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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sorry but UK defence policy is largely untouched by EU membership

Talking about EU military co-operation is always a good way to generate a heated debate, and we expect that the Guardian interview with German Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière will be no exception. Maizière said:
"If Great Britain leaves the EU, it would be a great disappointment to us. It would weaken Nato, it would weaken the British influence within Nato. I think from a military point of view the disadvantages for Great Britain would be bigger than the advantages."
"I am not talking about economic issues or social issues, or whether you drive on the left or the right side of the road, I am talking about security. I am talking about British influence beyond its own borders. I think it is part of the British tradition that Britain has to play a role in the world. Outside the EU it would not lose a role, but it would reduce their own influence and this cannot be in the interests of Great Britain. We in Germany would lose a strong partner for a pro-Atlantic co-operation with America and a pragmatic British way to deal with security issues." 
Now, as we've argued in the past, there are a number of drawbacks from the UK leaving the EU - which eurosceptics of that inclination have failed to properly address - including guaranteed market access, voting rights on laws that govern that market access, "pass-porting" for financial services, extra costs at the border for exporting business (rules of origin) and loss of veto to prevent the EU from doing stupid things. Here, German politicians make good points when they talk about the UK's future position in the EU.

However, the one area that would be largely unaffected - or even completely unaffected - by a possible UK withdrawal from the EU is defence and Britain's military position.The reason is simple: hard power in Europe is simply guided by logic and incentives untouched by the EU institutions. It's a separate dialogue completely.

In other words, Britain would be an absolutely key part of "security Europe" even if it left the EU tomorrow. It wouldn't enjoy either substantial benefits or drawbacks with regards to military cooperation - the EU would be largely irrelevant. Even in the broader field of "foreign policy", the UK would be a key partner.

The UK remains one of Europe's 2 1/2 military powers, being the biggest single spender on defence in Europe - spending as much as Italy, Spain, Netherlands and Poland combined.
Britain would still have its permanent place on the UN's Security Council and its nuclear deterrent. Meanwhile it is telling that France and the UK have chosen to deepen their defence co-operation outside of the EU. When it comes to hard power the EU institutions become invisible; think the Balkans, and more recently Iraq, Libya, Syria and Mali.

The UK may benefit from EU membership in the broad area of foreign policy (for example the recent EU-brokered peace deal between Serbia and Kosovo) but if the UK left the EU tomorrow, it would have no impact on its security capabilities.

Conversely, EU partners may find it easier to press ahead with a "European Army" (though not really given political realities). It might be European, but it sure as hell won't be much of an army.

Let's pick the right targets when arguing for continued UK EU membership.


Rik said...

Most of the European military is a joke.
The UK has by far the best army (also per Pound/Euro).

But also with the cuts al over the board nothing runs without the US of A. No big action can take place by Europe itself without considerable support of the US, look at Libya. Shame (or is joke better?) for a continent that pretends to be a worldpower (either via some of its memberstates or by its own right).

Rubbish way of communicating btw. Simply not looking with who you are adressing. Communication Barosso-style one dimensional, completely predictable and to everybody in the sameway.

jon livesey said...

I view the statement by Maizière as a pretty definite own-goal for two reasons.

First, what he says is patently wrong, and anyone who thinks about it for any length of time knows it. As the author of this column says, the military is where the relationship between the UK and EU is least significant. Inside or outside the EU, we would not have a bullet more or less, nor an ally - think US - more or less.

Secondly, it's a bad mistake for a German Defence Minister to say *anything* about UK Defence, apart from polite admiration.

Comments from the EU about UK Defence, and especially from Germany, amounts to a dog-whistle that the UKIP can exploit extremely cleverly. When Maizière himself has been forgotten, we'll still be hearing that Germans want the UK in the EU in order to gain some sort of control over the military.

Ray said...

Paragraph 4 ? I thought I was here on Open Europe to have the failings of the EU disseminated not what is becoming alarmingly a pro European site. Am I not the only one that has noticed the "Open Europe" site becoming more and more Pro European site ?, is this the Stockholm Syndrome in action?

Freedom Lover said...

It doesn't seem to diminish the USA & Canada's position in NATO, despite their non-membership of the EU. The same goes for Turkey, Norway, & Iceland. And also for Britain's European dependencies - ie the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey, & Gibraltar (& the Sovereign Base areas of Cyprus too).

This is a false argument - a giveaway of a secret, in fact - that the EU (despite it's 6 officially neutral members) - with US support, wants to amalgamate NATO with the EU's forces. For example, a current joint NATO exercise in northern Scotland even includes Swedish forces (an impossibility during the Cold War). So if Britain leaves the EU, would that leave European countries without British military help, if needed? No, of course not. It's just another "straw-man" that these objectionable euro-philes will pull to try to keep Britain as a member of the EU, & also wasting our money to pay for absurd EU projects, policies, regulations, decisions, & directives.

ppnn said...

For Ray: http://openeurope.org.uk/Page/OurVision

I am a pro-European, but fairly sceptical to the EU. There is a difference.

I wish to see facts here, be they pro or anti. I do not want to see failings nor achievements censored because of some bias.

christina speight said...

Ray - You are not the only one to have noticed NOR the only one to have saud so. OE"'s research is first class and generally quite unslanted.

But I agree that the 'climate' of OE as a whole is tending towards keeping the UK shackled to the monster whatever the facts. It is good that you have draqwn attention to the dreadful para beginning "Now, as we've argued in the past ...."

This is a disgrace to slip it in in the middle of the debunking of the idiot German Defence Minister's attack. I agree that what that man must be up to is keeping us in place until the EU makes "Defence" one of its 'competences' and thus give Germany control over that as well as everything else. I don't know why I bothered from 1939-1945, [Yeah, I'm THAT old!]

That para needs demolishing all on its oiwn - it is lies, lies and more lies.

Ray said...

ppnn, all your "fears" have been adequately dismissed several times, why would anyone make trading difficult with one of their biggest European customers ? It just doesn't make sense and can be discounted, they may be hacked off at us, but they will still happily take our money

christina speight said...

ppnn - Most of us are pro-European but many of us are passionately against the undemocratic, conspiracy to rule without consent EU.

Ray - Yes they;ll still happily ACCEOT our money in trade deals but TAKING it is only now coming to the fore as the Eurozone-11 propose to take all the business from London and give it to Paris and Frankfurt.

ppnn said...

Ray: Pray, which fears do I have? I did not see myself listing any fears in my post. I just pointed out the OE has not hidden their leanings. And that I think OE should discuss EU failings but not just for satisfying those who are already convinced about that the EU is a wreck.

Christina: Yes, that's why I pointed out that EU and Europe are not equal.

Anonymous said...

Let's try not to confuse "European Union" with Europe. Not the same thing.

Article: "UK remains one of Europe's 2 1/2 military powers".


You have forgotten one country. It is:
1. Europe's most euro-sceptic nation;
2. a power that often been described as being "of Europe, but not in Europe";
3. a country which, in every major conflict since Napoleonic times, has allied itself with Europe's periphery while mainland states have made war (indeed this country has been allied with the UK in every war during this time except for conflicts in Crimea and Kosovo and, perhaps imminently, in Syria. But then, this nation takes seriously its historic role in protecting Christians in lands ruled by Ottomans, such as the Armenian Orthodox in Syria).

I talk, of course, of....


Let's not forget. Russians are Europeans too.