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Carmarthenshire Comment Jonathan Edwards Llanelli Pembrokeshire Politics Swansea West Wales

Defence Review highlights Westminster’s absurdity

Jonathan Edwards:

JONATHAN EDWARDS, MP for Carmarthenshire East & Dinefwr, participated in the debate on the Westminster Government’s plans for Britain’s ability to wage war and defend British citizens. He writes for The Herald:

This week in Westminster saw the British Government publish the long-awaited Integrated Defence, Security, Development and Foreign Policy Review, meant to put meat on the bones of the Brexit era slogans ‘Empire 2.0’ and ‘Global Britain’.

Those that live in a world of past glorious imperial fantasy weren’t left disappointed.

Rather than accepting the realities of the diminished role of the UK in the world caused by Brexit, the British Government weaved a wonderful narrative based on a return of Rule Britannia ideology. This is based, as always, on British exceptionalism and a misguided sense of superiority that is embedded in the psyche of the Westminster elite.

During a debate on the Integrated Review last month, I urged the British Government to base defence policy on genuine security priorities.

The reality is that the British State faces no prospect of invasion.

All wars fought since the Second World War by the UK have been aggressive in nature and on foreign soil, nearly all resulting in disastrous consequences.

It was no surprise at all to see the Tory benches pleading for a ramp of what they termed, ‘expeditionary capacity’. In other words, the ability to invade foreign soil independently.

Eighty new nukes: But nobody to bomb

The centrepiece of the announcement was the decision to rip up the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and increase nuclear bomb capacity by 40%.

Coming a week after the British Government announced a meagre pay rise for nurses in England, it seems a strange priority.

In defence terms, as I pointed out in the debate, there is no prospect of a ballistic missile strike by a State actor.

Indeed, the review itself states that there is a likelihood that a terrorist group will launch a successful chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear – in other words, a dirty bomb.

I am not entirely convinced that 260 nuclear warheads are going to be any sort of deterrence against such a threat.

If such an awful event was to take place, who would the UK bomb in retaliation?

I agree that a dirty bomb is the most likely security threat.

During the debate, I highlighted that the UK Government, in leaving Europol, Eurojust and the Second Schengen Information System as a part of its Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, had tied the limbs of our security services against such threats.

Access to these systems would do far more to protect UK citizens than any warship, tank or bomb.

As always with the Tories, nuclear weapons expansion has more to do with politics than genuine defence policy.

In purchasing an extra 80 nuclear bombs from the United States, the British Government are undoubtedly hoping to oil the wheels of their desperate efforts to land a trade deal.

Increasing weapons of mass destruction capacity also plays to the psyche of British fantasists who yearn for the UK to be a global superpower once again. The days when the British Empire accounted for 25% of global economic growth are rightly gone and are not coming back.

The review also places Labour in a political bind. They have already conceded considerable ground in accepting the estimated £200bn cost of a new Trident nuclear system because they were afraid to be seen as soft on defence.

Ripping up international treaties to reduce weapons of mass destruction should prick the consciences of a few, but expect Labour to fall into line.

They are a lost party. They may as well join the Tories.

The other main theme of the Review was the pivot from Europe to the Indo-Pacific region. Considering the decimation of UK exports to the EU by 40% since the final Brexit agreement was signed, one would hope that the priority would be rebuilding bridges.

Sending in the fleet: Questions over UK’s China policy

Westminster’s ‘best in the world’ narrative however can’t countenance such sensibilities, therefore an aircraft carrier is sent to the South China Sea to project military capability.

This really is Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole stuff, especially as the British Government can’t decide if it is to adopt a Sino-phobic approach to China or embrace the Sinosphere as a key trading partner.

The arguments for Welsh independence are varied.

For me, the question is increasingly becoming about where we see Wales’ place in the world.

I want my country to concentrate on playing our part in helping make the world a better place; prioritising the promotion of global education, combating poverty, supporting diplomatic missions to find solutions to global tensions and tackling environmental degradation. These will never be Westminster’s priorities.

Instead, as part of the British State, we will be force-fed an illusory vision of grandeur that will never be achieved.

Meanwhile, the real global challenges we face will still need to be addressed.