Despite Brexit, the Government has covertly signed us up to the EU’s defence agenda
24 November, 2018
by Steven Edginton
We’ve all heard the arguments over how Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration do not respect the referendum result in areas including fishing, trade, financial contributions and our laws. But the public, MPs and even ministers seem to be oblivious to one of the greatest sleights of hand in recent political history: how Theresa May has covertly given away control over policy, rules and structures which govern the future of our armed forces and foreign affairs.
Up until Chequers, I was blind to any idea of a sell-out over our armed forces, as were most MPs I have spoken to. How could this even be an issue? It wasn’t in the mainstream news, Brexiteer MPs weren’t concerned, we had Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary – we appeared to be in safe hands.
As it turns out I was completely wrong.
To sum up an extremely complex situation: Theresa May has signed up the UK to EU defence institutions meaning continued vast annual payments to Brussels, giving away control over major aspects of defence and foreign policy and all this has the power to undermine NATO.
I have spent a considerable amount of time researching this issue, and with the help of the excellent campaigning group Veterans for Britain I have produced a detailed documentary into the matter for my YouTube channel.
Let’s start from the beginning.
It’s 24th June 2016 and Brexiteers like me are over the moon. We had finally done it. Now was the time to celebrate, and look forward to our bright future as a sovereign nation. Whilst our heads were full of optimism and likely still drunk with joy (and the booze from the previous night), the EU were already on manoeuvres.
Just five days after the Brexit vote, a secret paper was published in Brussels to EU ambassadors describing the EU’s Global Strategy, which includes its ‘Implementation plan for Security and Defence’. The paper laid out the groundwork for the bloc’s ambitions on centralising defence and security policy, which would eventually lead to an EU army.
Months later in September of that year, the Defence Secretary at the time, Michael Fallon, used tough language against the EU’s defence power grab. He said Britain would “oppose any idea of an EU army, or an EU army headquarters which would simply undermine NATO.” Oh how quickly the mighty fall.
In the following months Fallon and other ministers responsible at the time waved through EU Council proposals for closer military integration including the EU’s Security and Defence Implementation Plan, European Defence Action Plan and the EU’s Global Strategy. These plans boosted the power and remit of organisations such as the European Defence Agency, European Defence Fund and countless other bureaucratic dreams.
Why did Britain allow this to happen? Well, Boris Johnson – then Foreign Secretary – made the now infamous “dog in a manger” speech in December 2016. Johnson said that because Britain was leaving the EU, it was not our place to cause a fuss by vetoing their plans and he said we should “let them get on with it”.
Over the following year, throughout 2017, the EU continued to build up its defence ambitions, all with no objections from the UK. The key point is that it was implied that Britain would have no involvement in any of their plans.
There was a point when I was researching this whole issue when I asked Veterans for Britain researcher David Banks a simple question. When did the UK decide to sign up to all these EU military structures? He replied: “12th September 2017”.
This was the date DExEU published a cross-departmental paper entitled Foreign policy, defence and development – a future partnership paper. This meant no one department could take responsibility directly.
It was in this paper Britain decided to sell out its armed forces.
But the EU already knew this was the plan. How? UK civil servant and defence advisor to the Cabinet Office, Alastair Brockbank, revealed later in an LSE speech to EU diplomats that the Government was always planning to have ‘no gap’ in the UK’s subordination to EU foreign and security policy including EU defence policy. He then went on to lay out the UK’s intentions to stay tied to EU defence structures. The only reason we know this is because he was secretly recorded and subsequently exposed in The Sun. To be clear: a UK civil servant told the EU we would sign up to their Common Defence Policy whilst the British Government said publicly we would not be part of it.
Theresa May’s Munich speech, Chequers plan and now the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration slice by slice signed Britain up to more EU mechanisms in defence until we have come to a situation that Major-General Julian Thompson describes as “potentially disastrous” and “a surrender which will make the surrender in Singapore in 1942 look like a minor event”.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan, told me the Prime Minister has used our armed forces as a “throwaway bargaining chip” in the negotiations.
Worst of all, it seems MPs had no idea about any of this until recent months. Moderate Leaver Crispin Blunt told me: “I think this subject is in urgent need of very close attention by Parliament about what the medium to long term implications are of what we appear to be signing up to.”
Even vocal Brexiteer Andrea Jenkyns, who has sat on the Brexit Select Committee for the last two years said she only found out a few months ago from a briefing with Veterans for Britain.
However the Government claim this is all nonsense, with Rory Stewart tweeting: “I have just been asked by a highly intelligent hard Brexiteer – with two masters degrees – whether the backstop would mean that we have to join the European army. The answer is ‘no’. We would be leaving the EU, the ECJ, EU Parliament, immigration policy and any idea of ‘EU army’”.
But this simply isn’t the case; Britain is signing up to be involved with the European Defence Agency, the European Defence Fund, the European Defence Industrial Development Programme and PESCO. This is in the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. All of these together are openly described by the EU as the beginnings of its military unification project – ‘integration’ which leads to the ultimate creation of ‘a Common Defence’ in just over five years’ time.
Some people ask why it even matters that Britain is signing away control to the EU in defence. After all, we are allies and have similar objectives. The answer to this is in two parts: democratic accountability of defence decisions and the existence of NATO, the fundamental force which has protected the Western world for decades. The European Union is not only leeching on the sovereignty of its member states, it is actively attempting to duplicate and therefore undermine NATO and packages its political moves with reckless rhetoric about the US as an untrustworthy ally or even an enemy. Putin is laughing away at the prospect of an EU army, because he knows that it will weaken his biggest adversary in NATO.
Not only will it make us less safe, but it will also make us less democratic. It means signing away control over major aspects of defence policy and procurement to the unelected European Commission and its numerous agencies, and we will pay a heavy price in monetary and sovereign terms for the giveaway.
Not enough Brexiteer voices are talking about this, partly because they haven’t understood what’s going on, along with most of the public and defence establishment. It is vital MPs and commentators hold the Government to account on this issue. After all, it is the defence of this nation that is at stake.
If they don’t, Britain could sign away its military autonomy, and it will be years before anyone realises.
Steven Edginton is Director of the Politics UK YouTube channel and Chief Digital Strategist for Leave Means Leave.