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UK’s stake in an EU military – despite Brexit


JAMES Heapey MP, Minister for the Armed Forces, gave the following ‘reassurance’ to me in July after I had raised my concerns with my MP over the ‘surrender’ of UK sovereignty over Defence to the EU’s new Defence and Foreign policy ambitions (my emphasis):

‘I would like to reassure your constituent that having left the EU the UK continues to retain full sovereign control over its defence, decision-making and the deployment of its Armed Forces and their equipment. The Government’s position remains that we will not support any measures that undermine our sovereignty, or that lead to competition or duplication with NATO. We continue to make clear that defence remains a national competence. What is necessary is for national Armed Forces to be able to work together effectively when they are called upon to act, and for the EU’s contribution to European defence and security to be complementary to, and respect the role of, NATO. NATO will remain the cornerstone of our defence and security, as it has for over 70 years.’

If only all this were true. Two reports in recent weeks conflict with the reassurances made to me that the UK government ‘will not support measures that undermine our sovereignty, or that lead to competition or duplication with NATO’.What they (ie the Minister for the Armed Forces) say is not what they are doing and is not what we are getting.

In the first report, Reuters says that Britain is joining an EU project under EU direction duplicating what Nato was expected to do.  

The report says: ‘European Union defence ministers paved the way on Tuesday for Britain to join an EU project aimed at facilitating the swift movement of troops and military equipment across Europe . . .

‘Britain, which formally left the EU in 2020, has long been sceptical about moves towards greater European military integration, fearing this could undermine Nato.

‘But non-European Nato allies the United States and Canada have also signed up to the EU’s “Military Mobility” project, part of its enhanced defence cooperation (PESCO). It aims to simplify and standardise procedures for military personnel and equipment as they cross borders by road, rail, sea or air.

‘Military experts have long complained that red tape [is that EU red tape?] is hampering the swift movement of personnel and equipment that would be crucial if Nato allies had to send reinforcements to Eastern Europe in the case of a conflict.’

The second report, on the Save Britain website, says the EU is to set up a Rapid Deployment Military Force. 

Under the headline ‘Farage Vindicated?’ the report shows the stark reality of EU ambitions, and the UK’s involvement through Pesco and other parts of the complex EU defence mechanisms illustrate that Mr Heapey’s assurances are just wishful thinking, or worse, a further betrayal of UK sovereignty over defence to EU ambitions. It quotes the German newspaper Die Welt saying that Brussels is planning a 5,000-man ‘rapid deployment’ military intervention force which will be given competency for ‘evacuation’ and ‘stabilisation’ missions. The former involves escorting civilians out of a threatened area, while the latter involves deploying the EU military force in a region to secure ‘stability’ and short-term ‘peace’. The report suggests that the force could be sent to Ukraine to perform this peacekeeping function and that such missions could result in the force arriving in a war-torn area ‘heavily armed’.

Save Britain says the development appears to be the most concrete development in the EU’s desire to have its own military.

‘Eurofederalists across the continent have been eyeing the formation of such a force for some time, and the potential formation of a European military force was a key feature of the United Kingdom’s 2016 decision to exit the European Union.

‘When Brexit leaders like Nigel Farage warned of the bloc’s hard-Eurofederalist direction, they were dismissed as believing in “a dangerous fantasy”, but Farage has been vindicated — yet again.’

This development would give the EU powers to escalate the Ukrainian conflict and prod the Russian bear again. No mention as to the UK’s ability to apply any check or balance over EU policy but an ‘unsigned UK Defence (Pesco) cheque’ putting UK armed forces in harm’s way doing the EU’s bidding.

This article first appeared on UK Defence Matters on November 16, 2022, and is republished by kind permission.

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David Card
David Card
David Card is a retired RAF aircrew officer and editor of UK Defence Matters.

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