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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

May, Munich, and Military Structures

Theresa May's Munich speech suggests UK's continued involvement in EU security structures post-Brexit

Author: David Wilkinson

Never mind the £350m on the NHS, the fundamental promises of Leave have just been betrayed.

Saturday 17th February 2018 will be remembered as the date when all hope, all pretence, that Theresa May had any intention, let alone any ability, to deliver a true Brexit had to be abandoned.

In her speech in Munich, of all places, she spelled out her definition of Brexit in the areas of security, defence, foreign policy and justice and home affairs (JHA). JHA is one of the most important aspects of Brexit and the vote to leave because it is most fundamental in the relationship of the individual and the state. It is about upon whose orders may my freedom be taken. It is about who we are as citizens.

In JHA, May's Brexit will see British people more in the EU than under Tony Blair's Lisbon Treaty.

How so? Tony Blair, for all his faults, at least gained an opt-out from the JHA provisions of the Lisbon Treaty (the re-named EU Constitutional Treaty). Denmark also had similar opt-outs and also from the EU military structures and mechanisms. As with all opt-outs, it is hoped by the EU that they be temporary and soon forgotten by the ignorant populace.

When it was suggested to the Danes that they abandon their sovereignty in this important area there was a referendum and the Danes decided to retain their independence. In Britain, Theresa May as Home Secretary, discarded these opt-outs without even a discussion in Parliament and certainly no popular discussion.

In Munich, also with no popular mandate whatsoever, she pledged to fellow securocrats that Brexit would actually mean not a recovery of sovereignty but a further pooling.

We are talking here about provisions including European Arrest Warrant which, in Bruges Group referendum campaign event LINK, Jacob Rees Mogg described as "reason enough on its own to leave the EU". The issue was central to grass-roots Leave campaigning.

Just as Corbyn has his own personal ideas for Brexit Britain, it seems May is also using the opportunity to impose her personnally prefered policies. In May's case they have a distinctly authoritarian, snoopers' charter type flavour.

At Munich, May advanced Macron's idea of putting these things into a separate treaty, like Schengen, so as to more easily sell them as being outside the EU and therefore trick people into believing Brexit had happened.

But still, May outlined in her speech, with classic May vagueness admitedly, that UK will follow EU foreign policy, support its various adventures, sanctions, hostilities and enmities. And expenses. With regard to British sovereignty, of course.

May also made commitments to EU security with the only condition that it be sort of informal - for cosmetic purposes.

The important thing to pick up is that May, rather than offering that maybe Brexit Britain might help out a little so long as the EU grows up in trade talks, etc., she is asking that we not be excluded from these EU projects and is prepared to offer concessions so that we not be excluded. She says it in a stern voice and the gullible believe she is talking tough for Britain.

At the beginning of these negotiations, so many months ago, we explained that there was a basic negotiating reality: the EU, weakened by Brexit, that the zenith of the EU, peak-Europe, had been passed, would concede any deal Britain wanted on trade (after all it is the same deal most EU businesses and workers want) and in exchange they would get something on defence. Same in other areas, the EU would grant whatever but get a bit of security. Our object to May from the start was that we feared she would also throw in JHA for good will. We believed that what we, the Brexit movement should decide, was how much defence we could really grant. This was a difficult question to address since Brexit Britain was totally committed to real defence by NATO and generally does not understand why an EU defence identity is so important in Brussels. Extricating ourselves from the sillier vanity ambitions of the EU is what Brexit is all about. We did not imagine then that we would arrive at a situation nearly as bad as this.

May will not win us Brexit. She does not even want to. She supported remain, still does and sees Brexit as a disastrous error to be minimised by stale management.

We will not have Brexit next year. We will have something akin to Irish Free State. Today we need to face up to that reality. We need to stop being mere spectators and commentators on May's process and begin to organise for a political struggle that might still last a generation.

May lost her majority at the last election because too many Conservative voters were so demoralised by her campaign that they did not vote. It is now almost certain that not only will the Conservatives take a beating at the local elections but that the next government will be labour. And since it will be difficult for the Tories to live down such a betrayal, so will the government after be Labour. In all that time, the forces of reaction will work tirelessly to take us from semi-Brexit back to full membership.

We face a desperate generation-long struggle.

Click on the links below to see how the Government has agreed to be bound by EU military plans:

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