It’s been a busy couple of weeks in defence. I’ve been looking closely at the Government’s announcements, as well as setting out more of the thinking behind our defence policy.
Last week the Government published a Green Paper ahead of a strategic defence review, just weeks before a general election. Although we agree with most of the Green Paper we cannot accept the assumption in it that Britain will always operate as part of an alliance. While the default position for the UK is, and will be, to operate as a partner within one alliance or another, we do have unique national interests and we cannot always, nor should we always, expect that we can depend on our partners when Britain’s direct national interests are threatened.
On Monday I delivered a speech to RUSI which highlighted some of my current thinking on the Strategic Defence and Security Review the Conservatives will carry out if we form the next Government. It will have to be a step change and full overhaul of the status quo-not a minor tinkering to the system. It will be carried out ruthlessly and without sentiment. Tough decisions will be made and there will be winners and losers at the end of the process but Britain will be safe and our interests secure.
We looked closely at the NAO’s report on Wednesday saying that our defence medical services are just about coping with the level of casualties we’re seeing in Afghanistan. It also confirmed what I’ve been saying about the need to do more for the mental health of our veterans, particularly Reservists. The Commons Defence Select Committee released a report on the same day which concludes that our ability to respond to the unexpected is threatened by the overstretch in the forces at the moment. We also welcomed the Government’s announcements this week of increased compensation and Army Recovery Centres for wounded personnel – but why has it taken them so long to do this?
And then on Thursday I set out what we believe the military relationship should be between the UK, the EU and Nato. Nato will continue to be the cornerstone of our defence under a future Conservative Government. The EU has a role to play where Nato cannot, or chooses not to, act. We will also focus more on building strong bilateral relationships with European allies like France, Norway and Turkey.
We are at a tipping point in Britain. We need to decide if we want to stay in the First Division or slide into the Second Division. I choose the former.