UK ‘literally dodged a bullet’ as ‘simply staggering’ EU defence plans revealed

Charles Michel outlines the 'roadmap' for EU defence

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The research by the Brexit group looked at the projects set up under the EU’s “Permanent Structured Cooperation” (PESCO) programme for combined military development.

Exactly one month ago EU foreign affairs and defence ministers agreed the launch of 14 new projects, bringing the current tally to 60. Once these projects are complete, they will form a new superstructure of unified military capabilities between EU member states.

Under the plans of former Prime Minister Theresa May the UK would have become part of this programme, despite the UK having voted to leave the bloc in June 2016.

Speaking to today, Managing Editor of Facts4EU Brian Monteith said: “The UK has literally dodged an EU bullet.”

The research into the involvement of EU member states shows that a total of 1,961 partnerships have been entered into by the countries who are currently involved.

The sheer scale of the tie-ups is “simply staggering”, according to the group who conducted the research.

Top of the league is France on 205 partnerships, with Spain second on 151 and Germany and Italy tied on 142 each. The scale of involvement reflects both the capacities of national military industries built up over many decades, says the report, as well as the military and strategic outlooks of respective governments.

France is involved in 36 percent more partnerships than second-placed Spain and 44 percent more than equal third-placed Germany and Italy.

Commenting, Facts4EU’s Brian Monteith said: “This was where Theresa May wanted to take us – and we should remember the current Prime Minister chose not to.”

He continued: “At the very least, being outside the EU allows the UK Government to create limits to international partnerships – such as those with the US or Australia – which protect strategic capabilities and interests and which EU laws would have prevented.”

PESCO is one of several programmes creating EU military unification, with others including the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the European Defence Fund (EDF).

The Brexit think tank concluded: “As an island nation with a global rather than a continental outlook, our defence industry expertise and military capabilities would have been sacrificed on the altar of European statehood and potential European conflicts.”

Member states volunteer to be involved in each project of their choosing, with one country taking the lead. They do not need to take part in every project but by doing so they end up in partnership with other countries.

The more projects a country is involved in, the more partnerships it will create and the more influence it will have.

All but one of the 25 member countries of PESCO are partnered with each other. The exception is Ireland, which has partnerships with only seven other countries. The only EU member states which are not members of PESCO are Denmark and Malta.

Being outside a project does not mean Ireland – which declares itself as a neutral country – is not tied into their outcomes or costs. All PESCO signatories are obliged to adhere to or harmonise the outcomes of each project as well as to contribute financially towards them.

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The PESCO operation is governed by the EU’s European Defence Agency and EU’s foreign and defence ministry known as the European External Action Service (EEAS). The EU Council also has a role in approving projects and participants.

The year 2025 is increasingly being talked about as a key one in the development of PESCO, as it is the year in which the current phase of 60 projects is due to complete.

This is also the year targeted as the date by which the EU achieves what it refers to as a “Fully Fledged Defence Union”, according to EU Commission proposals set out in 2017.

The term “Defence Union” was described by the EEAS as the point at which all aspects of defence are performed together: funding, procurement, training, deployment and the political decisions involved.

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