EU finally comes clean on future UK-EU military objectives, but risks remain

By David Banks. This piece first appeared on the Veterans for Britain website and is reproduced with permission.

In a speech in Berlin today, Michel Barnier (the EU’s Brexit negotiator) for the first time explicitly spells out some interpretations over future UK-EU military relations under Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the new EU policy ambition in this field.  The text can be found here.

Some of these comments are welcome. In particular, in saying “Any voluntary participation of the United Kingdom in European defence will confer rights and obligations in proportion to the level of this participation,” Mr Barnier is indicating that UK participation on an ad hoc basis in missions can generate corresponding engagement at the political level. Clarity is needed on this point, but it does seem that the approach is heading towards a flexible structure rather than seeking to tie the UK down in fixed EU treaty obligations.

Again, Mr Barnier acknowledges that there are several existing models of cooperation and not just the Norway one, a model which is tied into membership of the Single Market. That requirement appears to have been dropped by the Commission. More widely, this may even be the first admission that a special FTA deal is achievable, since several such models do already exist lying between WTO Status and EEA membership.

However, there are also clear remaining issues. While UK membership of the European Defence Agency is ruled out, some sort of structured affiliation is not. Yet the EDA is core to future EU defence integration and formal UK adhesion beyond observer status carries budgetary obligations and political risks.

Also, the EU recognises the UK will continue to play a bilateral and multilateral role, especially through NATO. But PESCO has identified non-NATO multilaterals as targets to come increasingly under the PESCO banner. We also note the cheeky attempt to appropriate the St Mâlo agreement at the very end. The EU has wide eyes and a big appetite in agreements that are not part of the menu.

Tellingly, Barnier is tacitly admitting, in saying that “The British have never wanted to turn the Union into a military power”, that the EU now seeks to do just that.

Major-General Julian Thompson, chairman of Veterans for Britain, said:

“M. Barnier offers a backhanded compliment to the importance of the UK to European Defence – a term which of course is not the same thing as the EU’s precocious military appetite.

“It is not in the UK’s interest to institutionally weld itself to this ‘Security ERM’. Post Brexit, the UK should cooperate in missions and projects of clear joint interest. It is a positive sign that the Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator recognises this prospect.”

Colonel Richard Kemp also of Veterans for Britain said:

“EU defence integration clearly remains a threat to NATO, and to UK multilateralism inside Europe but outside the EU. EU ambitions are extensive and dangerous.”

Referring to the outrageous opening inference of the Brexit vote as a betrayal of the fight against terror, Col Kemp added:

“This is an insult to the electorate of the first order. But then, the European Commission has never understood either democracy or adverse votes.

“The EU has brought a lot of its terror-related problems on itself. In contrast, the UK has been the most capable in defence and security and has been the bulwark of anti-terrorism in Europe.”


UK avoids military merger this time, but risks remain

Our colleagues in Veterans for Britain have produced a briefing paper on the ongoing risks of being sucked into EU military integration. You can access this briefing paper by clicking on this link.

VfB has summarised last week’s decision not to sign up to PESCO as follows:-

The UK dramatically halted its blanket consent to EU military schemes at the EU Council meeting of 13 November 2017 by refusing to enter the ‘PESCO’ military union agreement.

Where does that leave the ongoing risk to the UK from entanglement in EU schemes? Our paper  describes the continuing problem. In fact, the risk has not receded.

The PESCO agreement itself is designed to attract and engulf unwitting non-EU countries.

Background: PESCO, or Permanent Structured Cooperation, means participants agree to coordinate all defence decision-making and impose a single rigid structure on their militaries under collective EU authority. Besides the UK, only Ireland, Portugal, Malta and Denmark chose not to enter this merger project.

We would recommend that anyone wishing to be involved in campaigning to maintain our military independence should keep a close watch for new posts on the Veterans for Britain website, as they have considerable expertise in this critical area and thus know what the points at issue really are. We in CIB offer them our full support.

UKIP Launches “Save our services”

A report by Edward Spalton

CIB is, of course, a non-party organisation but, as I had received an invitation to their press conference I thought I should attend. I wanted to meet Henry Bolton, their new leader, on this first public event since he took office. It is seventeen years since I left UKIP to campaign on a cross-party basis but I met some old friends and was pleased that several people, whom I had not met before, told me they appreciated CIB, mentioning recent articles on the website.

The event was well-attended, briskly and cheerfully organised. The first speaker was Mike Hookem MEP, who included a video presentation of his work amongst veterans who had fallen on hard times and were not receiving the help either from government or local authorities which the Military Covenant says they “should” receive – but do not. Service charities were doing their best to fill the gaps but it was not enough.

He called for a Minister and a department, like the American Veterans’ Administration, to be in charge of welfare for former service personnel and to help them back into civilian life. It was no good telling local authorities what they “should” do, it needed to be “must”. He also called for ex service personnel with good records to be given favourable consideration for employment in the police and other public services where their skills and discipline would be an advantage to the community.

Henry Bolton took the podium and ranged further and wider, mentioning the sharp cuts which had been made not only to the armed forces but to the police, reducing our defences against internal terrorism and criminality as well as external hostility, at the very time when they were all increasing. The government had not signed up on Monday 13th November to integration of British forces with the increasingly unified EU military command under the PESCO agreement, which would suck resources away from NATO. It had signed up to much else and EU absorption still remained a threat.

Whilst British armed forces should be capable of joint operations with our neighbours, they must always retain the ability of independent action – or we were not a sovereign country. Tied in with the developing EU army and trapped in sourcing our military supplies under EU tendering rules, we would not only be unable to act independently in the field but forbidden to maintain the necessary British industrial base for supplying our forces. EU arms suppliers, under political direction, could in effect, choke off any significant operations by British forces of which the EU did not approve – by simply withholding supplies or, for instance, the use of aircraft on which we had an expectation to rely.

I was able to ask Henry Bolton one short question. Did he think that Political Correctness in local authorities, particularly left wing authorities, was pushing the welfare of ex-servicemen and women to the end of the queue? He replied that authorities of all political colours were negligent in this matter.

From what had been said by government, it appeared that the needs of returning Jihadists for housing, “re-education” and employment would take precedence over the welfare of our own ex-service people. This was monstrous. Those known to have been in arms for Jihadism should be charged with adhering to our country’s foes – what used to be called treason, rather than handled with kid gloves for the sake of “community relations”.

I think we will be hearing more of Henry Bolton and many people will like what he has to say.

Half way there, but have we even started?

Last week marked the half way point between 23rd June 2016 – that euphoric day when we voted to leave the EU – and the actual day on which we will actually leave:- March 29th 2019.

On Friday, Mrs May confirmed that she plans to set the date for our departure from the EU into law. There will be no slippage and no turning back. This comes against a background of growing concern that Brexit could be stopped.  Today, Lord Kerr, a former UK ambassador to the EU, insisted that the Article 50 process could be stopped or reversed. No way, replied Mrs May. Her proposed law will make it irreversible.

This is good news for those of us who fought so hard to secure that historic victory in June last year. I have dealt with more than my fair share of correspondence recently from people concerned that the government is going to back track. My views have not changed since writing this article that Mrs May and the Tories, whatever side they supported during the referendum campaign, have no choice but to deliver Brexit because failure to do so would provoke the worst crisis in the party since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.  Backtracking would be suicidal. Thankfully, a lust for power is deeply entrenched into the Conservatives’ psyche and given their shock at last June’s General Election result, they know that delivering a good Brexit is essential if they are to avoid  electoral meltdown in 2022.

Probe a bit deeper, however, and the picture is not quite so rosy.  In spite of the Brexit vote last year, as  Veterans for Britain has been keen to point out, the Government has taken us deeper into the EU’s military integration process, with there being considerable support to signing us up to PESCO, the Permanent Structured Cooperation of the EU’s external action force – set up in reality to undermine and replace NATO. Brexit can only mean Brexit if we are completely detached militarily and we can but hope that even at this 11th hour, Gavin Williamson, the new defence secretary who has little experience of military matters, will listen to those members of our armed forces who know what they are talking about and step back from this process.

Sadly, of our daily newspapers, only the Express  has so far been willing to cover this disturbing development. However, to repeat, even if Williamson’s predecessor Michael Fallon was able to get away with betraying the UK’s armed forces without being subject to too much scrutiny, it will be out of the bag by 2022 and the Tories will reap the whirlwind electorally.

Equally disturbing is this statement from the Prime Minister’s office which was passed to one of our supporters. Note the section he has highlighted in yellow:-  It also means that the existing body of EU law will become British law. So this provides certainty and clarity for all businesses and families across the country from the very moment we leave the EU.”

This is true when it comes to legislation which would only be applied internally. For instance,  the rules governing bathing water have been devised by the EU. It is no great problem for us to continue to use them over the Brexit period. They work satisfactorily so even if they could be improved, there is no urgency until we have settled down as a sovereign, independent country.

It is a different matter, however, when it comes to legislation which involves the relationship of an independent UK with the rest of the EU. We have previously highlighted the fallacy of this approach with regards fisheries, but it also applies to the general question of trade. the PM appears to be repeating the mistake that because our regulations will be aligned with those of the EU up to Brexit day, some sort of seamless trade arrangement should not be a problem,

The transitional arrangement which she seeks is essentially based on this misunderstanding – we can be essentially honorary EU members for two years while a bespoke long-term deal is sorted out. We would obey all the rules and pay into the EU’s coffers without any representation. Such a deal would be unacceptable to many Tory backbenchers, not to mention the wider Brexit-supporting community. Thankfully, although the penny seems not to have dropped in Westminster, the EU has said it is a non-runner.

The European Parliament  set out its position, where, among other things,  it “reaffirms that membership of the internal market and the customs union entails acceptance of the four freedoms, the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, general budgetary contributions and adherence to the European Union’s common commercial policy”  – in other words, you’re either in or you’re out. To repeat, it’s not about regulatory convergence but the legal relationship of a future EU-UK relationship. We will no longer be subject to the EU’s treaties, Article 50 is quite clear about this. We need to seek a new legal basis and any transitional agreement would require almost as complicated a legal ratification process than a long-term bespoke relationship.

The EU’s guidelines also say, “To the extent necessary and legally possible, the negotiations may also seek to determine transitional arrangements which are in the interest of the union and, as appropriate, to provide for bridges towards the foreseeable framework for the future relationship in the light of progress made. Any such transitional arrangements must be clearly defined, limited in time and subject to effective enforcement mechanisms. Should a time-limited prolongation of Union Acquis be considered, this would require existing Union regulatory supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures to apply.”

This affirm that the EU will allow us to go ahead with a transitional deal, but it must be on the EU’s terms and subject to the appropriate legal processes being completed in time, which looks very doubtful. In other words, to repeat, it’s a non-starter and a red herring.

So until there is a change in mindset among UK’s negotiators we will continue to go round in circles. Last Friday also saw the usual Barnier/Davis press conference following the latest round of “negotiations” and there is still no indication from the EU side that they feel ready to start trade talks as insufficient progress has been made on the three critical issues of the Irish border, the rights of EU citizens resident in the EU and the “divorce bill.” Agreement must be reached within two weeks or trade talks will not be starting any time soon. Sadly, David Davis’s response was to call for the EU to show “flexibility  and imagination.” Unfortunately, the EU’s legal structure doesn’t allow it to be flexible. Mr Davis can repeat this little phrase as much as he likes. It will not make a shred of difference.

So at this point when we have just reached the half way point to Brexit, it is sobering to think that this milestone has been reached with the two sides so far apart and so little real progress made. Not what any of us expected on that incredible morning when the result of the referendum was announced. A Brexit of sorts will almost certainly happen on 29th March 2019, but unless the government raises its game, we could find ourselves, more by default rather than design, either crashing out following a breakdown of the talks or suffering a Brexit that isn’t really Brexit in any meaningful way.

Government must scrap its compromises over EU military schemes

By David Banks. This post originally appeared on the Bruges Group website and is reproduced with permission

Since the Brexit vote, the UK has given a green light to the juggernaut of EU military schemes on the understanding we would be outside of them.

However, government position papers incredibly propose STAYING IN joint EU schemes on military finance, research and assets.

The schemes, which have never been voted on by MPs, would mean the UK staying in EU Common Defence Policy, the European Defence Agency and even EU defence procurement directives. Norway is the only non-EU country in the schemes and was obliged to accept these rules.

The PM has rightly declared the UK’s unconditional commitment to Europe’s defence via NATO.

However, we fear that MPs and ministers are not aware of the full implications of a Norway-style military union agreement. Many civil servants are aware of these implications and are pushing for UK entry relentlessly.

At the same time as these new EU military finance and structure schemes are being agreed, the EU is growing the remit of its Common Security and Defence Policy in a way that consolidates its control over EU Council-agreed military responses. The EU’s new military HQ, the MPCC, which UK diplomats tried in vain to change, is just a small part of this.

The EU is also tightening defence asset production rules to make an EU defence market in which member state governments will find it impossible to protect domestic defence jobs and industry eg Scottish shipyards in the UK’s case.

Sadly, the Government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy of September 2017 fully adheres to the latest EU rules in cross-border defence tendering – clearly anticipating a future where the UK would need to comply.

It is essential that at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester delegates are made aware of the risk to Scottish shipyards, particularly Ruth Davidson and her Scottish Conservatives team. The UK is heading towards a scenario where it is dictated by these EU procurement rules which will only become more assertive when the UK is fully committed to them.

Government “Future Partnership” paper – Foreign policy, defence and development

On this website, we have expressed our concern that the Government shows no desire to disentangle ourselves from EU defence policy on Brexit. This latest Government paper has done nothing to alleviate our worries. Rather than provide our own assessment of this paper, we are reproducing (with permission) the comments of David Banks from Veterans for Britain.

DExEU’s defence partnership paper is a grave mistake and gives the EU control

A Norway-style abdication of defence powers would betray British voters, senior military veterans say today.

It is in response to a DExEU paper which calls for a defence relationship with the EU “closer than a third country”.

One other country currently fulfills the EU’s criteria for ‘closer than a third country’ and that is Norway, which has submitted itself to EU Common Defence Policy, EU defence industry directives, membership of the European Defence Agency and the growing impact of Juncker’s European Defence Action Plan.

The DExEU paper proposes keeping the UK locked into structures, policies and financial schemes of the new EU ‘Defence Union’ that are scheduled to pass increasing amounts of control to the EU after 2017. It poses a major threat to the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the Anglosphere and will certainly alienate the Americans

The DExEU paper, which is in fact the product of FCO and MOD civil servants, comes after 10 months of EU agreements in defence which were hardly noticed by UK MPs and media because UK participation and consent was not thought relevant to the departing UK.

“Britain is walking into a carefully planned EU ambush from which UK officials have not protected us. We would ask MPs, ministers and defence observers to urgently read through the 100,000+ words of EU plans, advisory notes and EU Council agreements completed since the Brexit vote. All of this, which has virtually bypassed MPs on the understanding that we are leaving, is now suddenly and desperately relevant to the United Kingdom,” said Major-General Julian Thompson, chairman of Veterans for Britain and Royal Marines Veteran who commanded landing of British troops on the Falklands Conflict.

British voters have always been more opposed to an EU role over their defence than any other issue. Polls have consistently shown that public support for UK control over defence is much greater even than the majority who want to leave the EU.


  1. What recent EU Defence Union agreements mean
  2. Problems for the UK ‘closer than third country’ submission to it
  3. Ministerial statements about EU Defence Union
  4. Additional comments from Professor Gwythian Prins, Rear-Admiral Roger Lane-Nott and Colonel Richard Kemp
  1. What recent EU agreements mean
    1. EU Defence Union is framed in five separate EU Council agreements between 14 November 2016 and 22 June 2017, relating to the Security and Defence Implementation Plan (Mogherini) and the European Defence Action Plan (Juncker).
    2. The UK is a full participating signatory to the EU Council agreements.
    3. A further informal meeting on Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the final component of Defence Union, was held on Thursday in Estonia where the UK representative also indicated complete agreement. A binding EU Council meeting of defence ministers is to be held in October 2017 and the EU Commission expects to begin PESCO i.e. an EU Army in all but name,  before the end of 2017.
    4. The agreements cover:
      1.     Four new sources of military finance including the European Defence Fund.
      2.     There are also plans on space, intelligence, UAVs and marine drones.
      3. Military technology will lead to joint purchasing and ownership of assets and these assets will be governed by joint policy.
      4. Strategic direction, decision making and physical command centres.
      5.  Defence research.
      6. MPs are STILL unaware and have not debated or agreed to most of this. Only one part was discussed, that was the European Defence Fund – 10 weeks AFTER it was agreed by UK officials at the EU.
  1. The problems created by UK adherence to EU defence
    1.    Harm Five Eyes relationship. UK is asked under SDIP to propose ways to plug UK into SIAC, the EU’s military intelligence command. (Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity)
    2. Loss of control over growing areas of defence policy. The DExEU paper describe actively delegating growing areas of decision-making over UK defence policy to the wider EU. It also submits the UK to gradual EU integration in intelligence, ownership of assets, defence procurement, research, growing elements of funding and strategic direction to collective decision-making over time in all these areas: intelligence, asset development, budgeting, research, asset purchase, asset ownership,as described in the EU Council agreements the UK has agreed since November 2016.
    3. Decision making and participation would be on EU terms. The UK would be submitting to EU control of budgets, research, assets, policy.
      1. Defence procurement.
        1. EU Defence procurement directives mean cheapest EU-wide tender for government contracts.
        2. UK shipyards and defence firms have relied on a national security exemption where UK gov can restrict contracts to UK suppliers — which the EU has just clamped down on.
        3. It is also subject to the gradually tightening and the latest EU moves via the European Defence Action Plan.
        4. The Type 26 Frigate adheres to EU rules and EDA benchmarks.
        5. The National Shipbuilding Strategy commits to  build only frigates, destroyers and submarines  in the UK. All other types including patrol, RFA, LPDs are to be open to international tender..
    4. Tied in in defence research project PADR (Preparatory Action on Defence Research), which the MOD started to push in June and which requires long-term UK adherence to EU rules.
    5. The US will be upset by EU protectionism in its emerging EDTIB. The UK is collaborating in its creation. (European Defence Technology Industrial Base
  1. Ministerial statements about EU Defence Union

What ministers have committed to:

13 December 2016: “Government supported much of the content of the Mogherini Security and Defence Implementation Plan”

8 June 2017: UK pushing companies towards EU deals that require long-term adherence to EU policy, CSDP, EDA

22 February 2017: Minister regards European Defence Action Plan as “predominantly positive for member state capabilities and the UK defence industry”

22 February 2017: Minister expects UK adherence to EU defence directives to continue:

7 September 2017: National Shipbuilding Strategy submits the UK to EU rules

  1. Additional comments

Ministers in charge of exiting the EU are being advised by people who wrote defence integration agenda of Blair, people who have worked and still work under Federica Mogherini and people who simultaneously work for MOD and the European Defence Agency. The British public would be shocked by the conflicts of interest of people advising ministers and people in this country. The British people do not want to surrender defence autonomy to the EU.

This DExEU paper is not a bargaining hand. It means giving the EU the deck of cards. 

The last 10 months of agreements spell out where the EU is going. Offering continued UK compliance to these agreements means submitting to their evolving nature and increasingly to the will of collective decision making in everything from finance to deployment, instead of UK government decision making within NATO.

Ministers need officials who are willing to spell out the full EU agenda here and what the UK would lose in democratic control – not just pass on the warm words used by Brussels.

Instead of promising more giveaways, ministers should be working out how the UK can extricate itself from these unnecessary commitments.

Based on a misperception that the EU is a benevolent a-la-carte club.  

In loose language, it alludes to “a defence relationship with the EU that’s closer than any third country” — in other words, the continuation of the mess that officials from FCO and MOD have created in the last 12 months. 

–       Rear-Admiral Roger Lane-Nott, former chief of staff, submarines.

We have NATO and EU efforts to establish decision making authority or to have its own structures threatens the transatlantic alliance.

Submitting to EU defence plans also lets down the UK’s closest allies including the US – it means supporting the EU’s plans for the protectionist EDTIB (European Defence Technology Industrial Base) which seeks “EU sovereignty” in defence assets and whose new defence research network actively blocks US and Canadian companies from participating.

In simple democratic terms, if the public were fully aware of what “closer than third country” actually means they would never agree  to it. Nor would they agree with the ministerial statements of the last 10 months in reference to them. Our ministers seem to be walking blindly into a well prepare EU ambush of just the sort Yanis Varoufakis the sacked Greek finance minister has been repeatedly warning us.” –Professor Gwythian Prins,

“The paper will talk about a defence relationship ‘closer than any third country’. BUT IN PLAIN WORDS THAT amounts to the UK staying in the recently agreed EU Defence Union agreements just as Norway has agreed to do. Also, just like Norway, it means the UK submitting to EU common defence policy, EU defence directives and European Defence Agency membership, which are all conditions the EU has placed on the UK for this kind of arrangement. This is all dangerous and puts the UK on a trajectory to EU defence union.
“It puts control of our future direction, strategy and even foreign policy squarely into the hands of the EU. This is in any case unnecessary because our defence relationship with EU member states should instead be conducted via NATO. The EU has declared defence autonomy from NATO.

“UK ministers consented to defence union agreements after the Brexit vote and we were told that it was because the UK would have no part in them. Yet the government is now allowing these gradual and erosive commitments to the EU to stand. It means a hollowing out of UK Parliamentary authority over UK defence particularly BY STEALTH where defence procurement and the collective ownership of assets are concerned. The EU has put in place policy which dictates that collectively-owned assets on land, air, sea and space are also subject collective policy. The collective nature of defence assets and policy is at present only conceptual but it is agreed and is timetabled to be vast within just a few years.” – Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces, Afghanistan

We in the Campaign for an Independent Britain will seek to work with organisations like Veterans for Brtiain in opposition to these plans to lock us into the EU’s defence agenda after Brexit.  IN this area, Brexit must be as “hard” as possible.