The European Union offered Britain“solidarity” on Monday after London accused Russia of a nerve agent attack on British soil, but held off any threat of new sanctions as Prime Minister Theresa May considers her own response.
Coming a year before Britain quits the EU, and after four years of fractious internal debates in Brussels on existing penalties against Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, the case poses a test for pledges of post-Brexit security cooperation.
Asked whether the EU might be ready to impose sanctions on Russia if, as May alleged on Monday, it agreed that it was“highly likely” that Moscow was behind the attack on a former Russian double agent, a senior member of the executive European Commission told reporters that London could count on Brussels.
“We are very much concerned with the situation, also the findings the UK has so far,” Valdis Dombrovskis, the Commission vice president overseeing the euro, said.“Of course the UK can count on EU solidarity in this regard.”
A former prime minister of ex-Soviet Latvia, Dombrovskis did not elaborate.
Two senior EU diplomats told Reuters that Brussels would wait until Britain itself has taken a view on how to respond before making any policy moves of its own. EU foreign ministers are due to debate Russia policy on Monday.
“Provided the UK government is able to provide more specific information then we can decide what steps to take,” one said.
The EU’s foreign affairs service has yet to respond to requests for comment, although an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that there should be a joint Western response if Russia fails to cooperate with the British inquiry.
France’s member of the EU executive, Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, was cautious in his response when asked about the possibility of new sanctions:“Of course we pay a lot of attention to that,” he said of the British inquiry