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Former MP's concern over European defence plan

By Mark Andrews | South Shropshire | Politics | Published:

A former Shropshire MP says Britain could be about to hand control of Britain's military supplies to the European Union.

Former Ludlow MP Christopher Gill

Christopher Gill, the former MP for Ludlow, said he was disturbed by reports that the Government could be about to sign up to the European Defence Union, despite last year's Brexit vote.

The veteran eurosceptic, whose time as a backbench Conservative MP was marked by frequent clashes with then prime-minister John Major, said he was extremely concerned by reports that Britain could be about to strike new defence agreements with the EU.

Mr Gill echoed concerns voiced by Major General Julian Thompson, who commanded 3 Commando Brigade during the Falklands War, about Britain's plans to sign up to the European Defence Union.

"Given that this flies in the face of the recent popular vote to leave the EU and all its institutions, this development is more than a little alarming," said Mr Gill.

"My understanding is that we will have ceded, not least, control over military procurement and frankly, whoever controls our arsenal, effectively controls our armed forces."

Mr Gill said this would leave Britain's defence policy dependent upon the agreement and cooperation of an organisation in which the country no longer had a political voice.

He also pointed out that during the Falklands War, Belgium refused to sell ammunition to the UK.

Mr Gill said he understood that decisions regarding the European Defence Union were due to be made this month, and sought reassurance the Government would not enter any further binding defence agreements ahead of Brexit.

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Last week the Berlin Morning Post newspaper reported that the EU was drawing up a list of 47 possible new military projects as part of its Permanent Structured Cooperation on Defence (Pesco) scheme.

The newspaper said the EU was considering buying military grade drones capable of carrying missiles, which would be overseen by European officials in Brussels.

The newspaper said: “A transferable hospital, a logistics hub, common officer training, these are just three of 47 project proposals." It said the a decision on which projects to pursue to begin with could be made as early as next month.

It comes just weeks after president of the European Council Donald Tusk confirmed he is pushing to set up an EU army by the end of the year to protect the bloc’s borders and fight back against “destabilisation around Europe”.

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Mr Tusk said Pesco would protect the EU from the effects of the migrant crisis, hostile bordering states and forces which risk tearing the bloc apart.

Mr Tusk said: “We are a territorial community, which means that we have a common territory and common external borders. Our duty is to protect them.

“The migration crisis has made us aware, with full force, of the need to rebuild effective control of our external borders, while the aggressive behaviour of certain third countries, and the destabilisation around Europe, has made us aware of the need to defend our territory."

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said no final decisions had been made regarding the EU's participation in Pesco.

She said: “We welcome the progress towards the launch of Pesco, and are engaging with its development where appropriate.

“This will be a useful tool to support European security, provided it remains complementary to Nato and encourages Nato-EU cooperation.”

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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