Right-wing Tories holding back co-operation on national security

The plaque outside the South Door of the Ministry of Defence Main Building in Whitehall, London.
The plaque outside the South Door of the Ministry of Defence Main Building in Whitehall, London.
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Conservative Eurosceptics are blocking necessary co-operation between European allies on defence and security, a senior Liberal Democrat said today.

Lord William Wallace said the surge of migrants across the Mediterranean demonstrates the need for collective plans, highlighting the possibility of shared maritime surveillance.

He said there was no imaginable threat to the UK as an independent nation, insisting it made no sense for defence decisions to be made on the basis of political posturing - highlighting the purchase of two new aircraft carriers which had to be changed several times before interoperability with the French Navy was designed in.

Lord Wallace warned against “drift” into a like for like renewal of Trident on a similar basis, insisting because there was no threat unique to Britain the “minimum” nuclear deterrent should be thought of as a contribution to collective security.

The peer, who served as a coalition minister in the Lords, claimed there was “ignorance” at senior levels among Tory ministers about the work British Armed Forces already do with European allies.

Lord Wallace made his remarks at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a defence think tank which has already welcomed Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and his Labour shadow Vernon Coaker for election events.

He said: “Part of the problem is we are not fully engaging in the debate. The symbolism of being absent from the negotiations on Ukraine is I think very strong.

“Part of the problem with my Conservative colleagues in government over the last five years is that there is a tendency not to engage in debates with other European partners and certainly not within the context of the EU - and then to say we don’t like what they are coming up with.

“We ought to be fully engaged with that. I and others have tried very hard to say to our Conservative colleagues we renewed the Franco-British defence agreement in 2010, when are we going to make some celebration of it within Britain? To which the answer has always been ‘not yet’.”