... and take new step towards Brussels army
EU nations agreed to club together to boost their defence power yesterday.
It was the latest step towards what critics say could a Brussels army.
Some 23 of the European Union’s 28 member states pledged to increase their defence spending and to pool resources to buy and develop items such as drones, tanks and aircraft.
Britain refused to sign up – but has quietly dropped opposition to closer EU military integration and has pushed for an option to join the arrangement as Brexit unfolds.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson yesterday welcomed the plans at a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels, where the agreement was signed off. He said: ‘We think there is a lot of promise in the ideas and we will be backing them up.’
Campaigners said the deal to pool military resources could pose a threat to Nato. Others said it was far short of the wideranging plans wanted by some EU federalists and has ‘no chance of working’.
Britain joined other EU countries including Ireland and Denmark in refusing to sign the agreement, which was driven by Germany and France. But British officials said the UK could join the so-called ‘permanent structured co-operation’ (Pesco) deal in the future. It will also be able to take part in projects as a ‘third country’ after Brexit.
Co-operation could allow Britain to take part in valuable research programmes.
Brussels officials insist that the arrangement will complement Nato by helping member states spend more efficiently.
But UK campaign group Veterans for Britain described the agreement as a ‘complete mess’. A spokesman said it was ‘unhelpful to Nato, which is the bedrock of our defence’.
Frederic Mauro, a defence expert who advises the European Parliament, said he was ‘deeply sceptical’ about the agreement, which could see the creation of a field hospital as its first main project.
‘All these little projects – they won’t help the EU’s independent capacity,’ he said. ‘It has no chance of working.’
During the Brexit referendum, former prime minister David Cameron insisted that the UK joining up a supposed EU army ‘was not going to happen’.