The European Union has moved a step closer to an EU army with the signing of a joint military pact — with suggestions that Britain could foot part of the bill.
Led by France and Germany, the pact pledges 23 EU member-states to a Common Defence Fund which will see them develop and deploy armed forces together, Reuters reports.
“Today we are taking a historic step,” boasted German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel.
“We are agreeing on the future cooperation on security and defence issues … it’s really a milestone in European development,” he added.
Former UKIP leader Diane James MEP has suggested that, “as the EU Common Defence Fund is being launched way before Brexit, the UK will be providing 13 per cent of the cash” — although this is not yet fully confirmed.
There are strong indications that British officials are pushing hard for the UK to be included in the Permanent Structured Cooperation process, or PESCO, which is key to the Defence Union plans set out by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker recently.
Despite backing Brexit during the EU referendum, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has indicated that he plans on Britain being involved in at least some capacity, telling reporters: “We are there, like a flying buttress to support the cathedral.”
Full PESCO involvement has not been ruled out either, with Reuters suggesting this would involve the commitment of “substantial funds and expertise”.
In a possible compromise, Britain may be able to join in, but only on an exceptional basis if it provides substantial funds and expertise.
The news comes as Veterans for Britain spokesman David Banks warns that Britain is not only on the hook for EU spending on defence integration, but actually being entangled in various plans for ad hoc joint headquarters, procurement, research schemes itself.
“In a nutshell, we have had six EU Council meetings over the last year where UK officials have agreed various aspects of the Defence Union,” he told reporters.
“The UK as a full participating member-state has a veto but hasn’t used it. It has been signatory to all these agreements.”