Falklands War hero Major-General Julian Thompson warns retaining aspects of Single Market membership after Brexit could destroy British shipbuilding.
As commanding officer of 3 Commando Brigade during the Falklands War, the retired Royal Marines officer led Britain’s land forces during the first phase of the islands’ liberation from Argentine invaders.
As chairman of the Veterans for Britain group, Maj Gen Thompson campaigned for a Leave vote during the Brexit referendum, arguing that “membership of the EU weakens our national defence in very dangerous time” – and he now wants assurances that Britain’s to-be-determined departure arrangments will mark a decisive break with the bloc’s “dangerous” plans for European military integration.
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“Without Brexit and a complete break from EU policy in defence and procurement, there might not be a next order of warships going to UK yards,” he warned.
Veterans for Britain claim that the bloc’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and aspects of Single Market regulation covering competition, procurement and tendering represent a direct threat to Britain’s ability ensure the viability of its strategic shipbuilding capacity and expertise in areas such as the Clyde.
The government, they argue, is “increasingly prevented from allocating Defence contracts to [British] manufacturers, and the key exemptions that existed in [this] area are being eliminated under changes to the EU Procurement Directive.”
Soon, they believe, governments subject to the regulations will be “obliged to take the cheapest tender from anywhere in the EU based on a fixed specification” – including the United Kingdom, should it remain entangled in the Single Market even after Brexit, as the Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and many key figures in the Labour Party desire.
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“We would urge all parties to consider at this early stage of the Brexit process the effect that planned EU policy has on UK interests in this area,” reiterated Maj Gen Thomspon.
“We should not remain associated with a joint EU strategy which would stop the UK making key democratic decisions about preserving essential skills, securing strategic sites, and safeguarding jobs.”