Major-General Julian Thompson CB, OBE
Commander, 3 Commando Brigade, Falklands War.
Speech from VfB event in Portsmouth 11 June 2016.
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a privilege to address you in this great city, close to the dockyard and HMS Warrior and Victory – symbols of our country’s heritage and what we stand for – freedom and control of our destiny.
When we launched Veterans for Britain we concentrated on three subjects:
- The need to take back control of our future.
- The importance of NATO for our defence.
- The dangers inherent in the concept of a joint European Defence and Security policy, and a European Army.
My colleagues here will be mentioning all three in the course of their speeches, I want to just talk briefly about the first: take back control.
We must return to being a true Parliamentary Democracy, in which those who rule us are elected by us, accountable to us, and can be removed by democratic vote. This is especially important in the case of defence. Those who send our servicemen and women into danger, must be accountable to the British people.
I have one message aimed at both veterans and serving men and women. It has been mentioned before by General Jonathan Riley, but is so important that I am going to repeat it.
because, rightly, we as members of the armed forces have been brought up to keep out of politics. This Referendum is an exception, applying to those still serving and retired.
Every one of us [members of the Armed Forces] has the same rights in the debate over our membership of the EU; it is not a party political issue, it is an issue about the future of our country. Those of us who wear, or have worn, uniform have just the same rights as all other citizens to express our views on this matter. We have, after all, served our country in harm’s way and there are all too many of our comrades out there with the wounds to show for it.
The economy is important, of course it is, but it is not the most important factor. All sorts of things can happen to the economy over the next five, ten, fifty years, – many of them nothing to do with whether or not we are in the EU. But what we must not allow to happen is anything that threatens our freedom.
I end on this thought:
If you are not prepared to fight for what you hold dear, sooner or later someone will take it away – you will lose it. If you value peace over freedom, you will lose both. And if you value comfort, prosperity and peace over justice and freedom, you will lose them all.