Back to reality: UK defence after Brexit

While EU fanatics remain mired in the delusion that the EU has preserved peace in Europe, we must use our influence after Brexit to reinvigorate support for NATO, the true guarantor of peace and stability on the European continent

Forward posture after Brexit
Joshua Mackenzie-Lawrie
On 19 December 2019 15:33

Ever since the United Kingdom voted to Leave the European Union in 2016, the EU has gone into overdrive speeding up the level of integration on defence and security, all in an attempt to bind the UK into its web of projects and protocols before we could actually leave.

Prior to the EU Referendum, we were told an EU Army was an ‘impossibility’, but months after the result, organisations and legislation were being put in place to the extent we now have EU Leaders -- including the new Commission President Ursula von der Leyen -- openly talking about EU military operations. This is something she had always advocated during her previous role as German defence minister.

Boris Johnson made many improvements on Theresa May’s Deal after he became Prime Minister in July 2019, but what is often ignored are the changes he made on matters of defence and security.

In Johnson’s Deal, the contentious issues surrounding the UK’s commitment to cooperate and integrate on matters of defence “to the extent possible under EU Law” is removed, and instead the wording is changed, and placed into the non-legally binding Political Declaration.  

This is vital for the future of UK Defence. With Boris Johnson now in possession of a substantial majority in Parliament following the General Election, he is free to play hardball in negotiations with the EU.  Remainer former Prime Minister, Theresa May’s version of the Withdrawal Agreement would have placed the independence of the UK’s armed forces and intelligence agencies at risk.

This would include our membership of the vital 5 EYES intelligence sharing community, which consists of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Australia. This organisation does more to protect our national security than any EU collaboration.

Defence and our security should not even be considered alongside any future Trade Deal with the EU, as they are such important issues. However, there are some who have mistakenly grown comfortable with the current status quo, and who will resist the UK breaking away from the institutions of EU defence.

This would be a huge mistake for our country once we are free of the clutches of our EU Membership. All Brexiteers - and the Prime Minister - must be aware of those inside the Government who will still want the UK to turn inwards to the EU. Those individuals will continue to push for commitments to the European Defence Fund and other bodies. Their attempts must be recognised and put to an end once and for all.

Instead of looking towards further integration with the EU on matters of defence, Britain must now grasp hold of the opportunities to cast our net wider now. Old alliances which have been supressed by our association with the EU should be our first port of call.

When it comes to the security of Europe - as well as the United Kingdom - there is only one organisation which truly enables cooperation between allies in an effective manner, while still allowing sovereign decision-making by each member. This is NATO.

The EU, led by French President, Emmanuel Macron, seems to have developed a fundamental distrust of NATO and the United States of America – no doubt because of Macron’s ambitions to take over from Angela Merkel in leading the EU in the march towards ‘EU Federalism’.

He argues Europe must have an independent defence mechanism which can face off challenges from potential foes in the future - such as the USA. Much of this resentment comes from the fact US President Donald Trump has demanded EU countries - such as Germany - actually pay their fair share in NATO contributions, as they are currently paying very little towards the costs of defence, all the while relying on the USA and the UK for protection.

This resentment is the same mentality the UK must extricate itself from. As a country we are far more aligned with the United States than we are with France and Germany. The USA is not an enemy of either Europe or the UK, and it is incredibly insulting to regard them as such. For the last 70 years NATO has secured peace in Europe, and this is something we must not turn our backs on.

After we Get Britain Out of the EU, we must ensure the UK is not tied into any EU Defence mechanisms. Instead we must use our influence and military strength to once again reinvigorate support for NATO, and the more traditional military alliances that have served us so well.

There is no need to surrender sovereignty in order to ensure we protect our own country.

Joshua Mackenzie-Lawrie is a Senior Research Executive at the cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out

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