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HomeNewsHow May’s defence deal sells us down the river – Part 1

How May’s defence deal sells us down the river – Part 1


This is a transcript of a briefing given by Lt Gen Riley on September 2, 2019, at the Royal United Services Institute on the catastrophic threat to Britain’s security hidden in Mrs May’s plan to hand over our national defence to the EU. (The briefing with accompanying slides can be found here on the Veterans for Britain website:

He argues that:

  • May’s EU defence agreements totally subordinate our defence and security to an unaccountable EU;
  • Loss of control of our nuclear deterrent and our world influence, making us reliant on the EU Commission for deterrence against nuclear states;
  • These agreements have dodged the scrutiny they should have had by law;
  • EU defence structures tie us to wider EU politics and challenge our sovereignty.

We are running the briefing in two parts, today and tomorrow.

THE defence of any country and the means to conduct that defence are essential attributes of sovereignty. Sovereignty cannot be delegated, relegated or divided – if it is, it is lost. This is the first and most essential factor in understanding why handing control of our national defence to the EU is a catastrophic risk. If we hand over our defence, we risk losing our sovereignty and ceasing to be a country at all. If you think I am exaggerating then take note of the comments of Professor Sir Michael Howard, who argues that defence forces are an essential attribute of statehood, and no proper nation can do without them: they define how other countries view you, whether friends or foes.

The handover of our defence as part of the May government’s negotiations with the EU has not been properly understood nor properly scrutinised, and it is time it is. That part of the negotiations focused on defence effectively creates EU control over our defence and our defence forces in the widest sense as it includes intelligence and security.

During the negotiations, the May government sought to lock Britain into various EU structures that were created in order to establish control of Europe’s defence by the EU Commission – these include the European Defence Fund (EDF), the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) mechanism. This is made crystal clear in the Political Declaration, clauses 104-106, which, by the way, is an integral part of the binding law of the Withdrawal Agreement under Article 184.

Joining all these structures would tie our defence and defence industries to the EU’s rules and policies for defence, and indeed foreign policy and would do so by legal, binding treaty. Thus under EU law – the ruling jurisdiction – we would be structurally, politically, diplomatically and financially tied into and subordinated to the defence architecture of an unaccountable body, the EU Commission. And be in no doubt, attachment to any part of the EU’s defence integration scheme subordinates the country, by EU law, to the whole of the EU’s global strategy.

Unless, post-Brexit, we could explicitly annul these measures, then in simple terms, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines; our ships and aircraft; our land forces and our intelligence architecture could all be directed and controlled – put in harm’s way indeed – by a body which could not be brought to account for its actions. Of particular concern must be control of our independent nuclear deterrent. If we lose control of that, we cease to be a major player in the world at all and become reliant on the EU Commission for deterrence against nuclear states. Deterrence only works if it is credible, and how would some of our enemies view the credibility of the EU Commission? This is a double whammy of lost control and lost credibility.

The EU Commission is not elected, British voters cannot change it at the polling booth, and yet the May government has been prepared to hand over the first duty of any government – the defence of its people, territory and vital interests – to it. It has sought to make us in effect a voiceless, rule-taking colony of Brussels. If you doubt this, read first the Withdrawal Agreement’s Clauses 81, 92, 95, 101-103, 104-6; and secondly the Technical Note on External Relations of 24 May 2018. Where, may I ask you, is democracy in these moves? Where is our place in NATO? Where is our sovereignty as a nation?

This is how the EDF, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and PESCO – the three key EU defence structures – challenge our sovereignty and tie us to wider EU policies:

The governance of the EDF, given clearance on 18 April this year, makes it the central pillar of the EU’s structures for defence. With a budget of 13billion euros it can on top of this leverage individual nations’ resources through policy compliance – that means members having to agree to abide by the EU’s rules. By making grants it can encourage sovereign nations to make changes to their defence budgets that further align them to the centre.

Next, the Coordinated Annual Review of Defence (CARD) agreed to on Britain’s behalf by Sir Alan Duncan on 19 November 2018 further strengthens the leverage of the EU over national defence decision-making.

The governance of wider EU defence procurement links CARD and the EDF to PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation), the latter by the use of a premium from the EDF for joint programmes within the EU; and also with the EU’s Capability Development Plan (CDP) and the Capability Development Mechanism (CDM). All of these fall under the byzantine Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the EU and its participants are bound by the ambit of that policy.

The EDF therefore is not therefore a sort of defence club, but a power grab which affects not only the armed forces and defence industries but also intelligence services. The role of the European Defence Agency as the CARD Secretariat demands complete and up-to-date defence data from all EU states joining the CSDP in spite of being far from secure in the handling of that data.

Anyone in any doubt about the linkages between CARD and EDF, as part of the CSDP, and PESCO, be clear that Jorge Domecq, who heads the EDA, is not.

The fact is that everything is linked to everything else – and the EU has given itself multiple (seven) levels of influence over defence and security:


2. EDA

3. EDF


5. CDP

6. CDM


These ‘pillars’ of the European Defence Union, ironically ranged alongside partnership with the NATO and UN, and which together build the EU global defence and security policy, are what Mrs May’s Political Declaration commits us to.

The Withdrawal Agreement on page 196, we should also note, includes the commitment to replace the Lisbon Treaty commitment to the Common Foreign and Security Policy – including the Common Security and Defence Policy – with a new agreement.

If we agree to, and join, these structures, then the Political Declaration is the legal glue that ties us in. Under page 4, all parties agree that the UK’s participation in defence and external action is subject to the conditions laid out in the corresponding EU instruments. This commits Great Britain to the framework of EU rules, underlining that everything is linked to everything else.

Furthermore, the Political Declaration says that the UK agrees to participate ‘to the extent possible under EU law’. As we can see, that extent is very far-reaching indeed as it includes the full scope of CSDP.

This is therefore all about how an unaccountable body seizes control over the budgets and resources of sovereign member states; thus the real power in these structures is not just how much money they are themselves allocated from EU funds (probably as much as 38billion euros in the next three-year budget cycle), but how much they can leverage it, and by what means.

Tomorrow we will discuss Government complicity and whether MPs are simply ignorant or in denial.

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Jonathon Riley
Jonathon Riley
Lt Gen Riley is a former commander of British Forces in Sierra Leone and Iraq and Deputy Commander of all Nato forces in Afghanistan.

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