Tories attack air defence proposal

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Plans for close co-operation between the Royal Air Force and Germany's Luftwaffe will be discussed by Nato defence ministers in Birmingham today.

Plans for close co-operation between the Royal Air Force and Germany's Luftwaffe will be discussed by Nato defence ministers in Birmingham today.

The proposal to integrate Britain's fighter squadrons with those of its wartime enemy, one of several co-operation proposals likely to involve all three armed services, ran into immediate Tory fire last night.

Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, insisted the proposals would not detract from the flexibility of Britain's armed forces. "We believe this will enhance our operational flexibility because of course it will give us access to forces which would not otherwise be available," he said.

"Most operations these days will be of a multinational kind...It will mean that, for example, when we go into a situation as we had to in the Balkans, we will find on the ground the co-operation that is necessary."

Mr Hoon denied the move would undermine Nato, saying it would strengthen the alliance. "Obviously Nato is important, we must work together in Nato, that is part of what we will be discussing tomorrow," he said. "But equally we will also be discussing, within the context of Nato, bilateral improvements in our defence capability." However, Iain Duncan Smith, the Tories' defence spokesman, warned that there could be "serious political difficulties" in joining forces with the Luftwaffe. He said: "The integration of key strike assets could be a recipe for disaster. What if the Germans did not agree with a military operation that the British wanted to take part in?"

Mr Duncan Smith said joint operations between Nato countries were welcome, but added: "The fatal flaw in the Government's defence policy is that it is setting up duplicate and conflicting military structures and forces outside of Nato."

Francis Maude, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, will today attack plans to include greater co-operation on defence in a treaty to be signed by the European Union in December.

Speaking in Paris, Mr Maude will say: "There is absolutely no military case for giving the EU a role in Europe's defence. The case is purely political - a challenge to supposed American dominance of Nato, the establishment of a rival power bloc, the move towards what Romano Prodi [the European Commission president] habitually calls a European army."

Comments