In Brief

UKIP leader claims British Army under foreign command

Gerard Batten ridiculed after urging potential military recruits not to enlist until after Brexit

UKIP has urged people considering joining the British Army not to sign up until after Brexit to avoid being put “under a foreign military command”.

Gerard Batten, the party’s leader, reacted with fury to images which have been circulated on pro-Brexit Facebooks group of UK soldiers on operations in Bosnia wearing the European Union flag on their uniforms.

Ministers announced in June that around 40 military personnel from Britain would be sent to the country with other EU troops in a bid to combat Russian meddling in a presidential election in October.

They form part of the 600-strong European Union Force under the direction of Nato, which has operated a multinational command structure since it was formed in 1949.

“Our ancestors, the heroes of the Armada, Waterloo, Trafalgar, Passchendaele, El-Alamein, and others too numerous to mention, did not fight so that their descendants could serve under the flag of a foreign power,” Batten said, claiming that British soldiers “are no longer fighting for Queen and Country but under a foreign military command”.

He urged no one to join the British Army “until we have left the EU and this has all been reversed”, after which “we will be able to rebuild our military into a force which serves the interests of our nation first and foremost”.

In a dig at the prime minister and her compromise Chequers plan, Batten falsely claimed that Theresa May had "already stated her intention to tie us into the EU’s military ambitions even if we nominally leave under her plan", reports The New European.

His comments were labelled “ridiculous” by Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, and “bizzare” by The Sun.

Defence sources also ridiculed UKIP’s claim, pointing out that Britain has been part of the EU-led force in Bosnia for 14 years.

They also said UK troops routinely carry the flag of multi-national organisations such as Nato or the UN on their uniform.

In 2016, it was announced that a French general would command a division of British soldiers for the first time, while a British officer took up a similar role in the French army, as part of an exchange to strengthen military ties across the Channel. Yet Eurosceptic fears of a single European army have so far proven unfounded.

At the time, The Daily Telegraph reported that UK generals “say Britain is unlikely to go to war on its own in the future and any large military operations will be with coalitions of allies, such as during the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns”.

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