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British defence secretary backs French plan for EU military

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-10-26

Britain's recently appointed Defence Secretary John Hutton expressed support for French plans to strengthen European defence capacity, saying it is "perfectly sensible" to work with EU allies on such issues.

Britain's new Defence Secretary John Hutton expressed support for French plans to strengthen European defence capacity, saying: "If we can support it, we should" in an interview published Sunday.
   
Hutton, who only got the job following a reshuffle of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Cabinet this month, said it was "perfectly sensible" to work with European Union allies on such issues.
   
He went on to describe "EU haters" as "pathetic" in an interview with The Sunday Times newspaper.
   
France, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, wants to ensure that Europe can stand alone militarily if it needs to. The aim is to be able to deploy 60,000 troops with air and naval support within 60 days by 2018.
   
But one of its main goals -- the establishment of a real EU military headquarters in Brussels -- has been blocked by Britain, which is keen not to double up on work being done by the NATO military alliance.
   
Experts say the plans would need backing from Britain which, alongside France, has the EU's biggest defence spend. Hutton's comments suggest a softening of attitude.
   
"I think we've got to be pragmatic about those things," Hutton told The Sunday Times.
   
"Where it can help, we should be part of it... France is one of our closest allies militarily. The French believe very strongly in this type of role.
   
"If we can support it, we should."
   
He also launched an attack on the Eurosceptic strain in some parts of British politics, saying: "I'm not one of those EU haters (who think) anything to do with the EU must by definition be terrible.
   
"There's plenty of them around. I think frankly those kind of views are pathetic."
   
He added: "Britain's role in the world is to be part of those alliances...
   
"People who don't understand that don't understand the nature of the modern world."
   
Hutton, who replaced Des Browne, is seen as being on the right of the ruling Labour Party and has reportedly had a strained relationship with Brown in the past.
 

Date created : 2008-10-26

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