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Donald Tusk says UK comparing the EU to the Soviet Union was 'insulting'

“In respecting our partners we expect the same in return,” Tusk said, echoing comments made by Theresa May yesterday.

Tusk Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and EC President Donald Tusk at a press conference in Brussels. Source: European Union

EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT Donald Tusk has hit back at the UK government for comparing the EU to the Soviet Union.

During a Tory party conference speech, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who replaced Boris Johnson during the summer, compared European Union citizens to Soviet prisoners.

Speaking at a press briefing following Brexit talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tusk said:

“In respecting our partners we expect the same in return,” he said, echoing calls from Theresa May from her 10 Downing St speech: “I have treated the EU with nothing but respect – the UK expects the same” in return.

“Comparing the EU to the Soviet Union is as unwise as insulting,” Tusk said.

The Soviet Union was about prisons and gulags, violence against citizens and neighbours. The European Union is about freedom and human rights, prosperity and peace life without fear, it is about democracy and pluralism. A continent without internal borders and walls. 

“As the President of the European Council and someone who spent half of my life in the Soviet bloc I know what I’m talking about.”

Tusk said that the deal on offer to the UK was a “Canada plus plus plus” deal, and was a true measure of respect that the EU had for the UK.

Brexit

Tusk also reaffirmed the EU’s support for avoiding a hard border.

“Today, after my long discussion with my guest, the Taoiseach, I want to say that the EU is united behind Ireland and the need to preserve the Northern Ireland peace process.

Despite the UK government’s rejection of the original EU backstop proposal, we will not give up seeking a workable solution that fully respects the Good Friday Agreement as well as the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union.

He also called for calm after the conclusion of the Tory party conference and the Salzburg summit.

Unacceptable remarks that raise the temperature will achieve nothing except wasting more time. What needs to be done is maximum progress by the October European Council.

“I was party leader myself, for fifteen years, and I know what the rules of party politics are. But now, once the Tory party conference is over, we should get down to business.”

Speaking directly after Tusk, Varadkar said that Ireland’s positions are the same as they have been from the very start.

“…Protecting the Common Travel Area, making sure there’s no hard border, protecting the rights of citizens in Northern Ireland, and ensuring that we have a trading relationship with the UK after Brexit.”

I’m very keen to see an agreement concluded by November, it’s in the interest of all.

What Jeremy Hunt said

At the Tory Party Conference this week, Hunt told the conference hall:

What happened to the confidence and ideals of the European dream?
The EU was set up to protect freedom. It was the Soviet Union that stopped people leaving.
The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out won’t diminish, it will grow – and we won’t be the only prisoner that will want to escape.

He later backtracked slightly on what he said, during an interview with CNBC.

“Any sensible reading of the speech would see that this was a passionate request and desire for friendship with our European neighbors going forward.

“But what I was saying is if the attitude of the EU is that someone that wants to leave the club has to be punished, then that’s not consistent with European ideals,” he said.

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