The UK must ensure Sweden and Finland are integrated into Nato “as swiftly as possible”, a Foreign Office minister has told MPs.
Making a statement in the Commons on Sweden and Finland’s accession to Nato, Vicky Ford said it was a “mark of the threat Russia poses to these two countries, who have tried so diligently to remain neutral for so many decades, that they’re now applying to join the alliance”.
Ms Ford added: “Finland and Sweden are Nato’s closest partners. They share our principles and values including liberty, human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
Ms Ford said the UK is “going to push this faster approval process than is normal and why we encourage our other Nato allies to also ratify as quickly as possible”.
She told MPs: “We must ensure that they are integrated into Nato as swiftly as possible. And we should aim to complete the ratification process before the summer recess.
“As things stand, we do not have the 21 sitting days of parliamentary time needed to use section 20 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 to ratify within this timeframe.
“Therefore, in accordance with section 22 of the Act, we believe the accession protocols of Sweden and Finland should be ratified without the 21-day requirements having been met.”
Ms Ford warned their decision to join “puts both countries at risk of a potentially aggressive Russian response”.
She said: “Russia has already made numerous threats about the possibility of Swedish and Finnish membership to Nato, and using the process I’ve set out will enable us to ensure that UK ratification is concluded swiftly and set a positive example for other Nato members to follow.”
Labour called on the Government to reboot defence plans and halt cuts to the Army.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said: “It is remarkable the illustration, frankly, of the dangers that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin poses that Sweden and Finland have reversed their long-held policies of non-alignment.
“But it is also a demonstration of the way that Russia’s attack on Ukraine has had the opposite effect of what he intended – strengthening rather than weakening Nato, unifying rather than dividing the alliance.”
He added: “We believe the Government should reboot defence plans and halt cuts to the Army, as Labour has been arguing for months.
“We believe it’s important to deepen our security co-operation with our European allies and the EU as a complement to Nato’s role as the bedrock of Euro-Atlantic security.”
Ms Ford replied: “We are on track to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence by the end of this decade.”
Conservative chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat urged the minister to ensure that “inter-operability actually goes much deeper not just into equipment purchase … so that we can end this war in Ukraine quickly and before the winter starts putting extra costs on families across our country.”
SNP foreign affairs spokesman Alyn Smith said: “We believe Nato is indeed the cornerstone of European defence. We look forward under our world view to see an independent Scotland joining the 29 out of 32 non-nuclear Nato member states.”
Labour’s Chris Bryant (Rhondda) raised concerns that “lethal equipment that is being provided by different countries around Europe comes in 34 different shapes and sizes with 34 different manuals”.
Ms Ford noted the point about “making sure that where possible there is a joint approach in the support for Ukraine”.
Independent MP and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked what steps are being taken to “try and bring about a ceasefire” and to “try and at least bring a cessation of the fighting in this war before there can be some ultimate political settlement”.
“Surely we have to also talk the language of peace as well as the language that she’s put forward this morning?” he said.
Ms Ford said: “Russia started this illegal war. Ever since this illegal war started we have continually, every day, day in, day out, asked Russia to lay down its weapons and stop this war.”
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