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Times overshoots with “EU army plans”

by Jack Schickler | 27.05.2016

The Times splashes today with claims that “EU army plans” are being “kept secret from voters”, referring to Brussels plans on foreign, security, and defence policy that are expected to be proposed to EU member states once the UK referendum is over.

The article quotes the British government as saying “we will never be part of an EU army”, and that we retain our right to veto such measures. However, the article says, “a loophole could allow nine states to group together and bypass opponents”. The story is repeated in today’s Mail, Express, Guardian and Telegraph.

Contrary to what the Times headline shouts, the proposal appears to fall well short of plans to create an “EU army” under unified EU command. Describing what it calls ‘steps towards creating a European Army,’ the Times article quotes the draft as urging the EU to “step up its contribution to Europe’s security and defence”, and for a more joined-up foreign policy. According to the Times, proposals include “new European military and operational structures, including a headquarters.”

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The Times article quotes a spokesman for the author of the plan, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, as saying it would “in no way aim to set up the EU army”. It goes on to say: “Mogherini shared British suspicions of creating European military structures and had a preference for “soft power”, noting that economic sanctions against Russia showed Europe’s best role. She would rather use treaty clauses to let groups of EU states pursue military operations with the blessing of the rest of the EU, a mechanism Britain does not oppose.”

The Times article doesn’t offer much support for the assertion in its headline, and any threat of the UK being dragged into an army project it doesn’t support is far off the mark. Not only can the UK veto EU foreign policy decisions, but any decision on common defence or an EU army would also require another UK referendum.

That does not stop other member states from deciding to press ahead on their own – without UK participation. Liam Fox’s allegation, quoted in the article, that we might be “dragged into a permanent EU military force” has no merit.

If anything, Brexit would make it more likely that other EU states choose to go ahead with military proposals.

Shortly after we published our article, The Times sent us an email saying: “Headlines are not read in isolation…. The term ‘EU army’ is a common, and in our view reasonable, headline shorthand for the ‘permanent structured defence cooperation’ in question.”

The final paragraph was added on May 28

Edited by Geert Linnebank

2 Responses to “Times overshoots with “EU army plans””

  • The U.K. debt is around £1.5 trillion.
    What would happen to the present AAA rating if Brexit will actually happen?

  • Update 14th Sept 2016 – Juncker has today stated that there will be a “common military force” and he wants an “EU Military Headquarters” to be built. So the EU Army claims were correct.