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Word on the Street: Brexit enables Putin to test our defences

PUBLISHED: 12:00 31 March 2018

Archant

To me, the EU is like a big version of West and East Germany. When the USSR collapsed in the early '90s, the Berlin Wall came down.

West Germany took over communist East Germany. Not one shot was fired. East Germany was desolate and, initially, East Germans wanted to work in factories in West Germany and send money home. There was a timescale for “equalisation”. Investment was needed. Now, East Germans drive VWs and work in modern German industries on their doorsteps. Everybody’s wealthier. Germany runs a budget surplus.

Similarly, after the USSR collapsed, the EU absorbed Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic States. Not one shot was fired. That was very smart. World wars have been fought for less. Previously, these countries hosted Soviet land armies and nukes pointing at London, Paris, Brussels and Bonn. The EU got in quick, before the rise of Putin. Democracy was cemented in those former communist countries with EU accession in 2004 and 2007. Investment happens via the EU/ECB. Equalisation will take two generations. That’s quick for such a change.

Therefore, under our noses, because of the EU, there’s been a massive geo-political shift in our favour, with enormous potential for business. Now, the EU land mass makes sense from both strategic and geographical points of view. To see that, look at a map. Also, the newcomers want to work hard, build our buildings and pick our fruit. The EU is an expanded market of 500m people. They all need financial services and goods. As an EU member, the UK is ideally placed to develop substantial new business in this growing single market.

But no, we don’t want that. We want to duck out just as this bigger braver Europe is getting underway. We don’t like guaranteed benefits!

On defence, yes, we have NATO. But let us not kid ourselves. After Brexit, our defence against Russia will rely heavily on the 27 EU countries staying together. If they follow our lead and fragment (to which we could not object) there will be much increased likelihood of Russia picking its moments to invade former Soviet territory. With that would come increased scope for aggression, and the threat of further advances into Western Europe. Sounds familiar? It’s what happened in the 1930s.

Therefore, not only is Brexit stupid concerning the long-term expansion and stability of the UK’s economy; it is a massive hypocrisy (and own goal) concerning the need for shared structures with our neighbours, to maintain peace and stability. With the EU fragmented, it would be significantly more difficult to counter Russian aggression. And if we Brexit, we’ll have no right to argue that the EU should stay together. Our new weakness in the world has just been stress tested by Russia. Brussels supports May’s position on the Salisbury attack because the EU 27 know that unity against Russia is essential. Brussels knows what we don’t. That dis-unity, Brexit and fragmentation of the EU are dangerous.

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