Veteran campaigner to join protest at US signals base

VETERAN human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called on the Government to “reclaim the UK’s sovereignty” and bring to an end America’s intelligence gathering operation on British soil.

Mr Tatchell will be among the protesters at the US signals intelligence station at Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, on Monday next week to mark America’s Independence Day.

The annual July 4 demonstration was first staged 30 years ago by the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB), which includes the veteran peace campaigner Lindis Percy, from Harrogate, among its ranks.

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Mr Tatchell said: “It is time the UK reclaimed its sovereignty and stopped kowtowing to the US. Britain hosts US military bases over which we have little control.

“Too often our government has supported unjust and illegal US wars. July 4 is US Independence Day. Let’s also make it a day when we demand independence from the US.

“Instead of following Washington, Britain should chart its own independent course, by promoting international peace, disarmament, co-operation and development.

“The British people need welfare, not warfare.”

Both Menwith Hill and the ballistic missile early warning station at Fylingdales, which is on the North York Moors between Whitby and Pickering, have key roles in the missile defence system which protects the US from attack.

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The Menwith Hill base was built on 545 acres of land acquired by the British War Office in 1954.

It was then leased to the United States, which established a state-of-the-art monitoring facility on the site to keep a close check on the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The base remains operational today and is understood to have played a key role in gathering intelligence for operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

John Sloboda, the co-founder of Iraq Body Count which monitors civilian deaths in the country after the US-led invasion in 2003, and journalist Yvonne Ridley, who was captured by the Taliban and has converted to Islam, are also due to attend next week’s protest.

The Ministry of Defence has stressed the demonstration will be permitted providing “it is done in a lawful way”.