12 former generals and admirals have come together to persuade serving and retired military personnel to support Brexit from a European Union (EU) which has become “intrusive”, “out of control” and “not fit for purpose”.
Of those former senior officers who have pinned their colours to the Brexit mast, and perhaps the most embarrassing for the Remain campaign is that of General Sir Michael Rose, the military leader who commanded UN troops in Bosnia from 1994 to 1995 and was in charge of the SAS siege of the Iranian embassy in 1980.
In February this year Downing Street mistakenly claimed Sir Michael supported continued membership of the EU, adding his name to an anti-Brexit letter without his permission. Not only was it not meant to be there, the content of the letter promoted a view of Europe completely at odds with that held by the general.
Sir Michael explained his support for Brexit to the Daily Mail, stating:
“Sovereignty and defence are indivisible. European law, in my view, has already seriously undermined UK’s combat effectiveness as a result of the intrusion of European law into national law. And today, our servicemen and women are in danger of becoming no more than civilians in uniform.'”
In his view membership of the EU directly weakens the military. Referring to health and safety laws, working hours directives, age constraints on soldiers bearing arms and the abandonment of certain court martial procedures, Sir Michael added:
“There’s a whole raft of bits of legislation that have come from Europe that have impacted adversely on our combat effectiveness.”
In common with others supporting ‘Veterans for Britain’, Sir Michael rejects the idea put about by Prime Minister David Cameron that the EU is responsible for securing peace and security in Europe, a view the former general regards as an “insult” to Britain’s EU partners.
The Prime Minister’s suggestion was rejected even more strongly by Rear Admiral Richard Heaslip, former Flag Officer Submarines who said:
“The claim that the existence of the EU has saved us from war for 70 years is a myth. It is NATO that has kept the peace.”
Another Falklands veteran, Major General Nick Vaux, spoke of the “daunting” prospect of “inexorable political integration”, but the biggest issue for him is committing to a European army which he says “would be utterly reckless and the surrender of our national security.”
Falklands naval commander, Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Nott, aimed his fire at the EU itself. He regards it as an “unelected out-of-control organisation that is autocratic and does not listen.” Major General Malcolm Hunt derided the politico-trading bloc’s foreign policy and defence credentials, saying the “present mass immigration cataclysm shows that the EU is not fit for purpose.”
Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley, deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, warned that “the ultimate ambition of the EU is undoubtedly EU armed forces” and asked:
“Who would control the EU armed forces? The EU commission? Can we call them to account? Can we seriously believe that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines should be sent into danger by a body over which we have no control, and which answers to none of us?”
Writing in The Telegraph, Major General Tim Cross, a commander of British Operations in Northern Ireland, the Balkans and Iraq, decried Britain’s pro-EU political establishment, stating:
“If our current leaders had debated whether to confront Nazism and Communism or bow to what elites then argued was the inevitability of defeat, it is clear to me that many would have compromised, even submitted.”
Speaking to journalists at the launch of Veterans for Britain, General Cross said that when people tell him to do something by creating a climate of fear, including voting to remain in the EU, he is inclined to tell them to “bugger off”.