UK ‘could set-up new military bases to become global player’ after Brexit

The UK could set-up new military bases in the Far East and Caribbean in a bid to become a "true global player" after Brexit, the Defence Secretary has claimed.

Gavin Williamson said it was time to "recast" the nation’s role worldwide, ripping up the 1960s policy of withdrawing from regions "east of Suez".

Oppostion MPS immediately slammed the comments, accusing him of "ignorance of military strategy" and warning Brexit was making Britain a "laughing stock".

But, despite the huge problems besetting Theresa May’s deal, Mr Williamson insisted Brits should be "much more optimistic about our future as we exit the European Union".

Mr Williamson claimed putting troops on standby to help out with Brexit was just "good sensible planning to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible".

He said: "This is our biggest moment as a nation since the end of the Second World War, when we can recast ourselves in a different way, we can actually play the role on the world stage that the world expects us to play.

"For so long – literally for decades – so much of our national view point has actually been coloured by a discussion about the European Union.

"This is our moment to be that true global player once more – and I think the armed forces play a really important role as part of that."

Mr Williamson told the Sunday Telegraph he wanted establish a UK presence "not just in the Far East but also in the Caribbean as well".

He did not name possible locations, but a source said new bases, supply ships and equipment, housing service and maintenance staff, could be set-up in Singapore or Brunei in the South China Sea.

They could also be sited at Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean "within the next couple of years".

Mr Williamson said: "I am very much looking at how can we get as much of our resources forward based, actually creating a deterrent but also taking a British presence. We are looking at those opportunities not just in the Far East but also in the Caribbean as well.

He said there would be a political shift after Brexit, seeing the UK building deeper relationships with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Caribbean states and nations across Africa.

He predicted these countries would look to the UK for "the moral leadership, the military leadership and the global leadership".

The Defence Secretary said recent research showed Brits under-estimated the potential for UK global influence.

The research showed that while "the rest of the world saw Britain standing 10 feet tall – when actually we stood six feet tall – Britons saw us standing five feet tall, not the six, and certainly not the 10", he said.

Labour MP Chris Leslie, a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said: "Gavin Williamson’s claims that Brexit would allow the UK to build bases in the Far East or the Caribbean betray an ignorance of military strategy that is worrying in a Defence Secretary."

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for a second EU referendum, said: "Brexit is making Britain a laughing stock, not a force to be reckoned with.

"If the Defence Secretary really thinks Brexit will make Britain a ‘true global player’, he’s not read the reports his own Government have been producing. They tell a different story of Brexit Britain being put through economic ruin and being locked out of key defence capabilities which keep us safe.

"Let’s put an end to this farce and let the public have the final say over what’s best for them, including the option to stay and strengthen ourselves within Europe."

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