« Ken Clarke rejects English Parliament | Main | William Hague on Europe and Defence »

Liam Fox on Europe and Defence

This is the text that Dr Liam Fox prepared for this afternoon's debate on the Lisbon Treaty.  Because it is the prepared text, tomorrow's Hansard may record very slightly different words.  This text doesn't include interruptions etc either.  William Hague's contribution can be read here.

"It is easy in debates of this nature to get caught up in the detail and miss the big picture.

So let’s be clear what we are talking about today. This Treaty proposes giving the EU a defence capability which will duplicate many of the functions of NATO. Worse, it will potentially compete with, rather than complement, NATO.

Why does this matter? It matters because we believe that NATO, which has been the cornerstone of our defence for 60 years should continue to have primacy. We believe that the trans-Atlantic bonds with the United States and Canada should not be weakened. It is the Americans and Canadians who are fighting alongside British troops on the frontline in Afghanistan while, with a few honourable exceptions, most notably the Dutch, the majority of our EU partners do not.

So let me set out what we believe to be the instruments of this Treaty which could undermine the NATO alliance:

Under the Lisbon Treaty there is further duplication of NATO’s Article V with the Solidarity Clause and no change to the duplication of NATO structures that already exists with the EU Military Staff, EU Battle Groups, European Rapid Reaction Force, the Athena Mechanism, and certain aspects of the European Defence Agency.

There is no mention of NATO’s right of first refusal for all military missions pertaining to European security.

There is no mention of NATO’s primacy.

There is no change to the discriminatory attitude the EU takes against non- European Union NATO member states like Norway and Turkey. This is especially true regarding the financing of EU military operations and Turkey’s “administrative agreement” with the EDA which has been continuously blocked by Cyprus.

We also have concerns regarding the democratic legitimacy of the ESDP under the Lisbon Treaty.

The newly-created role of High Representative will serve as a vice-president in the Commission and have a right of initiative for proposing military operations. This will bring supranationalism into EU defence planning for the first time. Consequently, foreign and defence policy in the EU will no longer be strictly intergovernmental.

An un-elected EU President will have a direct role in deciding the military budget for EU military operations by chairing the Athena Special Committee and will have a direct role for approving the new High Representative.

The Treaty formally creates the European Defence Agency which will be headed by the High Representative, who as I have stated previously, is also a vice-president of the Commission.  Just the foothold into defence procurement the Commission desires.

Even though the European Defence Agency exists today as a part of the ESDP it has never been part of an EU treaty that has been ratified by all Member-States. Originally in the Constitutional Treaty, European integrationists decided to go ahead with the creation of the EDA even though the Constitutional Treaty failed ratification in France and the Netherlands.

Consequently, the inclusion of the EDA in the Lisbon Treaty is an attempt by the EU to retrospectively justify the existence of an organisation which was created despite being originally part of the failed Constitutional Treaty.

The EDA sets out to develop defence capabilities and promote armament cooperation between EU members. But what we need is greater armament cooperation with the military forces we will be fighting alongside on the ground.

We need better interoperability with the United States.

We need more joint procurement projects with the United States, as we are doing with Joint Strike Fighter.

There is no point participating in joint procurement projects with countries whose defence spending levels are too low to purchase the end products and, in any case, it should be done between sovereign nation states and not on an EU, supranational basis.

The European Defence Agency offers the United Kingdom no tactical, strategic, or technological advantage which NATO, bi-lateral or multilateral agreements, or the UK defence industrial base do not already provide.

The idea of a joint market for defence equipment is also now featuring at the EU level, with the European Commission pushing for a deal which could secure more efficient spending among all the bloc's member states.

Currently, internal market rules are not applied to the defence market, allowing member states to exclude defence contracts from EU procurement rules. Moreover, national licensing procedures make transfers of defence material between countries difficult.

According to the commission, a common defence market would significantly improve the military capabilities of member states without increasing defence expenditures. This is nonsense and is in the same accounting league as the double hatting of troops and pretending that you have created greater capability.  All this does is increase Commission competence in an area where they have no business to be.

The Government claim to share our affinity for NATO and they claim this Treaty will not undermine it. But that is not what they said before. During the 2003 European Convention this Government was opposed many aspects of the Treaty that we are debating here today.

In fact, Permanent Structured Cooperation and the mutual defence commitment are two sections of the text the Government wanted completely totally deleted from Treaty.

Regarding the mutual defence clause, the Rt Hon Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) said in 2003 in an amendment that:

“Common defence, including as a form of enhanced co-operation, is
divisive and a duplication of the guarantees that 19 of the 25 member states of the enlarged EU will enjoy through NATO.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

So why the change of heart now? 

Regarding Permanent Structured Cooperation this Government said during the 2003 European Convention that “the UK has made clear that it cannot accept the proposed ESDP reinforced cooperation provisions.”

But now the Government has caved in to European pressure and accepted Permanent Structured Cooperation in the Lisbon Treaty.

Permanent structured cooperation in the Lisbon Treaty is EU defence integration by stealth and nothing less.

Our suspicions have been reinforced by the noises coming out of Paris in recent weeks. UMP defence spokesman, Pierre Lellouche made clear France will push the limits of Permanent Structured Cooperation to the maximum and create a six nation “hard-core” of EU members who want to further EU defence integration, a common procurement market for defence, and ultimately establish an EU pillar in NATO.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

At the Munich Conference on Security Policy last week, French Defence Minister Hervé Morin said that NATO was primarily a defence organisation and should not operate as a global policeman. That he said, was the role of the United Nations. And, he added that the EU must not be “the civilian arm” of NATO. A clear direction of travel. 

I expect that unlike France, the Labour Government will only publicly support using Permanent Structured Cooperation in this way after the new treaty's full ratification. Yet another reason why the prime Minister wants to avoid the public scrutiny of a referendum.

We should welcome France into the Integrated Command Structure but not with an EU pillar of NATO as a quid pro quo. It ought to mean removing NATO duplication and to continue to operate under the Berlin-plus arrangement which has worked so well in the past. Under these conditions we could easily sort out the potential problems we have with the French position.

With their support for this Treaty, as with so many other things, this Labour Government is heading down the wrong path when it comes to Britain’s security. With the threat of global terrorism, problems with energy security, and a resurgent Russia the stakes are too high.

I have spent 15 years in the House of Commons being told that every EU Treaty put in front of us was more benign than it seemed - so there was really nothing to worry about.  Enough is enough. The Lisbon Treaty threatens to undermine the defence assumptions we have had as a nation for 60 years and to drive a wedge between us and our transatlantic allies.

Britain cannot have two best friends when it comes to defence. This Treaty asks us to make a choice. A Conservative Government will not weaken our transatlantic bonds.

We want the EU to work in partnership with NATO, not compete with NATO. These treaty provisions move in the wrong direction, for Britain, for the EU and for NATO.

That is why we oppose them."


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.