Collaboration among navies must not be sacrificed

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We’ve said before that The News is not taking a position on the EU referendum – although everyone has their own views on the issue, we see our role as providing information and a platform for people, not dictating to others what to think.

And that is true today, as we bring you a report of the argument over defence in the European Union.

Specifically today, our Agenda piece looks at the row over the two supercarriers that will, in the coming years, call Portsmouth their home base.

Ukip claims that as the carriers at first will have no planes, and the French have planes but no carriers, the inevitable consequence will be the Queen Elizabeth class hosting foreign planes. Ukip also says that this will be the first step to a European army and a ‘United States of Europe’

Firstly, it must be said that the French plane idea has not been announced as a plan by the Royal Navy – although that, of course, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

However, while we respect the Ukip argument, we would point out that there is already a lot of collaboration between navies and armies across Europe, and indeed the world. There are regular exercises in the Mediterranean, such as Operation Trident, and Operation Baltops in the Baltic, which can involve ships from 16 nations or more.

And we – along with many in the navy – would argue that these exercises are vital to keep the navy as sharp as it can be.

We would also argue that having allies is not the same thing as ceding control of our navy, and nor should it be – we are fairly sure that nobody in this area would agree to losing any influence over the senior service.

So by all means, let us debate the pros and cons of Brexit, and let us look at what European defence policy is.

But let us not end up arguing ourselves into a position in which we decline any co-operation or collaboration – with any nation, whether European or otherwise – thinking that that is the same as sovereignty.