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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.

On the march - The European Army

May is signing Britain into involvement with the European Defence Agency, the European Defence Fund, the European Defence Industrial Development Programme and PESCO. The EU describes all these together as the start of its military 'integration' leading to the creation of 'a Common Defence' in five years' time.

EU leaders have been telling us they are not creating an EU army for almost as long as they have been creating it. In 2003 Tony Blair wrote in The Times, "There is no such concept as a European army."

The month before the referendum, the Guardian told us that 'Claims from the leave side about moves to unify Europe's armed forces are nothing more than fantasy.' Lord Ashdown said the idea of an EU army was 'nonsense' and 'for the birds'. Sir Nicholas Clegg, who has now shown his commitment to Britain by taking a well-paid PR job in California, said, "the idea we're going to have a European air force, a European army is simply not true."

Jolyon Howorth, the Jean Monnet Professor of European Politics at the University of Bath, argued in his recent book on EU defence policy that the EU was not creating a European army. He then wrote, "However, there can be no denying that what is being created is a European armed force, for use on behalf of the European Union and the international community." So, it is a European armed force but not a European army.

Five days after our vote to leave, the EU sent a secret paper to EU ambassadors about its Global Strategy. The paper laid out the groundwork for the EU's ambition to centralise defence and security policy, to lead to an EU army.

In the following months Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon and other ministers agreed to EU proposals for closer military integration including the Security and Defence Implementation Plan, the European Defence Action Plan and the Global Strategy. These all boosted the powers and remit of the European Defence Agency and the European Defence Fund. They all mean that we continue to pay vast annual sums to the EU and they all give away control over key parts of our defence and foreign policy.

Ministers have agreed to all the steps towards military union taken by the six EU Councils since we instructed the government to leave the EU. The government has moved far faster to bind us into the EU defence acquis than it has ever moved to get us out of the EU.

In October 2016 the May government instructed senior officials in the Cabinet Office, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, to lock us into the emerging European Defence Union. This is on the lines of the 1952 Pleven Plan to create a 'European Defence Community' with EEC members all sharing a unified defence budget, equipment and personnel. The then Prime Minister Winston Churchill rejected the scheme.

On 22 June 2017, the Prime Minister attended the European Council where she approved the European Defence Fund, the European Defence Industrial Development Programme, and PESCO. The Council also agreed that the deployment of EU Battlegroups should be borne as a common cost on a permanent basis. May, representing a country which had voted to leave the EU, approved this too. In her statement to Parliament the following week she failed to mention defence at all, despite it having been the top item on the agenda at the EU Summit.

The EU's de facto Foreign and Defence Secretary, Ms Mogherini, said in June 2017, "Many believed and told me that it would have proven to be impossible for us to have a first Command Centre in Brussels for our military and training missions or that it would take us years, decades to do it. "It took us a few weeks. And we decided it together, still at 28, and we did it." So, May signed us up to that too, without telling anyone.

By late 2017, the EU was starting to come out into the open about its military plans. In September 2017 President Juncker said, "By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European Defence Union."

In February 2018, Alastair Brockbank, the Cabinet Office Europe Unit's Defence Adviser, advocated a Framework Partnership Agreement with the EU, a binding commitment to EU defence policy, structures and rulebook. He proposed "having both our people in Brussels but also having European External Action Service possibly in UK ministries." So, he told the EU we would sign up to its Common Defence Policy, while the May government said publicly we would not be part of it.

The Cabinet Office has proposed a defence Treaty with the EU, to be concluded before the end of the 'transition period', 'to bring things forward as soon as possible', an urgency noticeably lacking in moves towards leaving the EU.

Being part of any aspect of the EU's military union requires being part of EU foreign policy expressed in its External Action Service Global Plan. In the EU, everything is linked to everything else.

The government's Technical Note on External Security of 24 May 2018 said, "The UK welcomes the agreement that future arrangements on CSFP [Common Security and Foreign Policy] and CSDP [Common Security and Defence Policy] could become effective during the Implementation Period." This would lock us into the EU's common foreign policy and defence policy and into the whole EU defence acquis.

May's proposed Withdrawal Treaty has a section on defence, just half a page of A4, all about us paying the EU. After we 'leave' on 29 March 2019, we will continue to pay for "the European Defence Agency, the European Union Institute for Security Studies, and the European Union Satellite Centre, as well as to the costs of Common Security and Defence Policy operations…"

The EU's aims to increase 22-fold its spending on defence for 2021-2028 from that of 2014-2020. But it has not included in this total all the defence items. It omitted the Military Mobility fund (€6.5 billion) and the off-the-books 'Peace Fund' (10.5 billion euros). These bring the total up to €31.3 billion.

May's Withdrawal Treaty would require us to comply with EU defence directives and therefore with the European Court of Justice which is empowered to supervise its implementation. It would keep us signed up to the EU budgets for defence and weapons procurement, which would mean giving the EU control over large areas of our defence decision-making and over our industrial future. Under Article 156 of the Agreement, during the transition period we would have to pay our contribution to all EU defence structures and agencies but would have no say in the policies pursued.

It would subordinate us to EU powers and decision-making, with no input from us. We would be rule-takers without representation. It would mean EU control over vital national security matters, giving the EU new powers it did not have before we voted to leave it.

The Political Declaration agreed by the EU and the government calls for 'a broad, comprehensive and balanced security partnership' (Article 80).

Its Part III envisages a Framework Participation Agreement. Article 104 says that the Parties agree on "United Kingdom collaboration in relevant current and future projects of the European Defence Agency (EDA) through an Administration Arrangement; the participation of eligible UK entities in collaborative defence projects bringing together Union entities supported by the European Defence Fund (EDF): and the United Kingdom's collaboration in projects in the framework of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), where invited to participate on an exceptional basis by the Council of the European Unions in PESCO format."

The Declaration's Part IV, Institutional and Other Horizontal Arrangements, Article 120, says, "The future relationship should be based on an overarching institutional framework …" Article 122 says, "The Parties note that the overarching institutional framework could take the form of an Association Agreement."

By late 2018, the EU was open about its military plans. Bruno Le Maire, France's finance minister, urged the German government to turn the EU into a 'sovereign' power on the world stage. He said, "This is the struggle of a generation … Europe needs to become a kind of empire like China and the USA … Europe should no longer shy away from displaying its power and being an empire of peace." (13 November 2018.) Yet this 'empire of peace' was creating its own army.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that Europeans cannot be protected without a 'true European army' and Chancellor Merkel backed the scheme. On 13 November she said, "We have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army." She said it should involve a common arms industry and a 'European intervention force'. She said that the rule of unanimity for such decisions needed to be changed so that a majority would suffice.

So, the denials by pro-EU campaigners like Blair, Ashdown and Clegg during the referendum were, to say the least, misleading. And now people like Lord Hague continue the lies. Hague claimed, on 27 November that May's deal ensures that "we are not expected to be a part of" more EU centralisation, including in the military context. As Major General Julian Thompson, the Chairman of Veterans for Britain, states, "This is not the case. The political declaration on the future relationship states that the UK will remain in the EU's Defence Fund, among a range of other defence industrial structures, to the extent possible under EU law. As Norway has found, and the Cabinet Office has admitted, this means that the UK will remain under the authority of the EU's foreign policy and its rapidly growing defence policy. When these defence industrial structures kick in over the next few years, they will also be accompanied by a requirement to place funds and decision-making under EU authority. This is the opposite of taking back control.

"The exit agreement of November 25 further sows the ground by keeping the UK under EU defence directives. This is another prerequisite of these EU military merger schemes, which are unashamedly political and aimed at further integration.

"There are ways to achieve military and industrial co-operation with European states that do not involve the EU at all – for example, through bilateral agreement, as with the Anglo-Dutch arrangements for co-operation between their respective marine corps, in place since 1971.

"There are only two possible reasons for participating in these schemes: to sweeten the plainly failed attempt to win concessions in other areas, or to pave the way for re-entry to the EU. Either would disrespect the vote to leave the EU, and either would be a gross breach of the most basic contract between government and citizen."

As the former head of the Secret Intelligence Service Sir Richard Dearlove, Sir Rocco Forte, Martin Howe QC, Lord Lawson, Sir Paul Marshall, Major General Julian Thompson and Lord Trimble wrote, "The 'deal' surrenders British national security by subordinating UK defence forces to Military EU control and compromising UK Intelligence capabilities."

To sum up, May is signing Britain into involvement with the European Defence Agency, the European Defence Fund, the European Defence Industrial Development Programme and PESCO. The EU describes all these together as the start of its military 'integration' leading to the creation of 'a Common Defence' in five years' time. 

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Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
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