FORMER British Army major Dan Jarvis MP said the majority of high ranking military agree NATO is strengthened by the EU and walking away would be a “gift to Putin”.
Amid warnings from Veterans for Britain that the post-war military alliance is being eroded by EU membership - a claim backed by retired General Sir Michael Rose - Mr Jarvis insisted the two institutions work well as a team.
The Barnsley Central MP, who is part of the Labour In for Britain campaign, said: “Having Britain as a team member of both NATO and the EU makes both institutions stronger.”
Mr Jarvis, a former paratrooper, wants voters to chose to stay in the EU at the June 23 vote.
During a speech at a Royal British Legion Club in South London he was joined by TV star Ross Kemp, a long-term Labour Party supporter.
Mr Jarvis said that while he is “incredibly respectful” of Sir Michael Rose’s views, he said: “The fact of the matter is that the current head of NATO and the five previous heads of NATO all believe that NATO’s interests are best served by having Britain in the European Union.”
General Sir Micahel Rose Commanded the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s. Mr Jarvis served in Kosovo in 1999.
Mr Jarvis said: “The notion that Britain coming out of the Euopean Union would in any way strengthen NATO is completely false.
“My view, and the view of many seasoned commentators actually is the EU is necessary and essential part of NATO.”
He said Brexit would delight the Russian administration as it would weaken the EU, the body that issued it with sanctions after its illegal annexation of Crimea.
He said: “What sort of message would we send out to the rest of the world, and to our enemies, if we, the people who forged cooperation across borders, who enlarged and later led this partnership between nations, walked away? It would be a gift to Putin, weakening both NATO and the EU.”
When asked by a member of the audience why Brexit would be a problem considering Britain was a member of NATO before it joined the EU in 1973, and it could rely on the support of its Commonwealth countries, Mr Jarvis said the risks were too great.
Actor and documentary maker Ross Kemp, who recently spent time in Calais filming the migrant crisis, said: “I don’t see any advantage of us getting out of Europe.
“It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but people say about NATO and how in some way we could remain in it and leave Europe. But that is not taking into account the collaboration of our police forces, the border forces and all sorts of intelligence agencies that work in tandem all across Europe.”