Westminster View

The co-ordinated international response to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury at Britain’s behest is a firm rebuke to Russian aggression.

It also shows that Brexit will do nothing to harm our security or the security of the EU. It remains an overarching continental issue, an issue Britain has power and influence in and an issue that will unite Europe and NATO countries in the common purpose that has kept the continent at peace for more than 70 years.

It is most welcome and unprecedented that action to expel Russian diplomats has been taken by so many countries. Putin will respond and probably has by the time you are reading this, but it is good Britain, the EU and the US have done it and it will give him pause for thought in his ambitions to destabilise and intimidate.

It shows Britain has many friends and much influence despite what some doomsayers might like to think, and it’s a huge diplomatic success for the Prime Minister who has taken a tough stand on what is an outrageous attack on British soil. From the start, Parliament has been united across all parties for the action taken by the Government with the exception of one isolated figure in the form of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. His early actions were very disappointing and unusual too. There has been a noble tradition of Labour leaders fully supporting a Conservative Prime Minister in times of trouble, from Clement Atlee standing fully behind Winston Churchill in 1940 to Michael Foot’s support of Margaret Thatcher's actions during the 1982 Falklands War. National interest must always trump party politics and the national interest here is about tackling a resurgent and aggressive Russia who thinks it can try and murder people in a Wiltshire cathedral city. Not a world war or an invasion, I grant, but still very serious. Mr Corbyn came late to the party, his early position I suspect influenced by his inner circle.

Moving forward, we must continue to exert pressure on Russia and counter its aggression diplomatically, technologically and economically. In particular, we have to continue to work closely with our European allies to show unequivocally that security co-operation is here to stay for the UK and Europe post-Brexit.

The Prime Minister has always been absolutely clear that security co-operation will continue after we leave the EU because of the common values we share with our European friends. The last few weeks show this is absolutely vital and, if any aggressor thinks the UK will not stand with the EU in defence of those shared common values, they are most certainly wrong.

Underpinning what has happened over the last few weeks is the NATO alliance – the organisation that has played the most prominent part in keeping peace in Europe since 1945. Support from the United States, through NATO, remains the most potent check to Russia. People have sometimes thought it a Cold War hangover without modern relevance. In these uncertain times, that’s incorrect.