L-R: Steve Aiken OBE MLA, Deputy Permanent Representative of the UK to NATO Paul Johnston, Tom Elliott MP and Philip Smith MLA pictured at NATO Headquarters, Brussels
A delegation of representatives from the Ulster Unionist Party has visited NATO Headquarters in Brussels for a series of briefings and discussions. The delegation consisted of; Tom Elliott MP, Steve Aiken OBE MLA and Philip Smith MLA.
Commenting after the visit Fermanagh & South Tyrone MP Tom Elliott said:
"NATO, with its core principle of collective defence plays a key stabilising role in what is an uncertain world. Unlike Jeremy Corbyn the Ulster Unionist Party fully recognises the need for a strong and effective NATO military alliance and understands the value of the UK working in partnership with our allies to counteract global threats.
"The briefings we received gave an overview of the evolving security environment and NATO's response to various challenges. Russia's ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea continues to destabilise the region, we therefore welcomed the opportunity to learn more about NATO's commitment to bolster deterrence and defence in the east. This commitment includes the plan to deploy four multi-national battalions to the three Baltic States and Poland from early next year - the UK will be leading the NATO presence in Estonia as part of this initiative.
"Instability in the Middle East and North Africa, the refugee and migrant crises and the threat posed by Daesh present significant additional challenges that also require the long-term commitment of resources.
“The ability of NATO to undertake operations and missions is however dependent on a sustained investment in defence by its members, I welcome that since becoming Prime Minister Theresa May has reiterated the UK Government’s commitment to meet the target of spending 2% of GDP on the defence budget. It is vital that all of NATO's members meet this obligation if the burden of the alliance’s activities is to be fairly shared between them. The Ulster Unionist Party also recognises that this investment in equipment and personnel must be strategic in nature and appropriate for addressing both current and future challenges.
"This series of briefings provided a fascinating insight into defence policy and planning and the NATO decision-making process. We were also assured that it is very much a case of ‘business as usual’ for NATO following the UK’s vote to leave the EU.
“I found our discussions extremely useful and I and my Ulster Unionist Party colleagues will continue to make the case for investment in the UK defence budget and a strong, effective NATO prepared for evolving threats and challenges."