Suffolk has always been on the frontline of Britain’s defence. Two centuries ago people watched on the cliff tops to guard against invasion by Napoleonic France. This year we marked the centenary of Lowestoft being bombarded by the German high seas fleet during the First World War. During the Second World War the North Sea was kept clear of mines by crews based here at enormous cost and we had dozens of airfields from which crews took off at a moment’s notice to guard our frontline in both WW2 and the Cold War.
In the years since the end of WW2 Britain has had its own armed forces and contributed some of them to NATO – which has kept peace in Europe since 1949. However, the EU has for some years been moving towards the creation of a single EU army/navy/air force – that could mean that defending our own coast would have to take its place competing with other EU priorities. For example, if Britain had been part of an EU army/navy/air force in 1982 it is unlikely we would have been able to retake the Falkland Islands when Argentina invaded – as Spain supported Argentina.
That is why it is important for Waveney and East Anglia that this weekend the former Chief of defence staff Field Marshall Lord Guthrie says he has now changed his mind and now backs leaving the EU. Lord Guthrie says he now regrets allowing his arm to be twisted into signing a letter backing the EU a few months ago. He says he changed his mind moves to create a European army would be a ‘disaster’. He explained why he thinks we should leave the EU:
“I think a European army could damage Nato. It is expensive. It’s unnecessary duplication to have it. It would appeal to some Euro vanity thing,”
“There’s a feeling that those backing the European army are doing it for political reasons rather than military ones. They want to be able to boast, ‘Look! We’ve got a European army’. That is dangerous.”
Lord Guthrie said foreign policy “needs to be backed up by defence”, and added: “It would be a signal disaster to have a European army as rivals to Nato.”
“I am concerned that the Army which I was in for 45 years could become very damaged and therefore less useful to our country.”