British soldiers in woodland area during Exercise Trident Juncture.

Defence Secretary Asked If UK Could Join 'Alternative NATO'

Dr Julian Lewis asked Ben Wallace for assurances about PESCO during a House of Commons debate.

British soldiers in woodland area during Exercise Trident Juncture.

The Defence Secretary has been asked whether the UK will be "sucked" into an "alternative NATO".

Independent MP and chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee Dr Julian Lewis asked Ben Wallace for his assurance, during a House of Commons debate.

"Given that there is no security for Europe without the United States, what specific reassurance can [Mr Wallace] give that we shall not be sucked via PESCO (The Permanent Structured Co-operation) into the European Union’s persistent attempts to create an alternative NATO without the United States which would be a particularly dangerous military version of Hamlet without the prince?" Dr Lewis asked.

The Defence Secretary replied: "We are very grateful to the Germans who have tried very hard to get a proper third-party agreement with PESCO, however we have no plans to participate in it because we have serious concerns about the intellectual property rights and expert controls that it would seek to impose."

Mr Wallace added that the UK will however "always be open to working with European industries" as "collective security of Europe is often based on a good sovereign capability in our industrial base".

He continued: "We will do that on a case-by-case basis, we will do that with other allies such as the United States, we will continue to do so."

Ben Wallace 300920 CREDIT PA
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK has no intention of becoming part of what was dubbed an "alternative NATO" (Picture: PA).

The discussion about an "alternative NATO" followed the Defence Select Committee chairman's statement that leaving the European Union with no trade deal would be "an abject failure of statecraft".

Tobias Ellwood asked Mr Wallace if he would agree that leaving the EU without a deal would be "less than helpful in re-establishing western resolve" to complex threats.

"Would it not be an abject failure of statecraft and diminish our collective security co-operation to leave the EU without a deal?" he said.

Mr Wallace said "right now" the Government is trying to make a deal with the EU, adding it would be a mistake if both sides "forget that security is not a competition, it is a partnership".

"There has been no sign amongst many of our European allies that that situation has changed – we are still partners in going after threats that threaten all of us, our way of life and our values," he added.