Rising Russian and Chinese Threats Ignored at UK’s Peril
A strong warning that the British must wake up to the value and vulnerability of their vital maritime sector was issued at a London event. Held at the Naval Club, Mayfair, the talking shop was organised to heighten awareness of the UK’s maritime dimension, with around 50 distinguished experts gathering to discuss a wide range of subjects all linked by the sea and European policies.
Julian Parker, Chairman of the Maritime Foundation – the body that organised the summit – opening by saying: “The sea is vital to Europe just as it is vital to Britain. It is the principal medium of international and inter-regional trade. The seas around Europe sustain an essential resource of fish and shellfish, which supports a major fish processing industry, so maritime security is a vital issue too.”
Among the speakers was marine biologist Dr Bryce Stewart, who dissected the Common Fisheries Policy and was in favour of staying in the EU. UK Chamber of Shipping director of policy, David Balston, described how Europe both helped and hindered UK trade. Naval historian and former Head of Defence Studies in the Royal Navy, Captain Peter Hore explained that since the 16th Century Britain has tried to stop hegemony in Europe and has never fully engaged in the European project.
Strategic adviser Rear Admiral Chris Parry graphically and robustly addressed the growing problems of maritime security facing the UK and Europe across the world. Rear Admiral Parry pointed out: “There’s a world of opportunity in maritime security which the EU in the past has not taken seriously, although individual countries have sufficient heritage and expertise regarding the sea. There are now four or five empires in the world. Europe is a maritime continent. It’s a huge peninsula, but unless it gets its act together the continent will become a backwater in a constantly globalising world.”
Rear Admiral Parry also issued a warning that by 2025 the Russian rearmament programme “will match NATO forces.” He went on: “The freedom of the seas is under threat from China. Russia is also land-grabbing as the Arctic ice recedes and China has said the traditional mentality that land is superior to sea must be abandoned. There is no EU position or policy on these crucial matters, and there’s been a total breakdown on immigration strategy, in spite of warnings for more than ten years.”
Capt Hore, who is Associate Editor of this magazine, said “We are a nation financially dependent on free trade and immigration, with a steady supply of new labour. The problem of the EU is a democratic deficiency. NATO has prevented war in Europe, but we cannot ignore our relationship with the USA, which has an amazing ability to reinvent itself as often as Madonna.”
Admiral Lord West, former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, was present at the event. He said afterwards: “There are real concerns about the lack of focus on maritime security issues in the UK and Europe. I think in maritime defence there’s not sufficient appreciation of the growing pressures on us.”
The London briefing was one of two major events organised by the Maritime Foundation this year. The next will be the Maritime Media Awards, in London, on October 25. The Maritime Foundation promotes Britain’s interests across the entire maritime sector. Its purpose is to inform and raise public and parliamentary awareness of the importance of Britain’s maritime industries, commerce and defence through education, training and research, as well as via the Maritime Media Awards.
For more information on the Maritime Foundation visit http://www.bmcf.org.uk