Adam Holloway: Britain’s armed drone policy is failing to keep up with rapidly evolving changes
When Britain shares its bases, intelligence and personnel with drone partners who may, in future, act unlawfully – it risks acting unlawfully. We need to put the right safeguards in place, writes Adam Holloway
This week, we launched the report of the APPG on Drones inquiry, The UK’s Use of Armed Drones: Working with Partners. Following an independent process, our cross-party report shines a light on the risky ways that UK drone partnerships are being run and makes recommendation to the Government to update Britain’s security policy for the new era of remote warfare.
Over two years, we’ve heard from experts on how British support and intelligence may have assisted targeted killings by the US in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan: countries where the UK isn’t at war. As even the architects of the US drone programme have raised the alarm on President Trump’s drone programme, clarity on the UK’s role is now urgently needed.
When Britain shares its bases, intelligence and personnel with drone partners who may, in future, act unlawfully - Britain risks acting unlawfully. We need to put the right safeguards in place. Not to hinder the Government’s fight against terrorism, but – in the absence of clear legal basis and stated public policy – to prevent civilian harm and protect British military personnel from criminal prosecution.
Britain’s armed drone policy is failing to keep up with the rapidly evolving changes in modern military capabilities and partnerships. But as warfare evolves, so too must the constitutional safeguards that protect us. At the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution, we call on the Government to work with us in setting robust legal standards, considered policies and, most importantly, proper avenues for Parliamentary scrutiny.
In the face of loss of civilian life in Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Pakistan, we need to act now to protect the UK’s rightful place in global affairs as a guardian of the Rule of Law – not endanger it. With endorsements across the political spectrum, our report makes nineteen recommendations to the Government that – if acted on – will strengthen the foundations for UK drone policy and operations for the years ahead.
‘Taking back control’ will mean nothing if Parliament is frozen out of the big questions of war. As military drones rapidly proliferate – and robotics, autonomous and artificial intelligence technologies change the nature of weaponry and warfare – the creation of a global legal framework is now essential. Britain’s experience with drones and our reputation for good practice provide a golden opportunity to lead this effort.
Adam Holloway is Conservative MP for Gravesham and chair of the APPG on Drones