Brexit leader Nigel Farage has slammed the European Commission president for building an army to rival NATO and the U.S. military, claiming the bloc is “hell-bent to be in direct collision with Donald Trump”.
The former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) blasted the unelected Brussels boss Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
He was attacking the bloc’s ‘PESCO’ project, a Brussels defence cooperation agreement signed in November 2017 by 23 member states, informally known as the European Union (EU) army.
Mr Juncker has demanded a “fully-fledged Defence Union” by 2025 and the bloc’s foreign minister revealed they were working at “full speed” to create a unified “defence force” on a “continental scale” after the Brexit vote.
“Just a quick look ahead of next week. [U.S. President Donald J.] Trump will be at that NATO summit,” Mr Farage blasted.
“You appear to be hell-bent on pushing for your European army, hell-bent for a foreign policy without veto, and hell-bent to be on a direct collision course with President Trump and with NATO.
“You can’t have a European army and NATO existing side-by-side. And maybe your next big challenge is European citizens will need to work out who do they best feel protected by.
“The European army or America and NATO? I think I know what the decision of the people will be. Next week we may well find out.”
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The EU has earmarked £4.9 billion ($6.5 billion) to fund research and development into new military hardware and the joint purchase of equipment, as well as committing to integrate their armed forces and the establishment of a joint headquarters.
In February, U.S. leaders raised concerns the EU army could weaken the NATO defence alliance and block American military manufacturers from bidding on certain European projects at the Munich Security Conference.
An aide to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Katie Wheelbarger, said: “We don’t want to see EU efforts pulling requirements or forces away from NATO and into the EU.”
The American ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, added that Washington did not want PESCO “to be a protectionist vehicle for EU”.
“We’re going to watch carefully, because if that becomes the case, then it could splinter the strong security alliance that we have,” she added, referring to NATO.