During the European Election campaign in 2014 and this year’s referendum campaign, we were repeatedly told by the Remain campaign that there was no reason to fear an EU Army.
Perhaps some of those people who publicly stated that leave campaigners like myself who raised the issue of ever creeping collaboration on defence at an EU were ‘scaremongering’ should have been in the European Parliament on Monday, where there was no holding back on the EU’s aims for its own defence force.
Whilst Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was loudly proclaiming that the UK would oppose any attempts to create an EU army because it could “undermine” the role of Nato, one MEP reminded Britain that ‘The NATO flag is not desired at the same level by all’.
I am wholeheartedly behind a strong Nato and wish that the government had not spent the last two defence and security reviews slashing back troop numbers and equipment to a stage where it is questionable whether we could defend the Falklands and laughable to think we could withstand an attack from Russia.
But whilst the newly knighted Sir Michael, who firmly campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU was on his way to Bratislava, the European Parliament was outlining its plans for a new EU military. The plan will leave it complete with battlegroups, EU barracks and co-ordinators based in a new military Headquarters.
While on the campaign trail, Sir Michael was quick to rubbish talks of further military integration, even when presented with evidence in black and white such as the Coastguard Directive which gave an EU coastal fleet the right to enter territorial waters of a state without their permission.
And it seems this misleading narrative continues.
Euro MEPs from a variety of nations delightedly outlined the plans for the ‘European Defence Union’, openly blaming the UK for holding back the process. Far from the Defence Secretary’s claim that “”There is no majority here for an EU army”, the discussions in the room were of only four nations questioning the policy, “soon to be three”.
The EU is looking forward to the UK getting on with the process of leaving, rather than the Conservative government dragging its heels.
The Lisbon Treaty already provides the European Union with the framework for the creation of two defence union institutions, with eurocrats aiming for the organisations to be up and running by the next political and financial framework which will come into force in 2021.
This document, which MEPs will soon vote on in Strasbourg, removed the last vestiges of doubt that not only will an EU Army happen but that the Remain campaign lied to us during the referendum vote.
The thin edge of the wedge for integration will be defence research, with more projects taking shape once countries get used to initial forms of military cooperation.
But the plans are clear: they want EU battle groups stationed in Eastern European countries along the border with Russia and an EU-wide system for the coordination of EU troops to move moved across the EU ‘when necessary’. If that is not an EU Army, I don’t know what is.
MEPs said the time was right to push ahead with the projects now that the momentum was behind it as Germany and France have indicated their support for the project, with the German defence minister saying “now is the time for us to move ahead in terms of a European Defence Union.”
I would not be surprised if before long you see an EU seat at the NATO table. There is clearly a hostility towards the USA amongst many MEPs who do not realise the importance that our transatlantic alliance has made towards our peace and security over the last 70 years. In fact, they seem to resent the power the Americans have, despite many countries’ reluctance to meet the target of 2% of GDP to be spent on defence.
It is yet another argument for Article 50 to be invoked by Theresa May so we can get on with the process of removing ourselves from this wannabe superstate before we have any more of our sovereignty compromised. Sadly, it appears that many ministers still have their heads in the sand.
Mike Hookem is UKIP’s defence spokesman and a member of the European Parliament