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Brexit deal helped EU push forward common army plans ‘but lots remains to be done’

3 min read

Macron criticised over push for EU army by Italian MEP

French MEP Nathalie Loiseau, who is a strong ally of Emmanuel Macron, has told an Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) that the UK’s exit from the European Union has cleared the way for “progress” towards greater EU military integration. She argued that Britain had never “valued” moves to craft closer military ties with Brussels but would remain a “key partner” for the bloc in terms of foreign policy and defence going forward. 

Prior to Brexit, the UK was linked to a series of EU military structures including the European Defence Fund, Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and the European Defence Agency and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) which some critics see as the beginning of an EU army. 

Regarding the future of the CSDP, Ms Loiseau said: “Brexit in foreign policy, firstly we have to admit in regards to the participation of the UK in CSDP the loss is small. The CSDP was never really something the UK really owned or really valued that much. 

“There were few staff or military from the UK in the CSDP missions, they were reluctant towards efforts like European Defence Fund or PESCO.

“I am pretty certain that we have made progress on European defence because the UK was leaving the European Union but there is a lot the remains to be done.”

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She added: “The UK is a key partner in terms of defence, in terms of foreign policy and we have to find ways to work together.”

It comes after former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib suggested the bloc’s European Defence Fund was a clear indication of the bloc’s determination to transform itself into a military superstate – while questioning why the UK was involved at all given its ongoing membership of NATO.

Buried away on page 1,051 of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) ratified last month is a reference to Horizon Europe, a bloc-wide project due to get underway this year which centred on discovery-led research and facilitating large-scale partnerships tackling global challenges.

The EU’s Multiannual financial framework fixed on December 11 fixed Horizon Europe’s budget at €95.5billion at modern prices, and on page 369 of the TCA, the cost to the UK over the course of the next seven years is revealed to be four percent of the whole – in other words, just €3.8billion.

 

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The EDF element amounts to just over £7.1billion (€8billion) – meaning given the UK is paying four percent of the cost, will cost taxpayers £285million (€320million) between 2021 and 2026, equal to £47.5million a year.

Mr Habib said: “Horizon Europe until about a month ago was a fairly benign research entity looking into research for climate change and stuff like that.

“And then in December 2020, two weeks before the cooperation agreement was signed, the EDF was moved into Horizon Europe.

So without us actually stating in the trade and cooperation agreement that we are now going to be paying funds into the EDF, we are now committed to pay those funds in.”

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Mr Habib said the bloc’s European Defence Union initiative involved a drive towards an independent military industry as well as armaments and a standing army, and he also highlighted the EU’s new 10,000-strong border force, the cost of which he suggested was £18.7billion (€21billion).

He added: “When you go back to 2015 and remember the debate that Nick Clegg had with Nigel Farage, when Nigel said they were aiming to have a standing army and Nick said something like ‘don’t talk garbage, that’s just scaremongering’, they were busy planning it at the same time.

“Now there is no way that the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom did not know what was going on in the Commission.

“So our political establishment is well-ensconced in all of this.”

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