Post-Brexit Britain should be ready to use ‘hard power, says defence minister

File photo. British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson arrives for a cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, Britain, 8 January 2019. [Andy Rain/EPA/EFE]

Britain should be ready to use military force to support its global interests after Brexit, defence minister Gavin Williamson will say on Monday (11 February), adding that the boundaries between peace and war are becoming blurred.

Williamson will outline plans to send its new aircraft carrier to the Pacific, invest in offensive cyber capabilities and adopt a harder military stance after Brexit than it has done in recent years.

“Brexit has brought us to a great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality, and increase our mass,” Williamson will say in a speech in London.

He will describe the boundaries between peace and war as becoming “blurred” and say that Britain and its allies had to be ready “to use hard power to support our interests”.

Britain is in the midst of its most severe political crisis since World War Two as Prime Minister Theresa May scrambles to find a last-minute agreement on leaving the European Union with only weeks until it is due to end over four decades of political and economic integration in Europe.

Brexit has been seen as a blow to the West, already struggling to assimilate Russian and Chinese power as well as Donald Trump’s unpredictable US presidency. Brexit supporters hail it as a chance for Britain to take on a new global role.

“We can build new alliances, rekindle old ones and most importantly make it clear that we are the country that will act when required. And, a nation that people can turn to when the world needs leadership,” Williamson will say.

He will announce that the first mission of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier will include work in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Pacific regions, and the vessel would carry two squadrons of British and US F-35 jets.

Williamson will highlight close US-UK military links and echo Trump’s call for NATO countries to increase their spending, citing a need to better handle what Williamson called Russian provocation.

Moscow’s relations with the West are strained over issues including Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, allegations of meddling in the last US presidential election and being behind a nerve agent attack in Britain.

“Such action from Russia must come at a cost,” Williamson will say in the speech, extracts of which were seen by Reuters.

Without citing specific examples he will warn that the cost of non-interventions has often been “unacceptably high” and say that Western powers cannot ignore those in need.

“To talk but fail to act risks our nation being seen as little more than a paper tiger,” he will say.

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