As diplomatic attempts to de-escalate tensions at the Ukraine border continue, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has said the PM is ‘bringing the world together about how to deal’ with Russia’s threats.  

Speaking to Sky News’ “Trevor Phillips on Sunday” show, the NI secretary discussed the possibility of a Russian incursion in Ukraine. He said that the West has “to be realistic” with Russia having 130,000 troops on the border. Mr Lewis added that “an imminent incursion by Russia is entirely possible”, echoing the messages from leaders across NATO.

In a virtual meeting with transatlantic leaders held on Friday, PM Johnson told allies that he feared for the security of Europe. The prime minister’s office said: “He impressed the need for Nato allies to make absolutely clear that there will be a heavy package of economic sanctions ready to go, should Russia make the devastating and destructive decision to invade Ukraine”.

During a trip last week to Belgium and Poland, the PM looked to sure up NATO’s resolve in response to Russia massing troops near Ukraine’s border. On the trip, Mr Johnson met Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and also visited British troops serving as part of NATO’s presence on its eastern flank. Speaking at the time, Johnson said the forces would help “defend NATO from north to south”.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that there will be no British troops in Ukraine in the case of an invasion. British personnel have been in Ukraine on a training mission codenamed Operation Orbital over the past decade, whereas others have been deployed there recently to train the Ukrainian military on anti-tank missiles. Advice was also updated advice on Friday evening to say UK nationals should “leave now while commercial means are still available”.

Commenting on Johnson’s leadership during the Russia-Ukraine crisis, Mr Lewis told Sky News, “We are talking about a prime minister who as foreign secretary worked to bring the world together when we had the Skripal situation” — referring to the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer and British double agent, Sergei Skripal, in March 2018. Mr Lewis continued: ‘We have a prime minister who is now bringing the world together in terms of how we deal with Russia and Ukraine’.

On the domestic front, Mr Lewis stated: “[The PM is] working in this country to deal with this Covid after problem that we’ve got and the crisis we’re seeing in the health service, dealing with the backlog. … That’s what makes our country better. … He works day and night to ensure we live in country that becomes better for the people that live here”.

Mr Lewis’ comments come amid the fallout from “partygate”. On Friday evening, the PM was sent a questionnaire by Scotland Yard over alleged parties in Downing Street as part of the Met’s ongoing investigation, code-named ‘Operation Hillman’. No 10 confirmed late on Friday night that the prime minister received the document and vowed he would respond to it “as required”.

Despite this, the NI secretary maintained that the PM is “absolutely focused on the job at hand”. Asked how much longer this will go on, Mr Lewis continued: “The investigation is a matter for the police, I’m not going to put time frames on them, they’ve got to be able to do their job independently, autonomously and see that through”. 

“I have to say in the dealings I’ve had with the prime minister he’s absolutely focused on the job in hand, about what he’s doing for the British people”.

Amid mounting concern that the PM’s days are numbered, Mr Lewis said Mr Johnson will “fight” and win the next election. He added: “He has my absolute 100%-plus loyalty. I think this a Prime Minister is doing things for our country, he’s got the big decisions right. I think he will fight and he will win as a result of the next general election”.