A British exit from the EU would make it “even more dangerous and difficult” to manage the world, the former head of the CIA David Petraeus has said.
In the latest intervention into the EU referendum security debate, Petraeus called for the west to draw together at a precarious time in global affairs as he warned that an isolationist approach always ends with calamitous results.
In an article for the Sunday Telegraph, Petraeus wrote: “Given the dangers and challenges that threaten us around the world, this is a moment when the west and its institutions, including the EU, need to be drawing together – not pulling apart. At least from a national security standpoint, none of the problems the US and UK face will become easier to solve if the UK is out of the EU; on the contrary, I fear that a ‘Brexit’ would only make our world even more dangerous and difficult to manage.”
The comments from Petraeus came as the rival campaigns in the EU referendum clashed on business support, health and security.
The Vote Leave campaign group was forced to revise a list of more than 250 business supporters after two leading figures – David Ross, the co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, and John Caudwell, the co-founder of Phones 4u – said their names had been wrongly included.
A spokesman for Ross told the Sunday Times: “Mr Ross has not made any commitment at all. We have no idea where this has come from. Mr Ross will make a decision one way or the other when he gets back from his Easter break in a couple of weeks.”
A spokesman for Caudwell said he had not added his name to the list, although he has supported a UK exit from the EU. “You have to question how this list has been compiled,” the spokesman told the newspaper.
Nick Herbert, the chairman of Conservatives for Reform in Europe, said Vote Leave’s claim that it has the support of business leaders had fallen apart. Herbert told the Sunday Times: “Less than 24 hours after its launch, the Vote Leave business letter is falling apart. Some of those named on the letter say they never signed it, many are not business ‘leaders’ at all – there isn’t a single FTSE 100 [chief executive] among them – and others have publicly admitted [that] Brexit would cause severe damage to Britain’s economy.”
Divisions in the Conservative party were once again highlighted when Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, was accused by his former cabinet colleague Liam Fox of running an “absurd and demeaning” scare story about the impact of a Brexit on the NHS. In an Observer article, Hunt said the “economic shock” of the UK leaving the EU would lead to budget cuts.
Petraeus, a former four-star US army general who served as CIA diector for just over a year from 2011-12, entered the fray amid differences among senior security figures over the impact of a British exit. The former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove said last week that Brexit would not be damaging to UK security because most EU security bodies are of little value. Britain’s security relationship with the US – its most significant – would be unaffected, Dearlove added.
But Petraeus warned that Britain voting to leave would reduce the UK’s influence. “There is no question in my mind that a ‘Brexit’ would deal a significant blow to the EU’s strength and resilience at exactly the moment when the west is under attack from multiple directions,” he wrote. “A Brexit would also reduce considerably Great Britain’s ability to influence and guide the future of Europe, still the world’s largest economic bloc; it would undoubtedly reduce British influence on the world stage, as well.”
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