Ministers let the EU expand defence integration schemes they had just put into the exit deal

When Theresa May announced a deal with the EU on 14 November,  it quickly became clear that it conceded even more ground to the EU’s new defence integration schemes than even the Chequers Plan did. The UK would be tied up in new EU defence budgets and structures, which would in turn tie the UK to the wider political ‘membership’ of the EU’s rapidly growing defence policy and command, as a Cabinet Office official had unwittingly revealed months earlier.

Yet even more giveaways were to come from a far less public arrangement.

Five days later, on 19 November, Remainer minister Alan Duncan helped the EU to expand the powers of defence integration structures Theresa May had only just proposed to keep us in.

There are 4 key schemes Alan Duncan agreed:

1. The MPCC (Military Planning and Conduct Capability)

He let the EU help itself to an ‘executive’ role for the new EU military HQ, called the MPCC. Previously, ministers had crowed that they had slowed the EU’s militarisation by making the HQ only ‘non-executive’ and therefore only for advisory and training missions. The UK’s faux-blockage lasted only 20 months and was clearly for presentation purposes to dupe the British electorate rather than resist EU ambitions.

The change agreed by Alan Duncan means the EU now has the full political power to deploy and command EU Battlegroups in anger. An earlier May 2017 agreement at EU Council, approved by a different UK minister, gave the EU powers to control broader ‘follow-on’ forces drafted in from member states. Therefore, in the stroke of a pen on 19 November 2018, the EU became a power capable of commanding military deployments, either domestically or as a foreign intervention, by orchestrating the chains of command of member states at the full choice and discretion of the EU Council’s Political and Security Committee.

Wouldn’t you think the UK Parliament would have demanded the right to discuss something so significant? Especially when May’s Remainer Government is lining us up to stay attached.

2. The CARD (Coordinated Annual Review on Defence)

A further change agreed by Alan Duncan at the same meeting was the start of a scheme which gives the EU control over member states’ defence spending choices. The scheme, known as the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence, allows the EU to control decision-making using the financial leverage of member states’ own contributions. It’s like letting someone bribe you to do what they want to do and you’re paying them to bribe you. It is an incredible, farcical situation which MPs don’t understand, yet the UK is now in this. In front of other EU foreign ministers, Alan Duncan praised a trial programme for the scheme which the UK had been participating in. He and his EU counterparts then agreed to switch on the actual scheme with UK involvement.

If Mrs May’s deal goes through, the UK would be stuck in this unbelievable, power-grabbing scheme after Brexit through our subordination to the wider EU defence architecture and it’s difficult to see how we would escape.

You might be wondering why Alan Duncan, a foreign minister, is able to wield such power over future UK defence. That unfortunately is just the way the EU works – the EU ‘gave’ EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) to foreign ministries because it is a component part of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

3. Military Mobility

At the same 19 November EU Council meeting, Alan Duncan agreed a joint endorsement of EU-led military mobility, an EU military cross-border transit scheme which is under the auspices of the EU instead of NATO.

4. European ‘Peace’ Facility

He also gave UK consent to the ‘European Peace Facility’ which despite its cuddly name is actually a military intervention fund. It was launched at a similar scale as the UK’s entire costs for the Iraq War. However it should be noted that every single sum for EU defence budgets has expanded soon after political consent has been gained. The European Peace Facility works together with the existing EU Athena Mechanism which reimburses states for costs incurred by member states for EU-controlled military missions.

 

These are the main four, but there were others:

a. There was a further agreement on programmes for so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation, the only part of the EU’s military structural integration which the UK is not currently in, but which May’s exit deal would put us into.

b. Alan Duncan also signed off on a change to the EU’s military equipment budget known as the European Defence Fund, which May’s deal would keep us in, along with all the political policy obligations it brings. The change he agreed was to endorse the EU’s plan to put the fund into the EU’s central budget (the Multi-Annual Financial Framework) for the 2021-27 period. How on earth can the UK stay in a controlling budget mechanism that is not only entirely controlled by the EU, but coordinated as part of its central EU budget?

c. Duncan also agreed the EU’s plan to expand the scope of EU defence policy (CSDP) with the creation of a ‘Civilian CSDP Compact’.

d. He also agreed a statement ‘welcoming’ the ‘progress’ the EU institutions had made in a military integration which includes the UK. Remember as a minister, he is supposed to be speaking on behalf of the British people, who rejected the UK’s participation in the EU project and have always been vehemently against EU powers interfering in UK defence.

In short, there were a lot of giveaways for just one day.

Even at the very moment May’s deal was drawing angry consternation from retired military figures (serving ones are not allowed to express a view), May’s Government was changing the picture even further, perpetrating yet more entanglements.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that Parliament would call a halt to agreements of this type which expanded the powers the EU can wield over the UK via the exit deal.

Parliament did not do this because in the absence of adequate information from Remainer ministers, they have been largely unaware of EU defence integration structures. This means there has been barely a murmur from MPs that they have been sidelined in the whole process of UK attachment to EU Defence since the referendum. Ministers, mainly Alan Duncan, have repeatedly breached Parliamentary scrutiny procedures which are specifically designed to protect UK defence integrity from the acquisitive habits of the EU and its loyalists on our shores.

To be clear, the EU defence integration schemes the May Government has joined since the referendum would mean the UK is structurally, politically and financially attached to an EU-controlled defence architecture which the EU has not yet used. The newness of the schemes, which exist mainly at a political level, means that Parliament, military officers and the media are mostly in the dark about them. Defence specialists have not kept pace with binding EU Council agreements and the exit deals. Even their better-placed colleagues, the political editors and pundits, have failed in this regard.

A future post-Brexit UK would be subject to the rules, policies and instructions of the EU’s defence architecture.

We would not be independent in defence and would not have left the EU in defence, the most important aspect of national sovereignty. This is Mrs May’s legacy, created with the help of her loyal lieutenant Alan Duncan.

Veterans for Britain has warned since 2017 that Remainer ministers would have the power to subject the UK to even more defence integration after the exit deal. Admittedly, we did not expect them to be so brazen as to try to do so before the transition. If the transition phase is created, we can expect a complete collapse of UK decision-making and sovereignty over defence because this is what EU rules demand from the promises the May Government has made in the Political Declaration. May and her ministers will have free rein to buckle to EU demands because the international agreements they require can be perpetrated via ministerial powers, rather than supranational EU ones which technically require Parliamentary consent – though May’s ministers have had little respect for this concept.

There are a few possible reasons why the May Government has let the EU help itself to more powers before the official UK exit day and any transition. First, the EU is hurtling at break-neck pace in its defence integration schemes and Remainers are going along with whatever timetable the EU Commission demands. Secondly, with MPs mostly unaware or in denial about EU Defence, EU-loyal ministers must feel they can get away with whatever they like. Thirdly, Remainer ministers who accrue further UK attachments now are making it easier for their side to force wider attachment later.