Britain set to open major new military base in Oman in bid to boost global influence after Brexit
- Troops will deploy to permanent joint Middle East training base from next March
- Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson attended firepower demonstration in a tank
- Margaret Thatcher similarly photographed in Challenger after the Falklands War
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced Britain is to open a major new military base in Oman in a drive to boost UK influence post- Brexit
Britain is to open a major new military base in Oman in a drive to boost UK influence post-Brexit.
Hundreds of troops will deploy to the permanent joint training base in the Middle East from next March, the month Britain leaves the European Union.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson made the announcement as he watched the culmination of Britain’s biggest war games exercise in nearly two decades.
In scenes reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher in 1986, he rode to a live firepower demonstration in a Challenger 2 main battle tank.
He emerged from the turret wearing a helmet and body armour, with a Union Jack flag flying behind him.
Baroness Thatcher was similarly photographed in a Challenger after the Falklands War.
Mr Williamson said he did not have the former PM in mind when he got inside the tank, but the visit was a great chance to speak to soldiers in the desert.
Williamson said hundreds of troops will deploy to the permanent joint training base in the Middle East from next March, the month Britain leaves the European Union
About 5,500 British personnel have spent a month pretend ‘fighting’ an invasion force alongside 70,000 Omanis.
Speaking from HMS Albion afterwards, he said: ‘This is the largest military exercise that is going on in the world at present. Britain isn’t retreating from the world. We are stepping out.’
He said Britain had ‘for so long been looking just at Europe’ and it was time to go global.
‘The symbolism of this Omani British base opening as we exit the European Union I hope isn’t lost on people,’ he added.