'There is a fundamental problem with getting to grips with EU Defence integration. So much is happening, on many different fronts, it creates a confusing cacophony.
It’s important that we get our facts squared away. Brussels is not on the very cusp of tomorrow generating a vast standing army as we would recognise it, with oaths of allegiance paid to the President of the EU, and whose ranks are swelled through conscription. To suggest so is to invite ridicule. It is also damaging to the credibility of those setting out the extensive detail on precisely what is happening, and the direct and indirect threats that arise from a post-Brexit UK remaining perched in the institutional sidecar.
We a dealing with a process, developing at different speeds, across a broad front.
The best way to visualise matters is perhaps by applying military dictum, where Threat is Capability multiplied by Intent. At stake is the UK keeping an independent sovereign capacity; the pressures arise from the building of EU structures bound together by growing political collectivisation.
Currently, the immediate direct risk to the UK’s independent military and security establishment from collectivised EU capability is still low, because the EU still has limited assets, unvarnished structures, and prescribed authority. However, over the past three years there have been significant developments that have generated brand new short-term hazards and fresh medium-term ones.
Recent EU agreements have been pushing the corporate EU to the fore, with greatly increased budgets, new frameworks, and the setting up of key standing force components. A number at this stage are still largely nascent; we still do not know for instance how the EU’s new European Medical Command will look, basically generating an EU version of M.A.S.H. (less “Hawkeye” Pierce). We can make a prediction based on the policy towards the likes of the EU’s Satellite Centre and the EU Intelligence Cell. Meanwhile, a parallel approach has been the short cut of formally linking in with existing multinational entities, agreeing that for instance the European Maritime Force or European Gendarmerie Force might be tapped for missions.
So notwithstanding faltering steps, the process of generating capability is developing slowly but unequivocally in a known direction. A useful comparison can be found in the debates and processes by which the early US Federal Army was built up, focusing on small standing elements of the technical branches to which the states would supply the wider manpower in time of need.
Simultaneously, the intent by contrast has accelerated exponentially. One might expect differences of ambition across the EU bodies, but on audit these turn out to be more about priorities. That’s even been the case within the Council where one might have predicted fights between do-little and do-much states, but the trend has been more about shifting alliances as countries argue that particular capabilities rather than others should be the main focus. Meanwhile the Commission’s, the EEAS’s, and the European Parliament’s Defence ambitions surpass one another in turn. Anyone still doubting the strategic direction of travel ought to reflect that the EU treaties themselves are now openly permissive – a ‘legitimate aspiration’ clause has been introduced that unequivocally allows the EU to drive towards delivering a “Common Defence”.'
Read more: The UK negotiators must ensure a clean break from the ever-expanding EU Defence project
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