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Nato

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:22 pm on 20th June 2018.

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Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon Conservative, Sevenoaks 5:22 pm, 20th June 2018

Like Stewart Malcolm McDonald, I am delighted we are having this debate and that it has attracted such strong attendance. NATO summits, unless we host them ourselves, do not always get the attention they should. I have attended three of them. They are always important, but they are each of them important in their own way. Rather than reminisce, however, I would like to focus on what I think will be important next month.

First, this will be the first opportunity for Britain to set out its view of our security post Brexit. We are leaving our partnership with the European Union, which involves far closer military co-operation inside the European Union than many people realise. For example, the European Union headquarters at Northwood has been mentioned. We need to be clearer about our ambition and the continuing role we want to play, both on the European continent and beyond. The security partnership document recently published by my right hon. Friends is a very good start, but I hope the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will use the summit as an opportunity to set out their view of our security after we leave the European Union. I hope they might be able to find a way of doing that in harmony.

Secondly, it is worth reminding ourselves that although the Russian threat is very real and has grown, certainly since the 2010 review and even since the 2015 review, we need to continue to take a 360 degree view of NATO. It is worth reminding ourselves that the only time article 5 has been invoked was to help the United States after 9/11. The last time that NATO troops were sent into live military operations in Europe was to help save Muslims in Bosnia. So it is not just the pressure on the eastern frontier. We need to keep looking at NATO security in the round: pressures on the Black sea, on the eastern Mediterranean and from the south. We need to understand that the survival of those very fragile democracies in the Balkans and in the middle east—even in Afghanistan—is just as important for our security here in the west, because if, in the end, they do collapse, we are vulnerable to the spread of transnational terror groups and the threat of mass migration on a scale that we have not yet seen.

Thirdly, on NATO membership, of course we welcomed the accession of Montenegro last year. It is very important that NATO continues to demonstrate that it is open and that there can be no veto on future applications. It is particularly important to the continuing stability of the western Balkans that we show that, provided they meet the proper criteria, there is a route through for those war-torn countries into the alliance.

Fourthly, on resources, there is nothing new about the American President’s insistence that European countries pay more—that has been said by every American President throughout my political career, and we should, of course, listen. However, at the Wales summit, four years ago now, we did all commit to the 2%. It is bad enough that only four countries meet the 2%, but what I still find really shocking is that 16 countries—over half the alliance—do not even pay 1.5%, including three of the biggest countries in Europe: Germany, Spain and Italy.

Fifthly, I endorse what my right hon. Friend Sir Nicholas Soames said about the need to continue to reform NATO—to drive forward the plans to modernise the decision-making structures, to enable the troops, planes and ships to be deployed faster across the continent of Europe, and to make sure that the political decision-making machinery is as equally adept and ready to be triggered.