NATO: National Security

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons on 18th February 2019.

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Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Conservative, Mid Dorset and North Poole

What recent assessment he has made of the importance of NATO to UK national security.

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

Last week I joined NATO Defence Ministers to discuss progress made towards fairer burden-sharing and increasing the readiness of all our armed forces.

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Conservative, Mid Dorset and North Poole

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as we leave the European Union, we will of course continue to co-operate with our European friends and allies, but that it is NATO that is the bedrock of European security? Does also he agree that all talk of an EU army is an unhelpful distraction?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

My hon. Friend has put his finger right on the issue. Talk of an EU army is indeed a distraction. It does not help; it does not build security. As we leave the European Union, 80% of NATO forces will be contributed by non-EU countries, but there is also a bigger point to be made. All European countries should be contributing more to defence, and they should all be spending 2% of their GDP on defence.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds

May I, too, echo your generous words about Paul Flynn, Mr Speaker? He was a good socialist, and I therefore disagreed with nearly everything he said, but that is the nature of parliamentary debate.

As my right hon. Friend knows, the political declaration talks of co-operation with Europe on future defence operations. Surely, however, the most effective way of keeping the peace in Europe is to concentrate on the primacy of NATO, and in particular to encourage our American partners to keep paying 50-60% of the budget.

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

We will always co-operate with all organisations right around the world, but my hon. Friend is so right: NATO is what delivers security in Europe. That is where our focus will be; that is what we will be focusing our time and resources on in delivering our security with our NATO allies.