Forget tighter border controls and strict enforcement of existing immigration rules. The UK should instead use foreign aid to end conflicts in Africa as a precursor to stemming the invasion of illegal immigrants now sailing dangerous waters for a new life in Europe.
So says the British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme on Sunday about the growing Mediterranean migrant crisis, Mr Fallon said preventing conflicts by targeted aid spending was better than asking the Royal Navy to “fish people out of the Mediterranean”:
“I think we can pool the intelligence we all have, get more information about the roots, and use overseas aid budget to help stabilise some of these countries and discourage mass migration from them. Well-focused aid should be used to help stabilise these countries, to prevent conflict, to discourage mass migration, so that we don’t have to fish people out of the Mediterranean later on.”
Mr Fallon repeatedly refused to commit explicitly to continue spending 2 per cent of national income on defence. His comments came after the Sunday Telegraph published an opinion piece by Mr Fallon where he outlined what he perceived as the current strengths of UK defence spending in an increasingly dangerous world.
The comments are his strongest indication yet that he wants aid spending to be melded into the defence budget, in a move that would help Britain to meet its 2 per cent Nato obligation. According to the Guardian, a government source suggested at the G7 summit earlier this month that David Cameron could divert some of the foreign aid budget towards the Mediterranean migrant crisis sooner rather than later.
The source said: “One of the things we are looking at is whether we could be doing more at the source of the problem. That doesn’t only mean border security; it could be economic development.”
Mr Cameron also indicated he thinks foreign aid is a major part of the answer as he spoke at a global security summit in Slovakia on Friday, saying he would push for Europe to help improve lives in north Africa and the Middle East.
For his part, Mr Fallon dismissed criticism that the UK was withdrawing from the international stage, citing figures due out this week as confirmation that the 2 per cent defence spending threshold is being met this year.
Asked for an assurance on whether spending would remain at that level, he told Andrew Marr: “I want us to fulfil our commitments… Our manifesto commitment was to spend more on equipment and I have described to you that we are modernising everything for the armed forces.
“It was also to replace our nuclear deterrent and it was also a commitment not to cut further the size of the regular army.”
Challenged that he and other ministers were “weaving and dodging” on the issue, Mr Fallon said: “The reason is very simple – we can’t set the budget on this programme. We will set the budget for the three years of the parliament in September and then you will have your answer. But we already have three very strong specific commitments in the manifesto.
“Look at the record. We are doing 2 per cent at the moment.”
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