Since November 2016, we have been sounding the alarm about the vast military agreements the EU has been pushing.
The UK should never have agreed to participate, yet ministers have given active consent for the UK to be a participant and have done so in FIVE separate agreements at the EU Council.
EU Defence Union is vast and complicated. A single page might reference four other prior plans or agreements which must also be read in order that the whole is understood. Financial elements link to structural elements, which in turn link to political decision making and joint purchasing and ownership of military assets. There is even foray into space, satellites, drones and “beyond state-of-the-art” defence technology.
When we present the plans to MPs, defence commentators and the media they are naturally baffled. This is how the EU gets its way.
The EU Commission has been planning all this since 2014 and have rolled out a dizzying SEVENTEEN documents in less than six months, comprising more than 60,000 words.
After every EU Council meeting, new documents are generated while others are amended.
In the absence of simple answers to simple questions, many default to the hopeful view that ‘Brexit makes it all ok’ and the relationship will surely end in 2019.
Nothing to worry about, right? Wrong.
We are always being asked why the UK’s accession to these agreements has any effect on a departing UK.
That’s precisely why we’ve written this article.
How does EU Defence Union bind the UK in terms of Brexit? Here’s how:
1. It threatens UK autonomy in defence procurement decisions
How? UK companies are tied into defence procurement deals which require adherence to EU defence policy and European Defence Agency (EDA) membership. When the UK leaves these, it regains defence autonomy. But the companies will be hostages to EU policy and political pressure from Brussels.
2. It gives the EU new leverage in the Brexit talks
How? The agreements are an additional set of UK commitments. These will be harder to unravel post-2019. They cover defence command structure, intelligence, defence finance and defence procurement.
Once signed up, the UK loses its ability to negotiate a deal that best suits an independent country.
Worse, as a key military power the EU wants our support, but we will have handed it over without gains in other Brexit areas in return.
3. It commits the UK to legal merger of defence capabilities for at least two years
How? It means refusing to even begin discussing UK disengagement from recent defence agreements until after March 2019. Exit talks first, future relationship second. That could take months or years and will keep the UK tied in for the duration of a transition deal, during which the UK will still be a member of the European Defence Agency and applying Common Defence Policy.
4. It hinders our exit from the European Investment Bank, the EU state bank, created to “further EU policy goals”
The new EU policy means linking UK membership of the European Investment Bank (EIB) to defence, making it more difficult to leave the European Investment Bank, which is an organisation closely association with supporting EU policy with considerable UK financial assets but for limited UK gain.
5. It adds a ‘gravitational risk’ to the UK for the start of defence talks in 2019, which are intended to take us closer to EU defence union
How? Since the UK is already part signed up, it feeds future calls for the UK to remain in the EU’s centralising military strategy, removing the UK’s ability to take independent action in defence and defence procurement to save jobs and expertise.
6. It threatens NATO
The European Commission’s European Defence Action Plan repeatedly asserts the EU’s ‘strategic autonomy’ in defence.
“The EU will continue to work closely with its partners, particularly with the United Nations and NATO, while respecting the autonomy of the EU’s decision-making processes.”
The EEAS’s Security and Defence Implementation Plan, as well as the EU Council conclusions from March, May and November 2017, repeatedly refer to the development of EU strategic autonomy in defence.
The EU is pursuing four separate funding streams that partly claim authority over member states’ national defence budgets and joint financial assets. The decision making over these funds and their conduct will be done within the EU remit, not through NATO.
The protagonists of EU defence union have outlined areas in which NATO has not served the objectives of then EU. Ursula Von Der Leyen, German Defence Minister, justified EU defence union by citing NATO ‘inability’ to intervene in the Western Balkans, Ukraine and Africa. This helps explain why the EU is moving towards developing common pooled EU assets. It already has collective assets such as its Satellite Centre, and a Space Policy to go with it.
7. It is completely unnecessary for the UK to be involved, yet EU Commissioners have told the UK Govt it is expected to “play its full role”.
Denmark, an EU member state plays no part in EU defence because it opted out. The UK should have insisted on the same deal.
Diplomats and Ministers thought they were “nurturing good will” by playing along, but that’s not how the EU works. It’s an acquisitive project that exploits every opportunity behind momentary consensus.
The EU Commission has told the UK that because “decisions over EU Defence Union were taken unanimously”, the UK is expected to “play its full role while it remains a member”.