French President Emmanuel Macron has launched a European defence coalition of ten countries — including the UK, months before she is due to leave the European Union.
The European Intervention Initiative (EI2) was launched Wednesday in Paris days after Macron called for a “real European army” to defend against the United States.
“In an environment where threats and upheavals of a geopolitical or climatic nature are multiplying, the initiative must send the message that Europe is ready, that Europe is capable,” a French defence ministry official said, according to Reuters.
The French claim that EI2, comprised of France, Germany, Belgium, the UK, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Finland, will not be a standing European army, but a “rapid response” unit for joint military operations which would collaborate on military and humanitarian crises and deploy military responses.
However, media reports that EI2 was born of Macron’s frustration with the European Union (EU) failing to accelerate plans for an EU army after the bloc’s Defence Union launched its Permanent Structured Cooperation process (PESCO) in November 2017.
Negotiated in Paris, France wanted Germany to be at the centre of the force; however, German media has reported wariness in the country about the Macron-led project — particularly potential conflict with PESCO and NATO.
Germany also fears getting pulled into Macron’s “military adventures” in Africa — such as France’s Operation Barkhane, where some 3,000 French troops have been stationed in Chad on a counter-jihadist operation since 2014.
Breitbart London reported in June that Prime Minister Theresa May had signed up the UK to EI2, after, as Politico reports, she “quietly endorsed the initiative at a Franco-British summit at the Sandhurst Military Academy in January” but which was not publicised to avoid alarming Brexiteers keen to stay out of European defence unions post-Brexit.
A briefing paper released Wednesday by pro-Brexit group Veterans for Britain warned that Prime Minister May’s soft Brexit Chequers plan will allow the British government to “sign away our defence autonomy to the EU in exchange for proposed trade arrangements.”
“In exchange for the trade arrangements proposed and already flatly rejected by the EU at Salzburg, the Chequers Proposals put the autonomy of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces in jeopardy and risk compromising fatally our Five Eyes Intelligence alliance and especially our bi-lateral US-UK intelligence relationship,” the authors write.
“In effect, The Withdrawal Agreement and proposed Defence Treaty would keep the UK under EU power permanently after the end of the ‘transition period’. This is not what the people voted for,” they added.
In his September 2017 “State of the Union” address, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated that “By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European Defence Union.”
Just two months later, 23 EU nations signed up to the joint military pact PESCO, taking the first step towards a fully-fledged EU army — once labelled a “dangerous fantasy” by Remain campaigner Nick Clegg.