'There's a 1939 feel to this': Tobias Ellwood warns UK 'needs to stand up' against Houthi rebels

11 January 2024, 22:29 | Updated: 12 January 2024, 00:20

Iain Dale speaks to Tobias Ellwood
Iain Dale speaks to Tobias Ellwood. Picture: LBC/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Britain "needs to stand up" against Houthi rebels before attacks in the Red Sea escalate, Tory MP Tobias Ellwood has warned.

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Speaking to LBC's Iain Dale, former defence committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said the UK needs to "put this fire out early" to defend "global order".

It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held an emergency Cabinet meeting on Thursday night before launching a strike alongside the US.

"It's absolutely right that the executive, the Cabinet and the Prime Minister, make this decision because of the existing threat that there is today," Mr Ellwood said.

"International shipping has been targeted, it’s been disrupted, for three weeks now."

He continued: "It’s absolutely right that we’re forming, what I think will be, a larger, international coalition to defend safe passage and take out those missile silos at source, not just when they’re airborne as well.

"It’s all about defending the global order, defending international norms and defending international trade in international waters.

When asked why Britain should be the one to take action, he said: "This is what we do, this is who we are as a nation… we have the hard power, the soft power, the inclination, the determination to lead. Other nations hesitate, that’s not who we are."

Read more: Sunak calls emergency cabinet meeting amid speculation UK will join US in strike against Houthis after Red Sea clashes

Read more: Grant Shapps warns UK could crack down harder on Iran-backed Houthis in Red Sea after warship downs drones

Tobias Ellwood on British military involvement in the Suez Canal

Mr Ellwood went on to compare the current situation to the beginnings of the Second World War.

"We’ve allowed this to go on for too long and finally we’re now recognising that we need to stand up," he said.

"There is a 1939 feel to this, I’m afraid, of where [we can say] this has nothing to do with us, let’s back away.

"But then which country might stand up? Where does this go? How far will our timidity, our risk averseness, be exploited? Where does this go to next?

"It’s absolutely right that we put this fire out early before it escalates in the wrong way."

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps previously warned his message to the Iranian-backed group was "watch this space" if disruption continues in the key global shipping route.

The UK and US naval forces have destroyed "multiple attack drones" deployed by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, believed to be the largest attack yet from the Yemen-based force.

Mr Shapps warned further action would be taken if attacks persisted, amid growing global concern about the disruption in the key global shipping route.

He also said he believed the Houthis, a Shiite group which has held Yemen's capital since 2014, were acting with the support of Iran.

Watch Again: Tobias Ellwood joins Iain Dale to discuss US-UK military action against Houthi rebels

The Royal Navy air defence destroyer HMS Diamond was involved in the response to the latest in a series of attacks, which the Houthis have claimed are a response to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Mr Shapps also posted on Twitter: "Overnight, HMS Diamond, along with US warships, successfully repelled the largest attack from the Iranian-backed Houthis in the Red Sea to date.

"Deploying Sea Viper missiles and guns, Diamond destroyed multiple attack drones heading for her and commercial shipping in the area, with no injuries or damage sustained to Diamond or her crew.

"The UK alongside allies have previously made clear that these illegal attacks are completely unacceptable and if continued the Houthis will bear the consequences.

"We will take the action needed to protect innocent lives and the global economy."

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