Safer and more secure outside the EU

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One of the main arguments being touted for remaining in the EU is that it will lead to a more secure future, this could not be further from the truth. Brexit will have no effect on the security of our nation, if anything a Brexit will help us put UK security interests first.

First let me outline three reasons why Brexit will not affect our security.

Leaving the EU does not isolate us from security circles. Our membership of the EU makes us no more secure than being an external member. All current security and intelligence relationships in Europe work on an ad-hoc or international basis. Europol participation does not require EU membership, NATO participation does not require EU membership even participation in the European Defence Agency does not require EU membership. I am not saying we want to be part of all of these groupings, but leaving the EU does not bar us from being involved or working with these institutions. We can still be a part of those groups that we want to be part of and feel are effective deterrents.

British Intelligence, Security and Defence services are recognised as some of the world’s best. The EU will need the UK more than the UK will need the EU when it comes to security and intelligence, it would be to the EU´s detriment to exclude the UK from any involvement should the UK wish to. The UK belongs to what is known as the “Five Eyes”; this is five nations that share intelligence freely and on a highly classified level. These nations are The UK, The USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Note the absence of any other EU nation in this group, other than the UK. Even if we trust Europeans with intelligence, our strongest Anglo-allies do not. These are allies that have stood side by side British soldiers in the trenches from the Somme to Helmand. We are valued more than our European colleagues when it comes to Security and Intelligence and leaving the EU won´t change that.

Add to this that this very partnership is under threat from being a member of the EU; I would recommend that we benefit more from the five eyes and we need to preserve it. The European Court of Human Rights is currently challenging the UK, claiming that the UK must make public its secret intelligence relationship with these nations. The court claims that in having a secret agreement it violates human rights in terms of an individual’s right to access of information. This is a national security issue and I believe it is right to keep it secret how and what information we share with our partners; the notion that this should be public knowledge is ludicrous.

NATO. The UK will remain part of the bedrock of NATO and for this reason our EU membership is irrelevant. NATO remains the active, effective and prominent international organisation for UK in the world. British Military personnel have experience and value the support of fighting in the NATO construct, be it Afghanistan or the Balkans. Leaving the EU does not impact that; NATO is filled with non-EU powers such as America & Canada. NATO is an institution that respects its member’s sovereignty and is a group that aims to cooperate where it can. On the other hand the EU consistently has an agenda of integration which is not beneficial to our security. NATO salutes a nation’s sovereignty in the field of defence and security and will therefore forever be at the centre of UK foreign policy regardless of the EU.

Now let me explain where a Brexit will benefit the UK in terms of security and defence.

Escape the push for an EU Army. Security and Defence is, quite rightly so, not a competency of the EU. However, this is unlikely to remain the case for long, the current President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker has made no secret of his desire and priority for a European army in this mandate. Jean-Claude Juncker has cited conflicts such as Ukraine as an example of where a European Army could have helped, a statement I can only baulk at.

Any notion or beginnings of a European Army would see the UK fronting the largest burden financially. The UK spends the most on defence in Europe and its capabilities and ability to act quickly and unilaterally are testament to this. Why would it be in the UK interest to now fund an EU Army? That is because it is not in the UK´s interest but in the interest of other nations. Once again the UK would be saddled with a financial burden to cover for those nations that do not spend or contribute enough domestically on defence.

Moreover, how would the army be deployed? Will it need the European Parliament´s consent? My experience of the European Parliament and MEPs makes this somewhat a ridiculous and laughable idea.

A European Army is not only not feasible; it is a costly endeavour that seeks to plug a hole in European defence expenditure and capabilities because other nations fail to do so in their domestic defence budgets. Best case scenario: The EU creates an army at great expense to the UK taxpayer and it never gets used because the EU cannot agree on a common foreign policy. Worst case scenario: The EU Army is actively used abroad for goals not in the UK´s interest at great cost to the UK taxpayer again.

We just care more for Defence than other nations. In terms of both cost and strategic thinking the UK is far ahead of its European companions. Firstly on cost, the UK and Estonia are the only two nations that have consistently spent 2% of their GDP on defence each year, the NATO benchmark. France in times of recession has shown itself to equally abscond from this target.

Only France and the UK maintain an “internationalist” mindset, regularly willing to exercise an active foreign policy. This differs greatly from even our German colleagues. In Afghanistan, whilst in numbers Germany was a large contributor of soldiers, they were deployed with heavy caveats. Prevented by Berlin from fighting or travelling at night or from moving out of the North of Afghanistan, this left British Soldiers fighting the most dangerous southern zones in places such as Helmand.

The approach and mentality to defence and foreign policy between the UK and Europe differs greatly. Europe does not spend enough, contribute enough or proactively engage as much as the UK does. Brexit does not rescue the UK from this divergence but it removes us from any EU attempt to drive down our Defence standards or foreign policy ambition. Juncker´s idea of “more EU” does not bridge this divide or solve Europe’s lack of security; it will merely dampen UK capabilities and independence in defence.

Defence stops becoming a pawn for political gain. In David Cameron’s efforts to renegotiate the UK-EU relationship it seems as if Defence became a pawn that was up for discussion. In Germany, it was murmured that the UK would have to stop opposing the move towards a European Army in order to gain concessions on its demand on financial sovereignty. In Poland, the miraculous breakthrough on welfare restraints came at the same time that the UK announced a permanent deployment of British soldiers in Poland. I may just be a little cynical, however the greater control we have over welfare and other aspects of our domestic politics will stop us having to trade or put up our defence and foreign policy as negotiable tools.

Membership of the EU does not make the UK any more secure and suggestions to that effect are false. What Brexit does offer is an escape from European plans for a European army that would undoubtedly burden the UK, both financially and strategically. In Europe, the UK is the leader and preeminent body on defence, but also further afield we are valued as a strong ally globally. When it comes to security Europe needs the UK and not the other way around. An exit from the EU does not in any way curtail our defence, intelligence or security services. More effective and stronger options for the UK lie outside the EU.

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© Copyright Emma McClarkin
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