Luke Stanley is Research Assistant at Get Britain Out.
After triggering the bloodiest conflict in Europe since Kosovo, it is obvious the European Union has not been a successful peacekeeping force. Hard as it is for the Eurocrats of Brussels to accept, it is NATO, not the EU, which has kept peace in Europe for the last 70 years. Whilst NATO has prevented its members from being attacked by an aggressor, the EU has whipped up social unrest in Ukraine as well as directly led to the rise of Far Right groups such as Le Front National across the continent.
As such, the idea our European Union membership protects us is nonsense. Indeed, far from damaging Britain’s ability to safeguard herself, an exit from the EU would actually improve our defence and security capabilities, a recent Civitas report has argued. The EU is moving closer and closer towards an integrated defence and security policy and further away from the NATO system of co-operating nation states. Eventually we will have to decide between our fellow European states and our transatlantic friends for our military allies. When this day comes we cannot afford to remain within the EU.
As the defence and security policies of EU member states integrate further, our ability to follow our own policy will be diminished, making us more reliant on our European partners for defence. As the report points out, in 2009 the defence expenditure of the EU member states combined totalled only 35 per cent of that spent by the USA. The idea our European allies alone could guarantee our safety as well as NATO currently does is clearly flawed.
If this was not bad enough, the majority of EU member states have demonstrated a reluctance to commit themselves to military action when clearly justified. 5 of our 27 fellow member states – Austria, Malta, Sweden, Ireland and Finland – are well-established neutral countries. When British interests are threatened, it is unlikely these states would commit any support. After all, neither France nor Germany fought with us in Iraq, nor did Germany support the military intervention in Libya, effectively vetoing a joint EU taskforce helping to oust Gaddafi, thereby prolonging the crisis.
More worryingly the EU has also shown a hesitancy to give anything more than diplomatic support when the UK has been attacked. In the Falklands War the European Community imposed sanctions on Argentina but never dreamed about becoming any more involved. Meanwhile, the Americans gave us invaluable tactical support during the conflict. A more recent example of the Americans stepping in when our European allies failed to do so is the Iranian seizure of 15 Royal Navy personnel in 2007. Whilst the EU dithered, the Americans launched a huge naval exercise off the Gulf Coast, giving Britain a shoulder-to-shoulder guarantee of support.
The EU’s inability to give a strong response in favour of its member states’ interests is unsurprising. Any EU military action requires the consent of all 28 members. Between the 5 neutral countries already mentioned and Germany’s hesitancy to become involved in military interventions, it is unlikely there will ever be the required unanimous agreement for military action. As always, it is the Americans who have been our unwavering allies. Should Britain really abandon our resolute transatlantic alliance for an unreliable EU taskforce?
It is not as though EU integration in defence is even required. All it leads to is unnecessary duplication of military forces and assets and creates a divide between the EU and non-EU NATO countries by reducing interoperability. Why does the EU need its own military force when 22 of the 28 member states are in NATO, with only the 5 neutral countries and Cyprus remaining outside the alliance?
Most reprehensibly, the EU also undermines our own ability to counteract internal terrorism, through its consistent unwillingness to co-operate with America. The EU’s reluctance to allow the USA to access the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) to track terrorist financial data has greatly diminished the West’s ability to co-operate over counter-terrorism. Whilst Brussels eventually relented, granting America temporary access, this is due for renewal next year and is likely to be stopped. With the conflict in Syria and Iraq escalating, it is more vital than ever Britain collaborates with the Americans to combat religious extremist attacks.
With the EU’s attempts to replace NATO with a unified defence and security policy, the day when we must choose between America and the EU draws ever closer. As Dr Richard North has argued in a paper for The Bruges Group, Britain must decide between Europe or US cooperation as it ‘can no longer act’ in its ‘traditional role as a bridge between the two’. When it comes to deciding between our longstanding transatlantic cousins and the underfunded military of our flaky European allies, the choice is simple. We must Get Britain Out.