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Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:39 pm on 20th June 2018.

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Photo of Ross Thomson Ross Thomson Conservative, Aberdeen South 6:39 pm, 20th June 2018

NATO was born during the cold war when signatories to the treaty were united by their fear of Soviet aggression, which had been exacerbated by the Berlin blockade. They sought to deter that aggression by working in partnership with America, which protected them through the possession of an atomic bomb. Under article 5, an attack against one was an attack against all, which is why collective defence is situated at the very heart of NATO’s founding treaty. NATO, however, is more than just a military organisation. It is also a political organisation that seeks to promote democratic values. It is a vehicle for promoting democracy, individual rights, freedom and the rule of law.

In 2006, NATO members agreed to commit a minimum of 2% of their GDP to spending on defence, to demonstrate political will towards collective defence and to ensure that each member’s defence capacity is reflective of NATO’s overall military capability. In 2014, members signed up to the defence investment pledge, calling on all members not already meeting the 2% spending guideline to stop their cuts to defence budgets and move to 2% within a decade. Frustratingly, far too few NATO member states make significant contributions to the hardware of NATO. Six of the G7 which are in NATO do not do that. The United States spends more on defence than the other 28 members put together. Only four NATO allies spend 2% of their economic output on defence, including the United Kingdom. It is incredible that the richest country in Europe, Germany, spends only 1.2% of its GDP on defence. Understandably, Angela Merkel’s offer to raise that to 1.5% is seen by Washington as insultingly low. It is reasonable for the US to expect its European partners in NATO to contribute more, which is why successive US Presidents have been losing their patience.

There is a new global reality in security and NATO needs to adapt its capabilities to deal with threats. NATO now recognises that cyber-attacks are possible grounds for invoking article 5, meaning that weak national cyber-defences are a potential invitation to a wider conflict. Member states therefore need to build up their own strength and resilience on this front. It is important that we seek a common minimum standard of hybrid defence spending, as it is so varied across Europe.

NATO, not the EU, has been the foundation of Europe’s security. NATO is a source of hope and a safeguard of democracy and freedom. That is why it is vital for the UK to remain a proud contributor to NATO and to take a leadership role to renew NATO to meet the security challenges of today’s global reality, so that we can preserve peace and global freedom.