Veterans for Britain report: Chequers sacrifices British control over Armed Forces

A new briefing paper by Veterans for Britain has exposed the extent to which the government’s Chequers plan will sacrifice British control over our own armed forces.

The paper, authored by Professor Gwythian Prins, Lt-Gen Jonathon Riley CB DSO and Maj-Gen Julian Thompson CB, reveals how the UK government is planning to sign away our defence autonomy to the EU in exchange for proposed trade arrangements.

In effect, the Withdrawal Agreement and proposed Defence Treaty would keep the UK under EU power permanently – even after the end of the ‘transition period’. 

As well as the loss of autonomy involved, this will also risk fatally compromising our Five Eyes Intelligence alliance, and especially our bilateral US-UK intelligence relationship.

The Chequers plan keeps the UK signed up to EU defence and weapons development budgets. Veterans for Britain’s briefing paper reveals how the UK has reached such a perilous position, where we are close to giving away political control over large parts of defence decision-making to new EU structures. UK ministers have signed up to this position after and in spite of the referendum decision to leave the EU. Commitments handed over by ministers go beyond defence-industrial and into wider defence policy and even central financing.

Many other ex-commanders of British forces, as well as politicians and the former head of MI6 have raised their concerns about the contents of the paper.

A crucial intervention in The Times by ex-MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove plus military and academic figures, pointed out how the Cabinet Office Europe Unit, headed by Oliver Robbins, had shared information about the defence negotiating position with EU diplomats before these details and their consequences had been explained to MPs.

The situation is now urgent and approaching a crunch moment. It is essential that the completely unnecessary defence giveaways that Olly Robbins’ Europe Unit and others within government have managed to shoehorn into the negotiation proposals are erased entirely.

The EU has no business being in defence or security at all. These should be either NATO or nation-to-nation matters. In accordance with the referendum result, our future defence relationship with European partners must be via NATO and nation-to-nation arrangements, rather than shackled to EU structures.

How UK officials are trying to shackle us to EU military structures – despite Brexit

Brexit must mean military independence, or it will be no real Brexit at all. But with the focus on trade issues, the public and even MPs have been blindsided by UK officials’ attempts to shackle us to the EU’s military structures post-Brexit, writes former CIB Operations Manager John Petley.

Supporters of Brexit have disagreed with each other – sometimes quite vehemently – when it comes to trade issues. Which model shall we go for? WTO? Canada? Norway? Take your pick, but you’ll find someone equally committed to Brexit who will tell you that you’re wrong.

The focus of the Brexit debate has been trade, and no one would deny that our future trading arrangements with the EU and the rest of the world are an important consideration when it comes to life after 29 March 2019.

There are, however, other important issues related to Brexit which have received much less coverage. Our relation to the EU’s military structures is one of the most critical. On this subject, Brexiteers ought to be united – our Brexit should be a very, very hard one indeed.

As a member of the EU, the UK has rightly been highly sceptical about EU plans for closer military integration – at least, that is, until after the 2016 referendum.

You would have thought that, following the Brexit vote, the EU would have done two things. Firstly, stepped up its plans for closer military integration now the that member most likely to drag its heels is leaving. And secondly, frozen the UK of the discussion.

What has actually happened is rather different. The EU has indeed pushed ahead with closer military integration. But not only was the UK included in the discussion, but UK officials have been happy to sign us up to closer military cooperation with the EU. This has been done without most MPs even being aware of what was going on.

They are not alone. MPs from other member states have been equally shocked on discovering what their representatives have signed up to.

WHAT OUR GOVERNMENT HAS SIGNED US UP TO

So, what have we signed up to? We did not sign up to PESCO, the EU’s PErmanent Structured COoperation (note the word ‘permanent’). But we did sign up to five separate EU Council agreements between 14 November 2016 and 22 June 2017, relating to Federica Mogherini’s Security and Defence Implementation Plan and Jean-Claude Juncker’s European Defence Action Plan.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty makes our signatures to the current arrangements null and void on 29 March 2019. But both the EU and its supporters in the UK are keen for us to sign a new treaty which includes a commitment to involvement in the EU’s military ambitions. This must be avoided at all costs, or else our military independence will be compromised.

The EU will increasingly make decisions about defence, and the process of gradual integration into the EU military machine will affect a number of areas – ownership of assets, defence procurement, intelligence, asset development, budgeting and research, to name but a few.

BUT WHAT ABOUT BREXIT?

So why did we sign up to anything after June 2016, considering we are going to leave?

It appears that some civil servants were not only happy to sign on the dotted line, but actually want to keep us tethered to the EU after Brexit.

What about government ministers? They, including Prime Minister Theresa May, clearly have some very serious questions to answer.

When it became known that the UK had signed up to a number of structures within the EU Defence Union, the explanation given was that it was only a formality. We were leaving anyway, and so it was best not to show dissent. Once we left, anything to which we had signed up would cease to apply anyway.

This, however, is being economical with the truth. Let us be in no doubt. Senior figures in both Whitehall and Westminster wish to see us shackled militarily to the EU after 29 March 2019.

It is not too late to achieve the clean break which is an essential part of a genuine Brexit – indeed, it is vital that we do so. Cooperation with EU member states under the auspices of NATO is, by and large, very desirable. However, independence from the EU’s Defence Union is another matter altogether. Why should we be involved with the EU’s empire building?

The EU has claimed that if the UK pulls away from the EU’s defence programme, we would be isolated militarily. This is utter nonsense. Not only are we members of NATO but, free from the EU, we could conduct cooperative defence research and development projects with any partners we chose.

What is more, we still have an excellent military – although parts of it are seriously underfunded – and we are of course a nuclear power. The idea that by withdrawing from the EU’s defence programme we would be left weak and vulnerable is laughable.

FIGHTING FOR OUR MILITARY SOVEREIGNTY

Thankfully, these dangers are being highlighted by Veterans for Britain, a grassroots organisation set up to highlight the risks to the UK militarily if Brexit is compromised. Thanks to their campaigning, MPs are being made aware of the concerns expressed in this article. Many, sadly, are still unaware, particularly of the agreements signed since the Brexit vote and their implications for our future military independence.

We are heading for a turbulent period as Mrs May’s Chequers proposal comes under attack from her own MPs. We are thus still a long way from any final sign-off agreement, and there is everything to play for. But with trade issues still dominating the press coverage of Brexit, it is vital that these other areas are not swept under the carpet.

Brexit must mean military independence, or it will be no real Brexit at all.

…………………………

Comment from CIB: John Petley’s informed expose is yet another illustration of why our long fight for UK sovereignty is far from over, even assuming a satisfactory Brexit in March 2019 (something which itself looks in great doubt). It is not only EU membership itself that poses a threat to our sovereignty, but our own Europhile politicians’ and officials’ willingness to surrender our independence by stealth to the European project in the guise of ‘co-operation’ and ‘partnerships’. This is precisely why CIB has no plans to wind down post-Brexit. We have been fighting for UK sovereignty since 1969, and we will continue to do so as long as threats like those highlighted in this article remain.

Photo credit: European External Action Service

The EU is right – our government is wrong!

Shock horror! Can a Brexit supporter honestly utter such a phrase as the above?

Sadly, yes, especially when the subjects include cooperation in security and criminal justice matters. These two issues powerfully illustrate the illusory nature of our government’s approach to Brexit. It still wants to have its cake and eat it. Reality is dawning that this isn’t possible on the trade front, but somehow that reality has not spread to other areas where some sort of future cooperation is needed. Be it trade, criminal justice or military cooperation, the EU is concerned at all costs to preserve its integrity. In voting to leave, we dealt it a massive blow. Obviously, it recognises that some form of cooperation will be necessary but it does not seek a warm and cosy “deep and special” relationship with us. Yes, we were once part of the club, but we won’t be after March 29th next year. We made the decision to leave and we must accept the consequences.

To any Brexit supporter, this is perfect common sense. We knew what we were doing when we voted Brexit.  Among the many issues which we highlighted as a reason to leave the EU were concerns about the flaws of the criminal justice system in some EU member states and the need to disentangle ourselves from the EU’s military and security aspirations.

So yes, if the EU says we cannot participate in its flawed European Arrest Warrant scheme after Brexit, great! That’s what we voted for. Likewise, the EU’s disdain for Mrs May’s “ambitious future security partnership” with the EU won’t cause many Brexit supporters much lost sleep.  As a Third Country, we would no longer participate in several EU security data bases which hold intelligence and help track criminals. However, there are other means of cooperation over these matters. We have Interpol as well as Europol. The procedure may be more complex but at least UK citizens will be one step further removed from the EU’s interference with our daily lives. We don’t want the EU to give us special treatment. What is more, is Europol reliable? One report suggest that its statistics distort the truth about terrorist threats in the EU, with more emphasis being placed on monitoring so-called “separatists” than those who pose the biggest threat to ordinary people.

On a different note, we heard recently that Olly Robbins, who has more or less pushed David Davis into the sidelines and has become the de facto chief negotiator, has been told by the EU that there is no chance of a bespoke trade deal with the EU.  It will either be a very loose trading arrangement or what has been described as a “Norway-type deal”. There are strong opponents of both these options and even among her cabinet, Mrs May will have her work cut out to square the circle.

She has not, however, signed a letter promising a second referendum, Two separate copies have been sent to me, one by a very concerned Brexit supporter who feared Mrs May was about to  cave in to the remainiacs. If anyone has come across this spoof letter, try to find an example of the PM’s real signature. You will then see that it does not match the signature on this letter.

Observant readers may have noticed that we have said little about the latest EU council meeting. This is not because we were unaware of it but rather because it has been a foregone conclusion that nothing was going to be said to indicate any progress with the Brexit talks. We did pass a milestone last week when the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill became law. It paves the way fro the 1972 Accession Treaty to be repealed when we leave the EU in March next year, but as far as what our future relationship with the EU is going ot look like,  we are still none the wiser.

Draft Exit Agreement: Deep concerns over defence component

This is a comment from Lt-General Jonathon Riley (ex-ISAF deputy commander) and ex-military colleagues expressing deep concerns over the defence component of the Draft Exit Agreement:

“The exit agreement shows that the Cabinet Office does not intend to regain the defence autonomy it gave away on paper in 2017.

As a result of a below-radar deal reached 15 months ago, the UK will now be transitioning via a third country arrangement, that provides a u-bend route for the UK to come back fully under EU authority in the future.

Political commentators in academia and the media are largely yet to grasp the small print of what is really going on. By that time, it will of course be too late.

It’s not wise to stand still in setting concrete and that’s what this transition agreement amounts to in terms of defence.”

Lt-Gen Riley is ex-ISAF deputy commander and a former commander of UK forces sent to Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Iraq.

His cosignatories to the statement are:

Maj-Gen Julian Thompson (former commander of landings in the Falklands),

Rear-Admiral Roger Lane-Nott (former Flag Officer Submarines, NATO Commander Submarines Eastern Atlantic)

Professor Gwythian Prins

(with thanks to our colleagues in Veterans for Britain for this article)

Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed

Before readers start getting too angry about the agreement between David Davis and Michel Barnier over the terms for an interim relationship with the EU, it must be pointed out that the handshake between the two men does not mean that everything is done and dusted.

The transitional arrangements are only part of an overall deal which have to be approved by the European institutions and national parliaments, including our own. We are still a long way from reaching this point.

On this website, we have already explained why the transitional terms on offer from the EU are unacceptable. It will be very hard to follow it with a truly clean break. We most certainly don’t need to be shackled to the EU’s customs union and any ongoing participation in the Common Fisheries policy would be the ruination of our fishing industry. Fishing for Leave didn’t mince its words in a recent press release – it is nothing less than a capitulation by a weak government.

Just to remind readers about our fisheries:- The UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles/median line was established by a British Act of Parliament – the Fishery Limits 1976 Act – but because of our membersip  of what was then the EEC, that zone was promptly handed over to the EEC, to become EEC/EU waters, right up to the low water mark, and the resource within that zone also became EEC/EU resource, managed by them and not us.

In 1983 the EU established the quota system, shared out amongst the member states by means of what is known as “relative stability keys”. These keys do change when a new member joins or one leaves.

At 11pm, 29th March 2019 the UK’s EEZ is returned to our Westminster Parliament, who must take full responsibility under the guidelines of International Law – UNCLOS3. At that moment all EU quota ceases to exist in the UK’s EEZ.

It is then down to the UK Government with the support from a majority of the Westminster parliamentarians how much of the British peoples resource they intend to give away. There is no negotiation as such.

The EU has no legal authority to demand anything, because in just over a year’s time, the UK will become an independent coastal state under third country status. Unfortunately, it seems that our government is willing to concede to demands which the EU has no right to make.

There is hope that the deal may yet be torpedoed. The Committee for Exiting the European Union could not come to an agreement on a report not about the transitional deal per se but extending it. Jacon Rees-Mogg, in his characteristically eloquent manner,  called the majority report (which he and six colleagues refused to sign) a  “prospectus for the vassal state”.  He also called the its authors the “High priests of Remain”. Mr Rees-Mogg also fired a shot across the bows of Theresa May in an article for the Daily Telegraph. “The United Kingdom will not accept being a subservient state” he said. “In the case of tariffs, once we have left the EU, it is non-negotiable that our trade minister should be able to respond to any threat of increased tariffs from other nations as suits our national interest, not the EU’s,” He went on to add “In the words of one country’s frustrated trade negotiator, Britain has to decide if it is a serious country or a joke nation. It would be humiliating for others to have cause to think thus of us.”

Trade issues are not the only cause for concern. Since the Brexit vote, our government has signed a number of agreements with the EU on military cooperation, without consulting Parliament. The details can be found on the Veteran for Britain website, which we would thoroughly recommend to anyone wishing to follow this subject in greater detail. This article in particular warns of the potential dangers that will result from this and it seems that  ministers have indicated they intend to make the UK’s role in the agreements permanent via the exit treaty. The Government’s published negotiation aims include a proposal to stay in the European Defence Fund and defence industrial programme. This essentially means that we, as a free country, will be ceding our defence to an organisation we voted to leave.

On another key issue, the European Arrest Warrant, one concerned correspondent wrote to his MP about its dangers, which are well- reported on this website, only to be told that we were intending to stay a signatory of  the EAW and that was that.

To end where we began: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The battle is not lost yet, but our government, whether through incompetence, deceit, spinelessness or all three, is not delivering the Brexit for which we voted. As a democracy, we are given the chance to tell our politicians what we think of them. We in CIB will ensure that they will get the message well before the next General election – indeed, well before any deal is ready for signing. Recent developments are discouraging, but for the good of the country we love, the fight must and will go on. Sadly it appears that our real enemies are not in Brussels (let alone Moscow) but in Westminster and Whitehall.

Please sign this petition on defence

Ensure the UK leaves all EU defence rules, policies and structures on 29/03/19.

Please sign this petition and pass on to all your friends.

10,000 signatures are needed to force the government to reply.

Since November 2016, the UK has joined all parts of the EU’s “defence union” except one, without any vote by MPs. These include finance, command centre and a central budget. If the UK stays in them or if any of them go into an exit agreement, as the Government has proposed, the UK will not have left the EU.

For more details, please click on the links below:-