New TPA Research: Engaging with the Enemy?

The Underlying Costs of EU Defence Integration

By Dr Lee Rotherham, with a foreword by Rear Admiral Richard Heaslip CB

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Our latest EU research paper provides both an historical and a contemporary perspective on EU defence integration. As such it is a companion paper to our paper on EU Diplomats, which looked at the emerging integration of foreign services. Both are part of a policy of removing EU states’ ability to individually protect their national interest in the face of parochialism and non-interventionism amongst their allies.

In the context of UK defence cutbacks, increased British participation in EU-level defence activity provides a dangerous economy. The EU has a twenty year history of an accelerated programme in defence integration behind it. That long-term ambition poses a threat to sovereign Defence capabilities.

The estimated bill for the EU having incorporated defence into its treaties is currently running at around €932 million per annum (£777 million), in addition to direct national military expenditure. That equates to around £80 million a year from UK taxpayers. The inclusion of defence procurement directly into the EU treaties prefigures increased subsidies, especially support for ‘grand projects’ and failing major defence companies in the future.

Given that there are now 7,141 flagged EU personnel deployed on 13 missions overseas, 3,212 in khaki, a de facto EU standing army already exists. British participation in the European Defence Agency is a threat to national identity and defence capability. Conservative policy to withdraw from the EDA is correspondingly the right one. It need not preclude manufacturers reaching appropriate partnerships of their own, either strategically or for individual contracts. The expansion of EU defence integration also threatens Britain’s very particular technological privileges arising from its relationship with the United States.

Senior service personnel have already publicly expressed their own concerns. The United Kingdom should extricate itself from EU defence integration, and rely more on a NATO framework, ongoing Commonwealth associations, and bilateral arrangements. Short of surrendering control over equipment, more cooperation should be carried out with France in expeditionary capability where there are areas of common global interest, leaving Paris to continue to concentrate on the Berlin axis for strictly continental defence.

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