LibLink: Sir Nick Harvey MP: Time to reform EU defence policy and make Britain safer

Over at British Influence, Sir Nick Harvey has been writing about today’s EU meeting on defence co-operation and what he thinks could be achieved from it.

He sets out why co-operation is a good idea

EU defence cooperation has a crucial role to play in achieving security around the globe and preventing an onslaught of failed states. This is clearly in the UK’s national interest since failed states create a series of associated and interlinked problems which impact on the UK, such as severe poverty, irregular migration and terrorism – as we have seen in the case of Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

There have been some notable successes in EU defence. For example, the EU’s naval squadron, under British leadership, is fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia in order to protect vital shipping routes and bring safety and stability to the region.

There are wide ranging opportunities for the UK:

Financially, it makes sense in a time of economic constraints to pool resources and expertise in terms of upkeep of equipment, rather than have 28 incoherent and wasteful national strategies.

Economically, it opens up a huge market to Britain’s large and small businesses in the defence sector such as Babcock in Devon, as well as offering opportunities to lead in terms of research and development on a global level; strategically, it aids the pursuit of British foreign policy and common objectives which are increasingly aligned with many in Europe and involve combating threats which no longer respect national boundaries such as cyber warfare.

More than that, European cooperation is a necessity. The USA has started its ‘pivot to Asia’ and announced a twenty per cent reduction in military spending in Europe, at the same time as the financial and eurozone crises have dramatically reduced defence spending across the continent. Deeper cooperation is crucial if we want the UK and other European powers to afford and develop the defence capabilities necessary to protect our citizens against future threats.

And we need to stand up to the Eurosceptics because they are wrong:

Eurosceptics choose to ignore this reality and indulge in propagating myths about an EU army. This is utter nonsense – let’s be clear that there will be no EU army and that neither the UK nor any other EU country has or will be forced to commit troops to missions against the wishes of their government and parliament. It’s absurd that so little is said about European cooperation by politicians, for fear of antagonising the Eurosceptic right and media.

He concludes:

In a globalised world of ever-evolving threats, Britain cannot and should not be terrified into inertia by eurosceptics, blinded by ideology against the national interest. Instead, it is time to reform EU defence policy to make our country safer and better able to act while also cutting costs to the taxpayer.

You can read the whole article here. 

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8 Comments

  • jedibeeftrix 19th Dec '13 - 6:14pm

    Defence cooperation via the EDA will only get my support as long as it isn’t used as a protectionist tool that peels us away from NATO/US.

    This would appear to be a serious worry:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10502998/The-EU-is-taking-over-defence-policy-by-stealth.html

    More generally, I find this foolish for exactly the same reason the euro was foolish; there is no european demos to assent to and legitimise a common foriegn policy.

    Those eu battlegroups have never been anywhere yet… And what about the franco-german brigade… oh, right, the french just disbanded it because the germans would never let them use it.

    Defence must remain an intergovernmental affair organised principally around NATO, if europe decides to marginalise this in favour of its parade-ground paper-tiger foreign policy it will get a flat “no” from me.

    The Lancaster agreement was a great move, and I would be happy to see more bilateral agreements between EU countries, but the aim must be to enable coalitions of the willing not hand responsibility to Brussels.

  • It would be great to have a European defense arrangement. Let’s get out from up the backside of the US.

  • jedibeeftrix 21st Dec '13 - 8:11am

    and be ‘up’ a different backside instead?

  • I think the EU should stick to doing its core existing tasks better, given how badly it is performing on these already, rather than trying to take on new ones. An EU defence policy, given the divergence of real interests between the countries, is frankly a nonsense.

  • jedibeeftrix 21st Dec '13 - 10:46am
  • Europe does not need to invest. It needs to heavily reduce defence spending. Co-operation is fine but it must serve that aim.

  • jedibeeftrix 21st Dec '13 - 7:53pm

    there we disagree fundamentally.

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