If the UK leaves the European Union (EU), how will we be less safe than we are now? Like many people in the UK I am trying to establish the substance behind the security statements that are coming out of the Remain campaign.
I was born in 1949 and for the whole of my life I have lived under the protective umbrella of NATO. Recent articles by various authors have laid out how effective that organisation has been since its inception and conversely what a damp squid the EU has been as a defence organisation.
When it comes to alliances, some countries within the EU are not our natural bed fellows. Spain for instance continues to make claims on Gibraltar (a UK sovereign territory) and occasionally makes life difficult for its citizens. Their hypocrisy can be seen when you look across the straits at the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco. During the Falklands war, 11 years after we became EU partners, Spanish sympathies were with Argentina, not the UK. On the other hand, when Spain had a disagreement with Canada over fishing rights and pushed for EU trade sanctions against that country, the UK government blocked the move. During the Falklands war, France supplied the UK with technical details of the Exocet missiles supplied to Argentina but her technicians continued to assist that country with their installation onto the Super Etentard aircraft, which subsequently sank two vessels, Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor, the loss of which arguably lengthened the war. France has also had a love/hate/love affair with NATO and one wonders at their real commitment to that organisation. Despite the growing threat from the East, the Germans continue to languish in a pacifist stupor; comfortable in the belief that others, the US, UK and France, will protect them. The US on the other hand, supplies 70% of NATO's capability and has continued to support us in many ways. During the Falklands war for instance, while trying very hard to broker a settlement, they supplied us with all sorts of equipment, intelligence and communication facilities, and even offered the use of an aircraft carrier should we have lost one of ours.
I understand that should we leave the EU, Spain's claim on Gibraltar might gain the full support of the block in influencing a United Nations decision in their favour. In the same vein, the Latin countries might also encourage the rest of the EU to back Argentina's claim on the Falklands. There has been a suggestion that the Northern Ireland peace agreement might unravel and unleash more terrorism onto our streets. It has also been said by many that should the UK leave the EU then Scotland might depart the Union. If all of that were not bad enough, the intelligence stream between us and Europe might dry up, the European arrest warrant would cease to apply and mayhem would be the result.
When looking at the negative possibilities, one as to ask how serious they actually would be and also what security benefits we might gain by being able to control more fully, our own affairs:
Spain has blockaded Gibraltar many times before and the Rock has survived. Morocco supplied workers when the Spanish were stopped from crossing the border and I suspect they will do so again. With their already large unemployment problem, Spain would score a home goal. Will Gibraltar's difficulties and economic loss actually impinge on UK mainland security? I think not.
The Falklands will require UK military protection whatever is decided in the United Nations; an organisation based upon the belief that people have the right of self determination and at the moment the Falklanders wish to remain British.
In who's interest is it to dismantle the Northern Ireland peace accord? The demographics of Ulster are changing in favour of the Catholic community and before too long, Eire might gain the province by democratic referendum, whether or not they really want it!
In the recent Scottish referendum, if one in ten had voted the other way, Scotland would now be an independent country and struggling to remain solvent. The result of that referendum indicated the very 'luke warm' affection and in some cases outright dislike many Scots have for the Union. If a ' half hearted lover is not of much use', what weight should others in the UK put on the retention of Scotland as a part of the UK? If the UK does leave the EU, then the Scots have the choice of remaining in a fully independent union, where they will have a real voice or leaving and trying to rejoin what will have become 'Greater Germania' (for as long as that country is prepared to finance most of the others) and she will have about 1% of the voting power!
Who would gain by the loss of the intelligence links that exist between the European nations? Answer - none except the criminals and terrorists - therefore I believe they will continue.
The European arrest warrant has been claimed as a beneficial arrangement that might be lost! If that is the case and a continuing arrangement cannot be made, as we have with the US and other countries, what actually will be lost? As an independent nation we will be able to expel or deny access to any foreign national whom we deem to be a threat or nuisance and as for extraditing back to the UK our own criminals who have absconded to Europe, do we really want those villains back here - Really? Although the thought of bringing them to justice satisfies the soul, what justice would we actually be bringing them home for? Our judiciary and penal systems are optimised for correction, not punishment (the sword of retribution that Lady Justice holds on the roof of the Old Bailey appears to be much blunted these days) and they do not have a very good record of success. Once the criminal has served his or her, sometimes minimal sentence, they would then be free to again roam our streets. Except for the most serious of criminals, would it not be better to leave them in self imposed exile, where they will be a foreign national and vulnerable to all of the limitations which that might hold?
I do not understand the claim that we will have less control over immigration if we leave the EU and that this might result in more terrorism on our streets.
Of all the negatives that have been suggested, the most serious that I can think of is that Britain would be unable to veto the formation of a European Union Army, which surely would lead to an EU Navy and Air Force. These would compete with NATO and may lead to a distancing of the US from our combined defence. However, even if we remain in the EU, I doubt that we would actually be able to veto the formation of those forces, if the bulk of the other nations wished it.
What of the security benefits of leaving?
We can re-write the Human Rights legislation so that we can evict undesirable aliens without having to spend millions of pounds in order to get approval from the European Court of Justice. We can also insist that the soldier in combat, on the battle field, does not have automatic recourse to the Human Rights act (surely a contradiction in terms), as some insist that he or she should.
We can more effectively distance ourselves from the massive flow of refugees from the Middle East and control the type that we do allow into the UK
We can refuse entry to any alien who has a criminal record.
We can give Government support to Industries that might have a security element in their operation and will be able to allow, among other things, our warship building yards (which are government funded) the ability to pursue (possibly subsidised) commercial contracts to tide them over when military new builds or refurbishments are thin on the ground. Thus we will be able to support our base industries without having to comply with European regulation that at times prohibits it.
We can concentrate our forces within NATO, the real safeguard of our security and be sure that we will not get drawn into a European force that will require a political union to become effective.
If the claim that the UK will be more prosperous within the EU and that wealth equates to fighting power, then yes, we might be more secure within the Union but the relative merits of the business case for remain or leave make for a very muddied argument, with many unknowns and it is up to the individual to decide which side he believes.
Personally, I do not believe that we will be less secure by being outside of the EU. Yes the security parameters will change but I believe that the gains will at least equal and will probably exceed the losses.
Given the inordinate level of passion, enthusiasm and comment that the EU referendum has attracted, the absence of blogs in the "EU Referendum" section of the UKNDA site is surprising. So, here's a start.
My concern about SDSR15 is that it was too early and should have been conducted after the EU referendum. My reasoning is that, whatever its result, the future foreign policies for the UK, and hence defence needs, will or should change immeasurably.
If, on the one hand, the nation decides on "REMAIN", then it is likely that we will have to accept, if not embrace, the concept of "ever close union" and the eventual creation of a sort of United States of Europe (USE). At some point along this road, the US would be unlikely to provide the UK with the intelligence and other military support that we have enjoyed uniquely for 70 years. We, along with EU allies, would need to invest in our own capabilities and work towards a USE military. That would surely require a very different SDSR than if the EU vote went the other way.
Should the EU referendum result in an "LEAVE" vote, the foundation for an SDSR might not change much from now in the short term, although there could be sentiment to reduce our closeness to the US and adopt independent foreign and defence policies. After all, there's not much point in disengaging from one union only to engage more fully with another. Again, this would mean having to develop more indigenous capabilities in terms of equipment and, particularly, intelligence.
To my mind, the thing most lacking, whatever the EU referendum result, is what President George H W Bush called "the vision thing". If we stay in the EU, what will/should the UK look like in, say 30 years time - a Texas analogue in a USE or much the same as now? If we vote to leave the EU, will we eventually become the 51st State or a successful and prosperous non-aligned nation? Of course, no-one can say with any certainty what the future really will look like but, unless we have some sort of vision to aim for, a future SDSR is likely to be more tactical than strategic.