Military veterans are lining up to back Britain leaving the European Union (EU), rubbishing claims by Prime Minister David Cameron that leaving the EU would jeopardise Britain’s national security.
A former Army Commander in Afghanistan has said that, on the contrary, leaving the EU is what will keep the UK safe, as British security depends on NATO, not the EU.
Major General Julian Thompson, Major General Malcolm Hunt and Commodore Mike Clapp have served on the front line of British defence, leading historic charges to take back the Falkland Islands in 1982. But now they are looking at the biggest threat to British security not down the barrel of a gun, but at the ballot box.
In November Mr Cameron said: “Our membership of the EU does matter for our national security and for the security of our allies, which is one reason why our friends in the world strongly urge us to remain in the EU.”
But the veterans say it is membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) which has kept Britain safe these last few decades, not membership of the EU, and that Brussels’ plans for an EU army would only encourage our enemies to see us as a target.
Speaking to the Sun, Maj Gen Thompson – who was British land commander on the Falklands as leader of 3 Commando Brigade – accused the European member states of being “reluctant to get stuck in”.
He continued: “I find it quite extraordinary that they are trying to set up a separate defence organisation. It makes us less safe. It muddies the water.
“If we are not in it [the EU], we won’t be part of it.”
Maj Gen Malcolm Hunt, who lists on his CV command of 40 Commando in the Falklands, post-war garrison commander on the Islands, and a post at NATO echoed his colleague’s comments, saying: “There have been proposals from the EU that a European Army should be formed, together, presumably, with a defence policy.
“The defence of Europe is provided, as it has been since 1949, through the auspices of NATO.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has called for a full EU Army. #ProjectFact
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) February 29, 2016
And Commodore Mike Clapp, an officer veteran of the six-day battle of San Carlos Water against the Argentine air force, added: “The idea of yet another European military organisation is madness.
“It weakens deterrence so it is dangerous too.”
Theirs are not the only pro-Brexit military voices speaking out against Mr Cameron’s dire warnings. Rear Admiral Chris Parry, who previously commanded HMS Fearless, and spoke to Breitbart London in 2015 about the risks to Europe from Islamist terrorism reiterated that Britain owes her safety to NATO, not the EU. Speaking to the Express, Radm. Parry remarked it is “NATO (and NATO alone) [which] provides the collective guarantees that our island nation needs.”
Comparing the “well planned” defeat of Saddam Hussein’s forces by a NATO run campaign during the first Gulf War to the “feebly planned, strategically myopic” EU-inspired intervention in Libya in 2011, he added: “In the event of a Brexit it is inconceivable that European countries would not co-operate with the UK in dealing with security and other threats as they do today.
“They need us, just as we need them.”
And he slammed Mr Cameron for “dragooning” a number of military personnel into supporting his pro-EU campaign by signing them up to a letter penned by Downing Street. The letter was an own goal for the Prime Minister when it emerged that at least one of the signatories, General Sir Michael Rose, had never actually put his name to it, forcing Downing Street to issue a humiliating apology.
Sir Michael said: “Sovereignty and security are intrinsically linked and in recent years we’ve seen the EU erode our sovereignty.”
It was a point more forcefully made by Richard Kemp, the former Army Commander in Afghanistan in Sunday’s Express, where he wrote: “There is no benefit in staying in the EU and national security would be strengthened if we left.
“Most EU members’ lack of commitment to defence is shown by their spending. No other EU state equals the amount the UK commits in absolute terms, or as a percentage of GDP. Other than Britain and France, no major EU military power comes close to meeting the two per cent of GDP membership of NATO requires.”
He argued that an EU Army, in line with the Union more generally, would excel at furnishing itself with all the baubles and luxurious trappings of office, but would fail at the serious task of defence.
“Any EU army, an inevitable development of ever-closer union, would weaken our defences, drawing commitment away from NATO and costing vast sums of taxpayers’ cash,” he said.
“There would be shiny new headquarters, flags and generals, but an EU army could never become a serious deterrent or fighting force.”
And he dismissed suggestions that Britain’s hand against jihadi terrorism is strengthened within the EU, saying: “The most important weapon in the fight against terrorism is intelligence. But there can be no viable EU intelligence-sharing mechanism. All sharing of sensitive information is bilateral, between individual states. Our most important intelligence partner is not any EU state but the US.”
His conclusion? “By leaving the EU we will gain far greater control of our borders and better confront these challenges that have the potential to undermine the very fabric of our society.”