LONDON (AVRUPA TIMES)-Russia’s Vladimir Putin would “shed no tears” over the U.K.’s exit from the EU, Britain’s opposition foreign affairs spokesman said Thursday.
Hilary Benn cited EU sanctions against Russia over its involvement in Ukraine as an example of how EU membership gave Britain a “louder voice” as it confronted threats to international peace and security.
He told an audience at London’s Chatham House think tank the sanctions “were clearly biting on the Russian economy”.
Benn set out the Labour Party’s position on Britain’s forthcoming EU membership referendum. “It is precisely because of Europe’s collective response that we have been able to exert real pressure and have an impact,” he said.
“And efforts towards the creation of an EU-wide energy union will over time weaken Russia’s dominance as an energy supplier in Europe.
“Let’s be clear - President Putin would shed no tears if Britain left the European Union. He would see Brexit as a sign of our weakness and of the weakness of European solidarity at the very moment when we need to maintain our collective strength.”
Prime Minister David Cameron is due to complete talks on renegotiating Britain’s EU membership terms at a summit with other leaders next week. A referendum on Britain's continued membership is expected to follow on June 23.
However, Benn said Labour supported the U.K.’s continued membership of the 28-country bloc irrespective of the talks.
“The difference between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party led by the prime minister is this: we are in favor of remaining in, regardless of the renegotiation, because we believe that our membership… is about much, much more,” he said.
The renegotiation centers on four key areas - economic governance, business regulation, national sovereignty and curbs on migration.
Benn said: “I believe in the end the British people will vote to remain in the European Union because we have always been pragmatic Europeans.”