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HomeNewsHow May’s defence deal sells us down the river – Part 2

How May’s defence deal sells us down the river – Part 2


Yesterday we published the first part of the transcript of a briefing given by Lt Gen Riley on September 2, 2019, (also available here with accompanying slides on the catastrophic threat to Britain’s security hidden in Mrs May’s plan to hand over our national defence to the EU.

He argued that:

  • May’s EU defence agreements totally subordinate our defence and security to an unaccountable EU;
  • EU defence structures tie us to wider EU politics and challenge our sovereignty and security.

Today he shows how these agreements have dodged the scrutiny they should have had by law, asks whether Government been complicit and if MPs are in denial or simply ignorant and calls us to action.

IT must be a matter of serious concern that our civil service simply does not understand how dangerous these mechanisms are although in some cases, such as Sir Alan Duncan, it would appear that they are fully aware and committed to them. That in itself is alarming, but far more alarming is the fact that moves towards tying Britain into EU defence have not received any sort of proper scrutiny from elected members of Parliament. This may be the busiest time in Parliament for many a year, but the EU and our future relationship with it is THE driving issue of the day; and to ignore or conceal the importance of defence in that relationship cannot pass unchallenged.

Take the example of a constituent concerned about the defence arrangements who decided to write to his MP, Mrs Moon. He pointed out that Mrs May’s government had been signing up to what he calls EU defence strategies, while giving the impression that it has nothing to do with the UK. He asks whether she knows about it, whether she agrees, and why it is not being discussed.

Her answer is full of denials – including that an EU army is being created though mentioning an EU army seven times. Yet this was not the question. Compounding this error she misinforms her correspondent with the statement that ‘no such common EU defence powers can be handed from the UK to the EU without the approval of Parliament and a referendum on the issue’. Yet there is no requirement for a referendum on simple issues like an extension of EU power over defence. The Lisbon Treaty in fact states that a referendum is required only for the creation of a unified military, called ‘Common Defence’.

Her next error is to claim that national security will remain a national competence, a line that has been repeated by Lord Howe, the former Defence Minister.

Yet the EU Commission’s own list of competences states quite clearly that the EU has power or competence to implement a Common Foreign and Security Policy, which includes a common defence policy. Our own MoD’s director-general of Strategy, Angus Lapsley, is on record backing this view and saying that ‘defence is no longer a member-state preserve in the EU’.

One of Frederica Mogherini’s staff (EU High Rep for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy), a Mr Molenaar, has stated that ‘if we research and develop military equipment together, if we use it together and move it together, and all this is all in support of EU instruments, then you can say we have a defence union.’

This is a long, long way from retaining national competence in defence.

It seems to me that there is degree of persistency involved in pushing Great Britain into these measures that is almost relentless and determined to avoid proper scrutiny at all costs. No veto has ever been used by GB on the implementation of any of the structures I have described even when that was possible – and it was and is not always possible, as elements of the EDF were put through on Qualified Majority Voting. This was done because, in spite of being central to the CSDP and the EU’s defence architecture, it was dressed up, very cleverly, as an industrial measure. But it is far more than that – even when a veto could have been used, it was not. Mogherini on 14 May 2018 must have been a little surprised that the UK did not block any of the EU’s moves, rather joined them.

Let us be clear. Our elected politicians, unlike the EU Commission, are accountable to the people of this country. It is quite wrong for them to allow what amount to fundamental changes in the sovereignty of our country – in or out of the EU – without subjecting them to the Scrutiny Reserve Resolution of March 2010.

This clearly states that ‘the Government has given an undertaking that ministers will not agree to draft EU policies or laws that have been deposited in Parliament until the committees of both Houses have completed their scrutiny work’, an undertaking that has clearly been breached while Parliament has been given no measures of redress for the breach. Its effects are therefore with us. This smells of a stitch-up of the highest order – stealthy, dangerous and downright wrong.

What is to be done?

First, Awareness. We must ensure that MPs are aware that they have missed the scale of the breach of their duties and their powers.

Second, Alternatives. My friend and colleague Gwythian Prins, along with Sir Richard Dearlove and Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, wrote an alternative: a draft treaty between the UK and the EU for defence, security and intelligence co-operation consequent on our departure from the EU published on 29 March this year. It is founded on co-operation, not integration.

Third, Action. Please lobby your MPs and demand proper scrutiny. Lobby the MoD too. You can find the material you need on the Veterans for Britain website but we will also be putting the message out through social media. 

If you ask no other question please ask this: ‘Will the Prime Minister guarantee that he will remove the European Defence Fund, Pesco and the European Defence Agency from the exit arrangements or any future partnership, thereby blocking any bid to force the UK into the EU Defence Union which would erode UK defence autonomy?’

A few questions put in Parliament like this and we can push the requirement for proper scrutiny. We can also prevent these defence and security measures being quietly wrapped into trade deals and thus stripping our defence authority and autonomy along with our nuclear deterrent even if we leave on WTO terms.

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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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