This article was originally posted on Comment Central.
This month, the EU has finally come to a decision on how it intends to treat ‘third country participation’ in Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF) in future. This decision had been in development since mid-June when, at the same time, the EU announced it would be expanding its defence budget from €600 million to a massive €13 billion by 2021.
The decision arrived at by the EU is that ‘third countries’ will be allowed to get involved with PESCO and the EDF on a ‘case-by-case’ basis. This should not worry the UK, one would at first assume, as the UK is not signed up to PESCO. In fact, the UK is one of only 3 current EU Member States which are not signed up, along with Malta and Denmark. However, a closer look at the Brexit White Paper suggests this decision should worry those who are adamant the British Army should not be involved in the EU Army.
Theresa May’s Chequers proposal explicitly lays out how this current Government envisages our future relationship with the EU on defence. It seems to be aiming for ever closer collaboration. This is something Get Britain Out has warned about in a previous article for Comment Central here.
Reported on by Veterans for Britain here, Lord Owen, while speaking at the Henry Jackson Society earlier this year, stated the UK needs to “make a full, wholehearted commitment to NATO… and not play games with EU defence.”
Unfortunately, the Government’s Brexit White Paper states the UK ‘supported PESCO’s launch’, and supports an ‘inclusive approach to European [defensive] capability’. It goes on to say the UK wishes to work with the EU to make the EDF more inclusive to ‘third countries’.
Well, the EU has granted the Government’s wish.
Most worryingly of all, however, is not simply the fact the UK is walking carelessly into an ever-closer unison with the EU’s defence strategy (which could also clearly undermine NATO); by encouraging PESCO, it could feed the EU’s hunger to become an overarching federal super-state.
Even more worrying is one little line, tucked in note 85 of the Brexit White Paper. What does it say? It states that not only is the Government keen to hand over our own British soldiers, to the EU to get involved in EU-specific missions, but on these missions, the UK will be:
“respecting the EU’s decision-making autonomy.”
This is the most damaging line regarding defence in the White Paper, because it is the admittance of relinquishing all power to the EU. We will not just be surrendering soldiers to the EU through further, deeper integration, but we will be surrendering all power over what is done with our troops, and regardless of the EU’s objectives in these missions, to the EU.
This would be a disgrace if we were IN the EU, let alone when we are OUT after Brexit. How can anyone possibly imagine any situation which means surrendering the orders and lives of our British Armed Forces to unelected EU bureaucrats? This is NOT the Brexit we voted for in any way, shape or form. It means more surrendering of power to Brussels, and a further way to be shackled to the EU in our post-Brexit state. Taxpayers’ money and our reputation on the world stage must be guarded very carefully. Our soldiers must never be sent to any country in the world without our own parliament’s permission, let alone sending them to work for the EU. We voted categorically to Get Britain Out of the EU. We voted to ‘take back control’, not to surrender control to the EU – under any circumstances.
We would, under this part of the Chequers proposal, be handing a considerable amount control over to the EU, which, by the way, is looking to increase its defence budget twenty-fold over the next few years. This becomes even more unpalatable when one considers NATO and the EU share twenty-two States in common, yet only four of these overlapping States meet NATO’s required defence spending – and one of them is the UK, soon to leave!
There has already been much-needed criticism of the EU’s army, which goes hand in hand with the widespread criticism of Britain’s willingness to commit to it. It has been reported by the Financial Times that a senior Pentagon official has stated they do not “want to see EU efforts pulling requirements or forces away… from NATO and into the EU.”
We’re running out of time to get the Prime Minister to ditch Chequers, so we are free to take back sovereignty of our defence and our nation. We need to Get Britain Out of the EU.
Connor Jones is a research executive for the cross-party, grassroots campaign, Get Britain Out.