BY JAMIE FOSTER
Should the unlikely happen and a deal materialise, a group of Tory MPs are considering voting against Boris Johnson’s divorce deal unless commitments to EU defence are removed from it.
At present the divorce deal promises to keep the UK linked to a series of EU military structures including the European Defence Fund, the European Defence Agency and Permanent Structured Cooperation. This could mean the UK having to contribute billions to EU defence as well as troops and other military assets. It is part of the Government’s commitment to recognising EU defence.
Some critics see this as the beginning of an EU army. Claims from the leave side about moves to unify Europe’s armed forces were described as “nothing more than fantasy” during the EU Referendum campaign. Since the UK vote to leave, the picture has changed – while it is no secret that the EU has a common defence and security policy, Britain has previously opposed moves to form an EU Army, preferring to focus on NATO.
Yesterday the MOD was forced to clarify matters: “Claims that the UK could be forced into any form of EU Army are inaccurate. The UK has always made our own sovereign decisions on defence spending on where and how to deploy our Armed Forces. This will remain the case as we leave the EU.”
Serious thought needs to be given to whether we are to be tied into this sort of defence commitment after Brexit. The whole point of Brexit was to become independent of the EU project and yet these defence commitments keep us tied in for decades to come, as well as tying down spending that the EU needs. Our commitment to European defence is surely dealt with by our NATO membership. It is hard to see how placing ourselves under the decision-making capacity of the unelected EU commission adds anything important to this state of affairs. NATO itself has urged against the formation of a European force, in case it leads to the alliance competing with the EU for resource.
It will be difficult for Boris to do a deal in the time he has left but that should not mean that his deal is less than we require. Keeping us bound in on defence may seem politically expedient but it is not in keeping with the spirit of Brexit.
If we leave without a deal we will not be bound in to these defence commitments in the same way. This is just one more reason why it may now be best to leave without a deal.