This article was first published on Huffington Post.
The news on Monday was dominated by the story of Baroness Warsi’s so-called ‘switch’ to Remain in protest at the Out campaign’s ‘hate and xenophobia’. Rather embarrassingly for several papers, it has since emerged Warsi was never a supporter of Vote Leave and was not a major figure in the Leave campaign. Instead it has been a classic case of Remain (via The Times today) exaggerating and publicising stories of disharmony in the Leave camp. In stark contrast to this was the limited coverage given to Field Marshal Lord Guthrie’s decision to switch his support to Leave (having previously signed a letter in favour of Remain). Lord Guthrie explained his change of view as primarily due to his growing concerns over the prospect of a European Army. Unlike the case of Baroness Warsi, it is clear Lord Guthrie has experienced a genuine change of heart, and it is therefore highly worthwhile to examine his claim a European Army could damage NATO.
One of the most common myths about the European Union is the EU has brought peace to Europe. Angus Robertson MP, the SNP’s parliamentary leader, has recently remarked how “we should never take peace and security for granted” and this is a strong reason to stay in the European Union. He highlights how there are no examples of armed conflict between Member States of the EU and concludes it was the EU itself which made this possible. Quite how Mr Robertson squares this argument of remaining within a Union to ensure peace and prosperity, with his own views of Scottish Independence. Who knows? The reality is NATO not the EU has ensured peace in Europe. False claims by Remainers are not just incorrect, but are in fact damaging.
Much has been written about the rise of Donald Trump in America and the possible impact of his Presidency. Of particular concern is his position on NATO. Trump believes NATO members view the US as “weak and forgiving”, and they fail to honour their agreements. Whilst many of Trumps utterances are rightly dismissed as incoherent or ignorant (or both), in this case he is right on the money. America stumps up 72% of total NATO spending, allocating 3.6% of its total economic output on defence. In contrast Germany, the largest European economy, spends under 1.2% of its GDP on defence. The UK itself is not much better, only matching the NATO minimum defence spending requirement of 2% through some rather creative accounting. The Americans are perfectly within their rights to question why they should be stumping up vast sums of money to pay for Europe’s defence, when the European nations they are protecting refuse to pay anywhere near a fair share. This is a view also put forward by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who at a recent event in Brussels, warned the current disparity in NATO spending is “unsustainable”.
Part of Trump’s great appeal in the US is he is willing to say what many Americans are feeling. His wish for the US to be reimbursed for the vast sums they are spending on European defence is popular amongst ordinary Americans, who view many NATO nations as freeloaders. Considering the tiny amounts European nations are spending on defence, it is difficult to argue they are wrong. It is then doubly insulting when European politicians attribute this peace – not to the US and its vast expenditure – but to the EU! So it is understandable for Americans to support a Presidential candidate who promises to remind these European nations of the huge debt they owe the US. Obama himself threatened to tear up the ‘Special Relationship’ unless Cameron increased the UK’s defence spending.
The reality is many European nations have come to believe the myth it’s the EU not NATO which has ensured peace. They seem happy to hand over more money and more power to the EU, whilst neglecting NATO. The EU’s plans for a European army are just a further continuation of this trend and will surely be the death knells for NATO. Any American President will rightly ask why they need a costly alliance with individual European nations instead of a single agreement with the European Commission, which would not cost them a penny. European nations would question why they should spend significant amounts on national defence to comply with NATO demands, when they are already handing over vast sums of money to the EU, which promises to protect them. NATO would fade into nothing.
Many in Brussels will undoubtedly celebrate the fall of NATO, viewing it as a puppet of the US and ultimately a barrier to the EU’s domination of Europe. Just like the majority of EU policies, it will be Europeans who will suffer. The EU has regularly proven its incompetence on the international stage. In the breakup of Yugoslavia it was the US and NATO which stepped up to the mark to halt the genocide after the EU revealed itself content with watching the massacre from the side-lines. In the current migrant crisis the EU, led by Angela Merkel, has manged to get itself beholden to President Erdogan of Turkey.
It is clear we cannot leave Britain’s defence and security in the hands of the EU. A vote to Remain will validate this lie it is the EU which has maintained peace in Europe. Whether or not Trump is elected President in America will not matter in the end. America will see the EU as the future of Europe, and NATO as expensive relic of a bygone age. It will only be a matter of time before they pull the plug. Such a decision would force the UK into further political union with the rest of Europe if we stay in the EU. Lord Guthrie is correct in his assertion that a European Army will damage NATO. There is only one way to protect NATO and this is to vote to Get Britain Out of the EU before it is too late.