauded for much of its response, the Government has been criticised for its refugee policy.
According to the United Nations, more than 14 million people are thought to have fled their homes since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Although the UK introduced a family visa scheme and the Homes for Ukraine programme, just 107,400 Ukrainian visas had been issued as of May 17.
In comparison, the UN claimed more than 3.4 million refugees had been taken in by Poland as of May 20.
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Germany has also taken in more than 700,000 Ukrainians, of which 40 percent are said to be children.
The UK schemes have also been criticised as many families who have applied to be sponsors have complained that the system is too slow and complicated.
Mr Francois, who replaced Steve Baker as European Research Group chairman in 2020, also claimed the UK’s position in the world has been bolstered by the Department for International Trade’s commitment to negotiate new agreements around the world.
The ex-Armed Forces Minister said: “These deals are important because they’re the next phase of global Britain.
“We had a number of rollover deals but these are new and they’re with major countries and that means we now have the ability outside of the customs union, outside of the European Union, to strike new deals like this, which will give British consumers access to additional products around the globe.
“Some people said you wouldn’t be able to negotiate these deals in a decade.
“I think that getting major deals with the likes of Australia and New Zealand this quickly is actually pretty good going.”
The Department for International Trade recently revealed the UK would also enter talks with Mexico after it launched separate negotiations with Canada and India earlier in the year.
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