The “Remain” camp’s claims about Brexit threatening Britain’s military standing are “overblown”, a leading defence analyst has said.
Far from making Britain a less reliable or loyal ally, leaving the European Union could actually enhance its military contribution around the world and lead to a boost in defence spending.
Writing in the Financial Times, Professor Anand Menon, who is Associate Fellow at Chatham House, says that arguments from the “Remain” campaign that Brexit would jeopardise the security of the West do not stand up to scrutiny.
In fact, Britain would do all it possibly can to show its allies it has not left them.
“The British government, sensitive to accusations of disloyalty, would probably go out of its way to defuse [those accusations], not least to reassure the US. A post-Brexit prime minister would be quick to reaffirm the country’s commitment to NATO by maintaining or even increasing defence spending.”
As Brexit would also eliminate any chance of the UK military being absorbed into a pan-European force, the British government would feel better able to cooperate with the EU on defence matters:
“After Brexit, a UK government would not face charges at home of conspiring to join a ‘European army’, and would thus encounter fewer obstacles should it choose to contribute to EU military missions (which, to date, it has been reluctant to do).”
It is also not as if Britain would be abandoning an effective institution, Professor Menon adds. In fact, a Brexit may even be good for the EU as well:
“Hamstrung by a unanimity requirement which makes it dependent on consensus among member states, the EU struggles to respond to security crises. It is entirely possible that, without the UK, it might find ways to work better.”
“For instance, one could imagine the remaining members establishing the operational headquarters they have long lobbied for and which Britain has systematically blocked.
“And the funding of the European Defence Agency might, at last, reach sensible levels once the persistent British veto has been lifted. London would end up with a more effective partner.”
In the run up to the referendum, Downing Street organised an open letter from senior defence chiefs warning that Brexit would damage Britain’s national security.
The effort backfired, however, after it emerged that one of the supposed signatories, General Sir Michael Rose, had not actually signed the letter.
Downing Street was forced to issue a humiliating apology, with Sir Michael commenting: “Has the world gone mad? I did not sign up to the PM’s campaign … I merely asked to see a draft of a letter which I was about to contest! A bit difficult to do so from the Great Barrier Island where I am. About as far from Europe as it is possible to be!”