LONDON, England – Britain’s possible exit from the European Union (EU) will be “absolutely applauded in Moscow” as it would lead to the relaxation of Western sanctions against Russia, says UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon.
Speaking before the House of Commons defense committee, chaired by fierce Brexit supporter Julian Lewis, Fallon warned that voting to leave the 28-member bloc during the June 23 referendum would be detrimental to Europe’s security.
“A huge amount is hanging on the vote on 23 June not just for the people of this country but for the collective security of Europe and the west,” he told the bipartisan committee.
Referring to the Ukrainian crisis and Crimea’s annexation and occupation by Russia, the top military official noted that without London’s leading role, Western sanctions against Moscow would have been much weaker.
“We were there and able to lead the debate, the EU was able to ensure the toughest sanctions were imposed,” he said, adding that the UK would make sure the sanctions were renewed in July.
The United States and its European allies accuse Moscow of destabilizing Ukraine and have imposed a number of sanctions against Russian and pro-Russia figures. Moscow rejects having a hand in the ongoing crisis that has killed over 9,300 people.
Fallon said that if Britons vote to leave the EU, British companies will be left at an unfair disadvantage as they will still be facing tougher controls on trading with Russia.
The defense secretary made the remarks in a two-hour testimony over the implications of Russia’s growing threats to Baltic States – Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania – as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
As part of its “enhanced forward presence,” NATO has been deploying troops and equipment close to Russia’s borders since it suspended all ties with Moscow in April 2014 after Russia annexed and occupied Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.