The SAS could lose a vital training base in the Far East if Jeremy Corbyn becomes the next prime minister, senior defence officials have warned.
Concerns have been raised about the future of the British garrison in Brunei after senior Labour figures called for a boycott following the country’s rulers’ decision to introduce death by stoning as punishment for homosexuality earlier this year.
The British military base in Brunei, the only remaining British presence in the Far East, is one of the Army’s major training centres, and its renowned Jungle Warfare Training School is used by the SAS and other British special forces units for intensive training exercises.
But the future of the base, whose five-year lease is due for renewal in February next year, would be in serious doubt if Mr Corbyn triumphs in next month’s general election, according to insiders at the Ministry of Defence.
Senior Labour figures, such as Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, as well as gay rights campaigners have been highly critical of Brunei’s rulers after they sought to impose severe punishments against the country’s gay community.
Calls for Britain to cut ties with Brunei came after the country’s ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, introduced strict new sharia laws in April which imposed the death penalty for a range of crimes, including homsexuality.
Under the terms of the new code introduced by the Sultan, offences such as rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insult or defamation of the Prophet Muhammad carry the maximum penalty of death.
Lesbian sex carries a different penalty of 40 strokes of the cane and/or a maximum of 10 years in jail. The introduction of the measures provoked an international outcry, and the Sultan has since responded by agreeing to a moratorium on the death penalty being applied for all homosexual offences.
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But Labour and gay rights activisits have maintained their calls for a total boycott of Brunei, and senior military officers fear this could mean the closure of the Brunei military base if Labour wins the election.
“Brunei is a vital base for the British military, both because of its key location in the Far East and its value as a vital training base for elite forces such as the SAS,” said a senior British defence source.
“Losing our base in Brunei would represent a significant setback for the Army and its ability to train for jungle warfare.”
Former defence secretary Gavin Williamson has already sought assurances from the Brunei government that British service personnel based in the country would not be subject to the new anti-gay measures.