Visit by Britain’s Brexit minister to Prague overshadowed by unfolding nerve gas row

David Davis, Martin Stropnický, photo: CTK

British Brexit Minister David Davis held talks with top officials in Prague on Monday to discuss the future of Czech-British relations post-Brexit. The meetings, which took place ahead of an EU summit in Brussels next week, were inevitably overshadowed by the diplomatic row between London and Moscow on the use of what is believed to be a Russian-made deadly nerve gas in Britain.

David Davis,  Martin Stropnický,  photo: CTK
Brexit Secretary David Davis arrived in Prague on Wednesday to discuss the road map for Brexit which is to be one of the main issues on the agenda of an EU summit next week and the impact of Britain’s departure from the EU on Czech-British relations. The main priorities for the Czech Republic are securing the broadest possible rights for Czech citizens living in Great Britain and furthering business ties with Great Britain, which is the Czech Republic’s fourth biggest trade partner.

“Britain has been a crucial partner of the Czech Republic in the EU and although I regret Britain’s decision to leave the alliance, I am confident that our close partnership will continue” outgoing prime minister Andrej Babis tweeted after the talks.

Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnický said the Czech Republic wanted to maintain close cooperation with the UK in the areas of foreign and security policy, business and trade and expressed confidence that the EU summit in Brussels next week would succeed in approving a framework for future EU-UK relations.

Inevitably, the talks touched on the unfolding row between Britain and Russia over the nerve gas attack in Britain on a former Russian double agent. Mr. Stropnický expressed the Czech Republic’s solidarity with the UK in this matter saying that the expulsion of Russian diplomats was a predictable and understandable reaction. The minister’s position on the incident appeared on Twitter.

“The nerve gas attack in Britain is shocking and unprecedented and it must be denounced in the most severe terms. The Czech Republic has expressed full solidarity with GB in this matter and I expect that a common resolution in this respect will be passed at the EU summit in Brussels next week.”

Czech politicians across the political spectrum echoed this sentiment, underlining the gravity of the situation.

Military forces work on a van in Winterslow,  England,  March 12,  2018,  as investigations continue into the nerve-agent poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia,  in Salisbury,  England,  on March 4,  2018,  photo: CTK
Strong words of support also came from the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance. The Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to NATO General Jiří Šedivý said all NATO member states, including the Czech Republic, must consider the impact of this incident on their security.

“This incident and its implications for security will be reviewed and analyzed by our Centre for Protection Against Weapons of Mass Destruction in Vyškov which may want to step up or revise existing security measures.”

Jiří Šedivý who is a former Czech defense minister, said the incident gave reason for grave concern, since whoever committed the act would have had to be clearly instructed regarding the precautions that they would need to take to protect themselves.

“With this in mind, I would practically rule out the possibility of such a sophisticated weapon being used by someone who is not an agent of the state” Mr. Šedivý said.