Brexit does not seem to apply to UK defence policy

by David Card

The UK currently appears to support the EU’s ambitions for a European Defence Union.

The European project’s ultimate ambition is for a single centralised federal state controlled by appointees. By contrast there is the status quo where each nation state cooperates for mutual advantage retaining nation state democracy where the electorate remain sovereign or where nations opt out. The current political choices for Europe are stark. A “United State of Europe”, being led by centralised bureaucracy, a “European Nation States United”, led by the democracy of each nation state, or an “opt out” like the UK not to be dragged back in by one-sided EU exit rules.

David Cameron sought to change the European project’s ambitions and direction of travel, but this dissenting UK view was bluntly rejected. That rejection and refusal to reform clearly influenced Brexit voters and still worries many European citizens. There are several examples of when allowed a referendum, countries have voted against the European project only to be summarily ignored.

Trade was used to establish a platform from which to launch Europe’s federal ambitions. The next step was their disastrous move to a monetary union. Now the European project’s ambition is to make defence, security and foreign policy their centralised federal “competency”. It must no longer be considered a secret that the EU wishes to take control from its member states.

In February 2019, the EU Commission’s European Political Strategy Centre published a paper ‘Joining Forces’ outlining the EU ambitions for a European Defence Union supported by various pillars to progressively frame a common defence policy.

Should the EU succeed with their defence ambitions, it will cement their federal governance and control. As a knock-on bonus for many Eurocrats this will damage the vital NATO relationship with America and reduce the influence NATO has on Europe. 

To date the UK has supported the EU’s defence ambitions and is being gradually drawn into future compliance with EU defence and foreign policy. Despite the Brexit vote we have still not escaped the clutches of the EU’s defence ambitions. Many, including several MPs, have not heeded the warnings made by Sir Richard Dearlove (former head of UK Intelligence) and Field Marshall Lord Guthrie (former Chief of Defence Staff) who went public to expose the “surrender” of our mandarins to EU security and defence ambitions.

Largely unknown to the public, Whitehall mandarins have been trying, since 2016, to find ways for the UK to quietly sign up to EU policy. The pro-EU mandarins of the UK establishment have advised and guided the UK to yield to EU defence ambitions without the necessary parliamentary oversight and in contravention of the spirit of the 2016 Leave vote.

For example, in October 2016 then prime minister Theresa May instructed the Cabinet Office, Foreign Office and MoD to lock us into the emerging European Defence Union. At the time, Angus Lapsley, Director General of MoD strategy under Mrs May’s government, said that “Defence is no longer a member state preserve in the EU” and Alastair Brockbank, the Cabinet Office Europe Unit’s Defence Advisor, signalled the UK’s commitment to a Defence Partnership Agreement with the EU.

In 2017, Mrs May approved UK participation in The European Defence Fund, European Defence Industrial Development Programme and Pesco and in 2018 we were signed up to to the Coordinated Annual Review of Defence (CARD) that uses the European Defence Agency as its secretariat.

Last year, the EU set out their new rules for the participation of third countries (like the UK) in EU Programmes. These rules cover an approval and monitoring process that gives the EU a running veto over UK participation. We consequently signed up to this 10-stage approval process, accepting that the UK must persuade the EU Council, European Defence Agency and EU diplomats that it is adhering to other EU policies, along with compliance with the EU’s rules on defence-industrial arrangements.

The same year, UK mandarins issued a “consultation document” that did more ‘telling’ than ‘consulting’. It reaffirmed UK commitments to honour the rules for the EDF, including but not limited to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and the EU Capability Development Plan. Moreover, it continues to commit the UK to contributions to EU controlled budgets – despite the vote to Leave the EU. 

This means the UK has been aligning to accept EU diktats and, in specific areas, promising not to diverge from EU foreign policy. The UK would be required to commit not to impede either the workings of the EU’s internal defence market, nor impede the EU’s access to the UK’s defence market and access to the UK’s sizeable defence budget, the largest in Europe.

The UK needs to review, question, debate and decide if the route we are embarked on serves UK interests and sovereignty. After all, does supporting the EU’s ambitions for their European project harm UK relations with EU member states who are opposed to further EU ambitions? Can we really expect continued wider and deeper participation in EU programmes not to lead the UK into a situation where we lose autonomy? Finally, how is it beneficial to our and wider European security if we continue to undermine NATO by meekly acquiescing to EU defence ambitions?

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