My father-in-law Bill fought in the Norwegian, North African and Italian campaigns during World War Two. He liked to recount a fascinating incident that happened to him in Anzio. While British soldiers were being relentlessly shelled on the beach Bill took cover in a tiny foxhole. A German soldier suddenly jumped in to surrender. Bill told him to get out as there was no room and go to a foxhole further back. Another soldier might have tried to make room for the German, or shot him. In the heat of battle, decisions are often made on survival instinct. We cannot morally judge unless we are on the front line too.
Soldiers go to war to defend their country. During armed combat mistakes will be made. Surely it is up to commanders in the British Armed Forces to investigate any misdeeds by their soldiers, and not the civil courts who have no understanding of military matters? Otherwise troops are quickly demonised, and civil actions turn into mob justice and a money-making exercise at taxpayers’ expense.
I would have thought that the government would have learnt from the debacle over the Iraq War and the hounding by Public Interest Lawyers of innocent British soldiers. Yet they insist in persevering with this peculiar form of metaphorical self-flagellation, this time over the conduct of the army in Northern Island.
In July Karen Bradley, the useless Northern Ireland Secretary, refused to consider an important amendment to the Northern Ireland Budget (No 2) Bill. This proposal, by Sir Michael Fallon, would rightly have prevented public money from being used to fund prosecutions of former British soldiers in Northern Ireland. It would have also put a 20-year moratorium on reopening cases. But spurred on by Sinn Fein and the DUP, the government refused to countenance this sensible amendment. Their cowardice means good soldiers are being unfairly persecuted.
One of the more absurd cases involving former British soldiers in Northern Island is that of Sergeant O. This 76-year-old loyal British citizen has been hounded by the police since 2016 over the claim that he attempted to murder two protesters on Bloody Sunday in 1972. The charge is built around the accusation that a bullet chipped off a piece of concrete and hit the alleged victims. How could Sergeant O be responsible for a piece of flying debris? It defies any sense of logic. And how can our government let a man who has served his country, and who holds the Military Medal, be subjected to the shadow of prosecution like this, and for so long?
In scandalous contrast to the treatment of Sergeant O, under the Good Friday Agreement more than 150 IRA terror suspects were sent ‘comfort letters’ reassuring them they were not wanted, effectively giving them an amnesty not afforded to British troops. At best the charges against Sergeant O are spurious, at worse they’re treachery.
There is a major difference between a mistake and outright murder. To blur these distinctions is to hamper the fighting capabilities of our soldiers and to wear down their morale. Why would anyone want to join the British Forces and risk being treated as the enemy? The government should be supporting our soldiers and must protect them from being prosecuted in civil courts. At least 150 MPs have recognised this fact and have written to Theresa May protesting about the witch-hunt against our soldiers. But there really should be more of them.
Not only is the government letting this travesty of justice continue but it is also quietly sneaking in a defence treaty with the EU, timed to come into force after Brexit Day. Behind our backs, the Cabinet Office Europe Unit has been planning to bind Britain to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and turn us into a subservient ‘third country’ member.
Conservative MP Andrea Jenkins explains the political and financial costs of this treaty:
‘A non-EU “third country”, like the future UK, must align with the EU’s policy and directives. A third-country participant must also apply the European Defence Agency’s rules and benchmarks, take part in the EU Battlegroups and pay an annual subscription. In other words, a third-country participant must act like an EU member state.’
Through signing up to several EU Defence Union structures, Britain will remain tethered to the abhorrent EU, weaken alliances with allies outside the EU, diminish its own defence systems and undermine NATO.
This is no ‘formality’, as claimed by the government, but another betrayal of our armed forces. The Veterans for Britain briefing paper on this absurd treaty shows that the EU would effectively be in charge of our military and defence decisions.
This, most seriously of all, as the briefing paper points out, would ‘compromise our trusted status in Five Eyes’ – an intelligence alliance comprising the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Britain currently leads the way in intelligence gathering within Europe. No wonder the EU doesn’t want us to leave.
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, acts like a megalomaniac in his desire to create some sort of European super-state, and no dissent is allowed. His next act is the creation of a EU army. Juncker, and most of our government, won’t be happy until Britain is on its knees, capitulating to the apparatchiks in Brussels, no matter what the financial costs and destruction of what is left of our sovereignty.
At a time when both Russia and China are flexing their colonial muscles and Islamists continue their war against the West, why does the government wants to hand over our defence strategies and requirements to the EU? It’s incomprehensible.
Our armed forces are being eroded and undermined by unnecessary civil prosecutions against veterans and the government’s shameful refusal to protect them. Their willingness to relinquish control of the military to the EU is an unhelpful act of cowardice. The government seemingly wants us to surrender to our enemies and be done with it. We must not let them get away with it.