This article was originally published on The Commentator
A European army is a central aspect of the Europhile vision of a United States of Europe. We know a federal European state is the goal of politicians at the forefront of European integration – and has been since the 1950s.
Seizing control of armed forces from the nation state is essential to the creation of a federal super-state.
In certain EU Member States with a proud history of national democracy and armed forces, there has long been strong opposition to surrendering control to Brussels. For many years, the UK was the main opponent of EU defence integration, wanting to ensure any cooperation between countries is on an ad hoc, bilateral basis; consistent with the primacy of NATO.
The UK was supported in this by other countries such as Denmark, who value their national independence.
In the EU Referendum campaign in 2016, Leave supporters warned of a European army, as one of the ‘risks of Remain’. Remain campaigners such as the former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, dismissed these concerns as a “fantasy”. How wrong he was.
The dangers of membership of a European army was one of many concerns which motivated the Great British Public to vote to Leave the EU.
It is therefore scandalous that despite having voted to Leave, Britain is being dragged into an EU army through the back door. EU integration across many areas of defence policy is escalating. Britain is becoming entrapped in this system, under the control of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels – and this will continue, even after Brexit.
The European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, wants a “fully-fledged European Defence Union” to be in place by 2025. The EU has already created programmes to form its basis.
These include: a defence fund; Single Market rules for procurement of equipment and resources; and EU battlegroups to undertake small-scale missions. New schemes are continually being initiated to allow the creation of a European-wide force. The latest is a project to allow military units to move more quickly and smoothly across the Continent.
The EU will undoubtedly struggle to pay for this vast project. Brexit is already causing a black hole in the overall EU budget, from which the Defence Union will be partly funded. The plans may meet a stumbling block when it becomes clear to Member States they will be required to spend considerably more each year.
Students of history will know the true guarantor of European security for the last 70 years is NATO. However, nearly all EU Member States who are members of NATO do not meet the defence spending recommendation of of 2% of GDP. Germany only spends 1.2%, while France spends 1.8%.
The UK meets the 2% target. America spends 3.6% of GDP, meaning it contributes around 70% of defence spending across NATO members. US officials are justifiably concerned about the lack of commitment from EU Member States to NATO, as well as the possible duplication and undermining of NATO by the European Defence Union.
Surrendering our control and money over defence to a supranational state is a very scary prospect. It could result in our national armed forces being deployed, without us having a say. For the security of our country and our national independence, it is vital our Parliament and Government retains full control of our armed forces.
Even as we negotiate our exit from the EU, our ministers and officials are disgracefully signing us up to this overarching European Defence Union. Our politicians have committed us to sending huge sums of money and abiding by strict EU procurement rules which are the foundation of the European Defence Union.
Participation in these programmes means giving up the autonomy of our national Government and armed forces. This completely contradicts the rallying cry of the Leave campaign to “take back control”.
In response to a petition with over 14,000 signatures, calling for Britain to Leave all EU defence structures in March 2019, the Government has only just re-iterated its intention to form a “deep and special partnership” with the EU, covering defence. The response confirmed the Government is willing to “participate in EU missions and operations”. UK officials do not seem to, or want to recognise the detrimental effect any such participation would have on our defence autonomy.
It is right for the Government to confirm our unending commitment to the security of Europe. However, this commitment must be undertaken through either ad hoc, bilateral missions, or our participation in NATO. As President Trump apparently gears up for military intervention in Syria, he will want to know he has the support of his European allies in NATO.
EU Member States must be careful about side-lining NATO, given their huge dependence on US support. The Government’s current approach of participation in EU defence programmes is utterly misguided and represents a betrayal of the result of the EU Referendum.
We must urgently Get Britain Out of the European Defence Union.
Peter Lyon is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out