There is currently much discussion about the forthcoming referendum, in June of this year, on British membership of the European Union (EU).
This is a long-standing issue, and one which most people on both sides of the debate agree must be resolved.
Whilst Euroscepticism in the UK began with the working-class Labour movement, it came to be more associated with the Conservative party, as epitomised by the leadership of Margaret Thatcher. Subsequently, in the British and in the wider European context, Euroscepticism has been hijacked by the far-right. It is a matter of record that many far-right and Eurosceptic parties are now being funded by Moscow. The French Front National have reportedly received tens of millions of euros of Moscow money.
Many observers, will therefore, understandably, see this debate in the context of Kremlin support for extremist far-right EU political parties, many who are riding their long standing neo-Nazi and facist ideologies on the back of what was once regarded as respectable eurosceptic sentiment.
And so it was interesting to see, this week, a debate, on Press TV, between former political advisor to the European Parliament Gary Cartwright, a long established eurosceptic, and Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group.
The Bruges group has, traditionally, been seen as a leading actor in the debate, helping to define academic and ideolgical positions of the Eurosceptic movement.
Whilst both interlocuters generally agreed on the need for a referendum on the issue, it was in one particular policy area - security - that there was to be a clash.
Cartwright, a co-author of the 2010 petition calling for a referendum on Britain's continued membership of the EU, stated that the current geo-political situation is not conducive to an action that could break European unity. Specifically, he pointed to the threat to posed to European, and indeed global peace, by the actions of Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Addressing the question of understandable concerns in the east about EU expansion, Cartwright stated that such concerns and, indeed, objections were no justification for Russia to launch it's troops into the sovereign territories of Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014).
Oulds, whilst suggesting that the EU should have accepted a trade agreement with Russia in 2011, appears to blame the currently existing agreement between between the EU and Ukraine, for Russia's actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Apparently, according to Oulds, Russia can choose it's trading partners, but Ukraine can not.
Robert Oulds further stated, somewhat surprisingly for one who claims to be a historian, that it is the EU that is responsible for the current divisions in Ukraine. According to Oulds, the EU is responsible for a war that has left "a million people homeless, fleeing to take safe refuge in Russia".
In response to Cartwright's point that Putin's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 was the first such act in Europe since Adolf Hitler invaded his neighbours, Oulds launched into a rant, claiming that the Crimean people "want to be Russian".
Gary Cartwright suggested that Oulds may wish to ask the Crimean Tatars for their opinion on this....
Towards the end of the debate, Oulds became somewhat agitated, and appeared to blame Georgians for the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944.
After the debate, Gary Cartwright told us "The last time I heard such nonsense, it came directly from the Kremlin press service. Of course, Moscow is manipulating, and more importantly, funding the European far-right and Eurosceptic movements. I speak as one who was involved in the Eurosceptic debate for many years, from the beginning, indeed, but I hope that history will not associate me with Putin's useful and paid idiots. I would, as a committed democrat and as a patriot, be ashamed to be associated with such people."
For the original debate, click here.