Boris must be wary of EU military-imperial ambitions
While economic relations form the biggest single item in our transition negotiations with the EU, defence is the second biggest. We should welcome military and intelligence cooperation with European nations, but through NATO not the EU. Brussels has openly stated imperial ambitions. We must be careful not to get sucked into them
Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement, while a drastic improvement on Theresa May’s Deal, is not perfect and still leaves a lot to be desired. There are some important issues which must be resolved during the Transition Period this year.
One specific area which is so often ignored, owing to its complexity, is the integration between UK and EU defence and intelligence communities. While January 31st 2020 was worthy of celebration as we formally left the EU, by no means did it mark the end of threats to UK defence decision-making autonomy.
Thankfully, many commitments on defence were moved from the Withdrawal Agreement into the non-legally binding Political Declaration. However, the text of these commitments remain the same. In the next stage of negotiations the EU has already made it clear they intend to implement the Political Declaration exactly as it is.
The fundamental question to ask is: Why does our exiting from an economic union require vast collaboration and commitments to cooperate on matters of defence, especially if, as we have been told time and again, the EU has no intention of creating an army, nor of taking sovereignty away from individual countries?
In total, sections on defence make up the second largest section of the Political Declaration, after the economic cooperation section. To us at Get Britain Out, this looks a lot like the EU was trying to create an army by stealth all along.
While, on the whole, cooperation with EU member states over security should be welcomed in order to ensure the safety of this country, the United Kingdom must be careful. The European Union structures on defence and intelligence are a spider’s web of different bodies entangled with each other. It is impossible to take part in one without submitting to the rules and regulations of others. As the EU is so often a fan of telling us there can be no cherry picking, it is all or nothing. This is their mentality on the Single Market, and it is the same on defence.
The Political Declaration as it stands states the UK should take part in various EU defence missions and projects to the extent possible under EU Law. However, many of these projects -- such as the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) -- require participants to be regulated by EU Laws and ‘third party’ troops be placed under the command of EU officers.
The EU is painting these issues as non-threatening and as ‘opt-ins’ to increase interoperability. However, they are relying on the fact most MPs do not understand the defence frameworks, hiding the deeper, sinister nature of attempting to tie British troops, technology and money into the EU’s defence structures.
We do not need to be part of these structures and they should play no part in the negotiations of a Free Trade Deal with the EU. There is already plenty of scope for cooperation between the UK and other countries in Europe based around the principles of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
The EU’s obsession with creating its own military strength is rooted in a distrust of America, alongside a deep set ambition within federalists like Guy Verhofstadt, to establish, as he says, a “European Empire”. These are both ideologies to which Britain is diametrically opposed and should continue to be so for years to come.
Lower level deals on military cooperation may seem appealing as goodwill messages to the EU in exchange for more leverage in trade negotiations, but Boris Johnson must hold firm.
Worryingly, the recent confirmation Huawei will be allowed to be involved in the creation of Britain’s 5G network brings one to the conclusion the Prime Minister is placing political strategy ahead of true consideration surrounding our security. While Huawei creates dents in our intelligence reputation, especially among our 5 EYES allies (Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand), to allow undue and intrusive cooperation with EU intelligence forces would, in a sense, be far worse.
Huawei’s role is to be limited and heavily regulated. The EU’s intelligence-sharing protocols, on the other hand, are far more loosely defined, with scope for British intelligence agencies to be forced into sharing sensitive information with organisations we do not fully trust.
Boris Johnson won a victory when he had the defence elements of the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement taken out, but the war is not yet won. Notions of partial cooperation with the EU on matters of defence should be put to rest in favour of cooperation through the traditional channels of NATO, structures which, unlike the EU’s, are understood, and respect national sovereignty.
While it may be politically useful to accept closer ties on security in exchange for a better trade deal with the EU, this is a path which Boris Johnson must not follow.
It would be false to claim we had completed Brexit only for UK defence and intelligence agencies to be indefinitely tied into the EU.
If we are to truly Get Britain Out of the EU and achieve a good deal in the process, the sovereignty and independence of the British Armed Forces and our intelligence agencies must be protected from EU interference.
Joshua Mackenzie-Lawrie is a Senior Research Executive at the cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out
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