Defence of the nation remains the first responsibility of any government.
Defence of the nation remains the first responsibility of any government. To date much of the referendum discussion has focused on the financial benefits of European membership, the economic risks of departure and the challenges of immigration. Following the Prime Minister’s comments this week, the importance of peace as the cornerstone of prosperity has gained welcome prominence in the debate. It is an argument that should not be dismissed.
Whilst war in Europe is a distant memory to many, the certainty of peace and harmony with our nearest neighbours has remained an essential ingredient of our nation’s growth and stability and the prospects for future generations.
On 23 June, the British population, old and young, will make a lifetime judgement formed by heart and head, fact and opinion, age and experience, in a climate of peace that has prevailed for seven decades. It is a luxury that must not be taken for granted.
For those of the 'baby boomer' generation of 1946, the referendum in June will mark the midpoint of their seventieth year. It will provide a moment to reflect on the good fortune of a life born at the end of a war, lived in relative peace, with prosperity built on the secure foundations of a unified Europe. It was a Union forged to ensure the horrors of conflict between European neighbours would never be repeated. It was a courageous decision that has stood the test of time.
The referendum will be a chance to secure the legacy of those that fought for peace by reinforcing the bonds of friendship with enemies of the past. It will be a decision that will have only a short term impact for those in the autumn of their lives but long-term consequences for those that follow. It will be a decision not to be taken lightly and a vote that must be cast.
For the millennials, June may be the first opportunity to vote and potentially the last to preserve the prospects for prosperity, security and global authority offered by membership of the European Union. Whilst thoughts of European conflict may be distant for those born in the digital age, the value of collective strength and the risk of retreat to an uncertain future may give many pause for thought.
Whether baby boomer or millennial, the timeless value of peace must be carefully weighed in the balance when making a decision for the future for all who will follow.
The preservation of peace, of course, demands an unequivocal commitment to defence. Today, the defence industry of the United Kingdom works closely with our European colleagues in Italy, Germany and Spain, building military jets for the front line air support of our countries and allies. For the future, in collaboration with France, we employ the finest engineers to design and build the next generation of unmanned aircraft by working together at the cutting edge of technology.
As a country we share intelligence with our European counterparts in the war against terrorism and police data in the fight against crime. As members of the European community we do these things not simply in the spirit of friendship but in the committed partnership of a single Union.
We play a key role on the world stage as a leading voice in NATO and an important member of the UN Security Council. Our position is underpinned through our nuclear submarines stationed at Faslane and our surface naval fleet built on the Clyde – a position at risk if a decision to leave Europe would trigger the departure of Scotland from the United Kingdom.
We complement the power of NATO with the diplomatic leverage of European membership whether applying political pressure, imposing sanctions or speaking with one voice.
There is little doubt that whilst our opinions may be valued for our knowledge, experience and judgement, their impact is amplified by our membership of the European Union.
In recent times we have all witnessed the consequence of territorial ambition, religious extremism and brutal terrorism. All have demonstrated the need for strong defence and unified action in a turbulent world. These threats are unlikely to diminish and facing the future in lockstep with partners will strengthen our hand.
Our membership of The European Union is a bulwark against aggression, a fortress of common values and a network of military strength. We can survive independently but are stronger together. We can cooperate as friends, but unite as partners. We can express our views alone, but magnify our influence with others. In the final analysis, we must always remember that in battle and in business, fortune will continue to favour the big battalions.
In a vote that will affect generations to come, in the weeks that are left it is important that the old speak to the young, politicians speak to their constituents and seasoned employers share their view with engaged workforces. Whatever the debate on membership economics, the value of peace is incontrovertible and the need to vote critical.
At the ballot box on June 23rd the importance of scale, the power of coalition and the security of unity should not be overlooked. It is the bedrock on which prosperity is built and values defended.
Sir Roger Carr