- CSDP – the section on CSDP (the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy) describes the UK striving to follow EU rules, policies and practices with an end goal of being ‘granted’ permission to participate in joint working, under EU authority. This is the wrong approach on every level. The policy perpetuates the leader-and-follower relationship as seen for decades during the UK’s EU membership and has an inevitable consequence of overriding UK democratic process towards the formulation of policy.
- EDA – Government is aiming for a bespoke ‘Association Agreement’ with the European Defence Agency. In spite of the ‘bespoke’ description, the EDA expects a specific set of requirements from its associated countries, especially when EDA association is a precursor to defence industrial participation as in the case of the UK. Firstly, the UK would be subject to EDA benchmarks, including those that steer the amount of defence work sent out of the UK. Secondly, the Government would secondly be permitting the ‘EDA toolbox’ to be used to heighten, test and incentivise the application of CSDP. Thirdly, the UK would be subject to the application of CARD, the Coordination Annual Review on Defence, in which member states permit the EDA/EU Commission to determine and incentivised spending priorities and programmes. Fourthly, EDA association means allowing the EDA’s Capability Development Plan (CDP) to be applied to the UK. This would be a further democratic anomaly, counter to the principle of Government control and Parliamentary scrutiny. It would produce a magnetic effect towards the UK being a component of an EU-led full spectrum military rather than the UK retaining a full-spectrum military. Fifth, the UK would adhere to the stated EDA objective of applying the defence directive, which is any case a condition to third-country participation in the EU’s EDF and EDIDP which the PM has described retaining. Veterans for Britain received reassurances from senior MPs in 2017 that the UK would on no account be staying in the European Defence Agency or even any binding arrangement with it. “We will leave it completely, absolutely no question,” was the verbatim reassurance. We were sceptical at the time and these reassurances have indeed turned out to be false.
- PESCO – Permanent Structured Cooperation is described by the EU Commission as “a driver for integration in the field of defence”. The UK would be subject to the full range of EU rules, policies and directives in defence in order to take part, just as with the related European Defence Fund and EDIDP. These obligations are for the entirety of UK defence, defence industry and elements of defence-related foreign policy – not just for the confines of the UK’s involvement in any project. Therefore, the idea of ad hoc participation in PESCO is a fundamental misunderstanding of its obligations. The projects of PESCO are those that involve the conjoined regulatory framework of PESCO member states, whether for equipment development, training or systems development. The resulting facilities would require the UK to use these regulatory frameworks in the application of the facility, thus leading to further binding commitments to EU authority. After the UK somehow avoided joining PESCO in November (the only part the *hasn’t* joined since the referendum), we spent six months being less concerned by this component, especially following ministerial statements that the UK definitely would not be involved. The DExEU Technical Note shows that we should be concerned once again about the threat of PESCO and its accompanying commitments and that reassurance from befuddled ministers were false.
- ‘Institutional arrangements’ later – The framework contained in the DExEU paper is designed to “become part of the broader institutional arrangements required”. Therefore this is merely a taste of further obligations and deeper commitments yet to come. It is not conducive to a Parliamentary democracy for institutional arrangements to be decided without the continuing scrutiny of Parliament and for such binding commitments which would be created by the institutional arrangements to be permitted to take powers of decision-making, scrutiny and redress away from the UK Government and Parliament on a permanent basis.
The above concepts, masquerading as ‘DExEU ideas’ are simultaneously the EXACT set of requirements the EU expects of countries entering ‘third-country status’ in defence. Whitehall officials are taking us all for idiots in this respect, not just the ministers at DExEU.
The language of the Technical Note even uses the exact same phraseology issued by the EU Commission and their Taskforce 50 negotiating team. Just think about that for a moment – in a crucial part of the negotiations which the average British voter would imagine to be off limits from EU involvement, the officials we pay are taking cues from their counterparts at the negotiating table. It’s like a court case where your solicitors are taking instruction from your opponent.