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Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:10 pm on 20th June 2018.

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Photo of Giles Watling Giles Watling Conservative, Clacton 6:10 pm, 20th June 2018

As many other Members have said, I regret that the Chancellor is absent today, because I would have liked him to hear some of this. Let me crack on. I am very grateful that we are having this debate today because I know that the organisation has done so much—arguably more than the EU ever has—to secure peace in Europe. NATO is a guarantor of peace in Europe. I agree with the position of Veterans for Britain, which argues that the EU is a consequence of, rather than a cause of, European peace.

I have grown up and, arguably, grown pretty old with the protection of NATO. I can well recall hearing those chilling siren practices that used to be held back in the 1950s in case of nuclear attack. I believe that NATO kept us secure then and continues to do so now. I am, therefore, a very keen supporter of NATO, and am delighted to see that it goes from strength to strength, which is exemplified by the upcoming summit in Brussels.

All of the advances that will happen in Brussels are a direct response to the growing threat from Russia, but we must be mindful that Russia is not necessarily the only threat that we face. Flexibility in this matter is important. We should celebrate our unity, because, as laid out in article 5, if one of us is threatened, all of us are threatened. That is the basis of NATO. Although we should be proud of our contribution in the past, we must now step up to the plate and be prepared to take a more significant role in NATO post Brexit. In order to do that, we must boost our defence expenditure towards the 3% of GDP target that the Defence Committee recommended this week.

I know that the Minister will seek to reassure me that the 2% commitment is a floor, not a ceiling, but we must pick our hard-working armed forces up off that floor and, in doing so, show them that we appreciate them and that we will address the financial challenges that they have been facing for far too long. This is as much a question of morale as it is of military and cyber hardware. My visit earlier this year to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose showed me that. The personnel there were a fantastic determined group of people who were operating from a base that an estate agent might describe as in need of TLC—and we all know what that means. That is what I found at Culdrose.

We must maintain our status as a credible military power, because we are currently in danger of stalling instead of accelerating. If we do not accelerate, the world will become a more dangerous place. The disarmament and appeasement of the 1930s showed us that. What is more, the additional resources are necessary to keep this country safe. I will bug out now with a minute to spare, Mr Speaker.