Gaza protests at defence sites misguided, says Shapps

Pro-Palestinian protesters who target defence industrial sites in the UK are “misguided” and “naive”, the Defence Secretary has said.

Grant Shapps spoke as he visited the BAE shipyard in Glasgow, which demonstrators blocked earlier this month to protest against military arms being sent to Israel.

A number of other factories also saw demonstrations.

During his visit, the UK Government minister viewed progress on HMS Cardiff, the latest Type 26 frigate under construction at the shipyard, before touring the Royal Navy base at Faslane in Argyll and Bute.

Speaking to journalists in Glasgow, Mr Shapps said the UK does not have defence exports to Israel in any “meaningful number”.

He said: “The protesters are misguided and their protests are misplaced.

“What goes on here protects Britain and it protects people around the world.

“Anyone who cares about democracy, anyone who cares about freedom of movement at sea, the ability to shift goods around the world, to feed people – Ukraine’s defence. For all those reasons what goes on here is important not just to Britain but to the world.

“It is the height of naivety to turn up here and protest in a location which has absolutely nothing to do with the issue they’re concerned about and everything to do with protecting Britain.”

The Defence Secretary was also asked about the situation in the Gaza Strip and Israel’s offensive in the Rafah area.

Mr Shapps said Israel had been “savagely attacked” by Hamas militants on October 7 last year but it had to respond within international humanitarian law.

Asked if Israel is going out of its way to adhere to international law, he said: “I’d like to see them do more.

Protesters formed a blockade outside BAE Systems in Glasgow earlier this month (PA)

“I have consistently argued for Kerem Shalom, which is one of the gates (to the Gaza Strip) to be open to get aid in.”

He said he had made this point to his counterparts in Israel.

The Defence Secretary was also asked about reports Russia may be escalating espionage and sabotage operations in Western Europe.

Sites like the Govan shipyard have “elaborate” security arrangements, he said.

Mr Shapps said: “We do not go to Moscow and do these things. We do not expect that kind of activity to happen in the UK.”

He referred to the Salisbury poisonings and the recent arrests in London around an alleged arson plot involving men said to be connected to the proscribed Wagner Group.

Mr Shapps added: “We are clear with Russia that that kind of activity absolutely has to cease.

“I can’t go into further details but I can tell you we take it incredibly seriously when those types of arrests take place on our soil.

“As a result of those arrests you will have seen that we have made (diplomatic) expulsions.”