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David Banks writing for Brexit Watch reviews the current state of our "withdrawal" from EU defence initiatives, and finds the usual ambiguity (some might think disparity) about our military relationship with the EU post-"Brexit".

Of course, a military relationship doesn't just cover troop and equipment deployments, it must also cover inter-operability, common specifications, procurement and defence contractors.

If we can't manufacture our own arms and equipment then we will be beholden to the EU for such supplies - which could therefore be withheld in the event of policy differences. In any case, what chance do we think UK defence contractors would have of being chosen by the EU to supply their needs? In the short term they might have little option in specific areas but longer-term contracts could be progressively withheld until our defence industries become unviable are bought for consolidation within the EU or elsewhere. Rolls Royce is already seriously weakened by the closure of air travel.

And we should bear in mind our government's not-so-proud history of cancelling prestigious projects (Blue Streak, TSR2) and scrapping equipment (Harriers, Nimrods), thus running down our indigenous industries (so that we could buy elsewhere?).

Another major difference between the historic UK position and the EU is that the EU considers that their Defence Union should include single command and control over both military units and civilian security services. In the UK the police have always been under separate civilian control and are civilians themselves, not paramilitaries (despite recent appearances in London).

The government could make the case publicly that it is now impossible to redevelop our own defence contractors so we must align militarily with either the EU or the USA or demilitarise - but they do not.

As we leave the EU, should we not consider the available options?

Would we vote to join the USA as the 51st state? At least they have a robust and democratic Constitution (about to become even more robust once Trump is inaugurated for his second term) that defends their freedom and gives the individual state a very high measure of independence. Not a bad deal given our government's resolute trashing of freedoms previously considered sacrosanct, and possibly not so very different from where we have been heading in past years with ever greater reliance on the USA for equipment and defence.

Alternatively we could become a neutral state, more like Sweden, with insufficient military to do anything other than (in the last resort) defend our home territory.

Or we could put effort into redeveloping our own military, technology, and in-house supply-lines, and wean ourselves off total reliance on other nations to keep us in armed forces sufficient to support our global ambitions.

To raise these points is not to say that I would support any of them, but simply to mention that there is a discussion about our future that we are not having - and what better time to kick this off than as we leave the EU?



Read also today's article by Veterans for Britain for Brexit Watch. It seems that we are right to be concerned that our Government will stick with the restrictive EU procurement rules rather than keeping our options flexible. Both expected and very disappointing.

Of course we still have to see the whole deal (should we get one), but at this late stage it's hard to have any confidence that there will be enough time for MPs to review the inevitably complex proposals, let alone other interested parties. If a deal is presented to Parliament at this late stage MPs should reject it until they have had time to research and debate it.


Read also the government's latest research briefing on PESCO, where they confirm that they would wish to retain the ability to take part in EU defence operations on an optional basis, and that "Participation must be consistent with the 20 defence policy commitments (download) that PESCO member states have signed up to". So as I read it this means full compliance on policy standards and and procurement with just the ability to opt out of individual operations.