UK “safer in EU”, ex-defence chiefs say
The UK is safer in the EU and better able to meet a range of global threats, including so-called Islamic State and Russia, ex-defence chiefs have said.
In a letter supporting the remain campaign, 13 of the UK”s most senior military figures said being in the EU enabled the UK to better work with European countries on security issues.
However, at least two defence ministers are backing the leave campaign.
A referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU will be held on 23 June.
The intervention comes after leaders of some of Britain”s biggest companies said leaving the EU would put the UK”s economy at risk.
“Grave security challenges”
The letter, released by Downing Street and signed by officers from all three services, including former Chiefs of Defence Staff Lord Bramall and Jock Stirrup, said while Nato was the most important alliance for UK security, the EU was an “increasingly important pillar of our security”.
It said Europe was facing “grave security challenges” from instability in the Middle East, the rise of so-called Islamic State and “resurgent Russian nationalism and aggression”.
The letter said: “Britain will have to confront these challenges whether it is inside or outside the EU. But within the EU, we are stronger.
“Inside it, we can continue to collaborate closely with our European allies, just as we did when we helped to force the Iranians to the negotiating table through EU-wide sanctions, or made sure that [Russian President] Putin would pay a price for his aggression in Ukraine.”
The letter said the UK”s “firm veto over EU foreign policy decisions” meant it would not be forced to join EU initiatives that were “against our strategic interest” and would also allow it to block the rest of the EU from going ahead in such circumstances.
“Britain”s role in the EU strengthens the security we enjoy as part of Nato, adds to our capability and flexibility when it comes to defence cooperation and allows us to project greater power on the international stage,” the former defence chiefs added.
The BBC”s defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said the letter made “very similar arguments” to those already put forward by Prime Minister David Cameron as to why Britain should remain in the European Union.
He said the claim UK would be safer in the EU would be “hotly disputed” and one not everyone in the military would necessarily agree with – defence ministers Penny Mordant and Julian Brazier back the leave campaign.
Signatories of the letter: