South China Sea warning: Losing most eastern UK military base would be victory for Beijing
Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, was speaking after Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat member for Orkney and Shetland, sent a round robin email to all 650 MPs asking them to add their signatures to a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In it, Mr Carmichael says he is "deeply concerned" at a Foreign and Commonwealth Office statement issued last week rejecting Mauritius' claim of sovereignty over the islands. Mr Kawczynski told Express.co.uk: "This is the most eastern British military base in the world, and with rising tensions between India and China it is essential that the British maintain this military outpost.
"Half of the island is leased out to the Americans, so this is a massive Anglo-American naval, air force and army base, which enables NATO to have very much a forward position with regard to naval exercises across the whole of the Middle East, and the Indian sub-continent."
In 1965, three years before Mauritius, a former British colony, gained independence, the UK Government declared archipelago to be part of the newly formed British Indian Ocean Territory, along with the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar, and Desroches, which were returned to Seychelles in 1976.
Controversially, the Chagossians, who had lived on the islands for roughly 150 years, were evicted between 1967 and 1973 to allow the construction of the military bases on Diego Garcia.
Mr Kawczynski said: "Mr Carmichael's attitude is that we are being taken to court by Mauritius, which claims the islands should belong to them.
"But when we gave Mauritius independence, they entered into a treaty acknowledging that these islands would not be part of this independence package, and it would continue to be a British island.
"So Mauritius, after 40 years of independence, is attempting to overturn legally binding international treaty which they entered into for their own volition."
The significance was about far more than just sovereignty, Mr Kawczynski warned.
He explained: "If Mauritius manages to grab these islands off us they will lease these islands to the Chinese.
"Chinese have already got a base in Djibouti and they have devoured all these small atolls from Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea, and are pouring concrete onto them and turning them into giant aircraft carriers.
"If the Chinese manage through their proxy, Mauritius, to throw the British out of the Indian Ocean then really it is game over there when it comes to influencing the whole of that sea and the Chinese will push their reach even further."
Mr Kawczynski said he was in the process of forming a new voting caucus within Parliament to ensure any effort to hand the islands over would be challenged.
He added: "There are many people in this house on the left who believe that British overseas territories are antiquated colonial relics and ought to be got rid of as expeditiously and as discreetly as possible."
Such attitudes overlooked the "huge importance" he said the Islands represented from a British security perspective.
Mr Kawczynski said: "In a post-Brexit world we are going to need to have an even closer relationship with America and Australia and this base is hugely important for both the Australians and the Americans because it is a gateway to making sure that we challenge Chinese expansionism in the area.
"In the vote in the UN, only one European country backed us, and that was Hungary.
"So much for loyalty from fellow European Union countries.
"The United Kingdom, the USA and Australia are the three countries which are leading freedom-of-navigation exercises in the South China Sea.
"Over one-third of the world's trade goes through the South China Sea. And China are trying to turn it into a Chinese lake.
"If we lose our territory then we are basically giving a green light to Chinese expansionism across the whole of that region.
"We are paying a fortune with the Americans just to send ships through to send a signal to China that we will continue to ensure that international traffic can continue to pass through the South China Sea."
Following a ruling by the International Court of Justice earlier this year, the United Nations last month agreed a six-month deadline for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the Chagos Archipelago in advance of it being reunified with Mauritius - which the FCO has indicated it will not comply with.
Mr Kawczynski pointed out the UN resolution was not legally binding - but warned: "There will be further attempts to force us out.
"Our aim is to prove that the treaty we signed with Mauritius is a legal one and will hold up in an international court.
"It is vital that the British Government fully and properly defends herself.
"That cause is not helped by people on the Left undermining the British position."
Referring to the importance of defending British interests around the world, he added: "In 1982, we sent a taskforce to the other side of the world to liberate some rocks with very little strategic interest - but because the 1,500 people on them wanted to remain British we did that.
"As long as this continues to be such an important strategic base we will continue to let the electorate know what is happening.
"The worst thing that could happen is that these islands are abandoned under the radar."
In his email to MPs, Mr Carmichael said: "I am writing to the Prime Minister to ask for his support in returning sovereignty of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius, in line with the ruling of the International Court of Justice – and would greatly appreciate it if you could add your name to this letter."
Express.co.uk has contacted Mr Carmichael asking for more details about his proposals.
He today tweeted: "Looking forward to reading @DKShrewsbury's article about how vital it is that we confront unlawful actions by Beijing by using an unlawful military base in the Chagos Islands. @ChagosUK".