Defence Synergia – DS – is an apolitical group of operationally experienced Service people. DS are concerned with protection of the UK and offshore dependencies from external threats. DS commentary is focused on perceived shortcomings of defence and security forces; in this context, the EU question rests on an assessment of which choice offers the greatest security against a background in which the UK has no discernable Grand Strategy narrative of what global or regional role it aspires to play. The EU has the stated aim of becoming a super state that has its own Armed Forces but also has yet to publish any roles. The current embryonic EU defence structures, apart from the EU maritime patrol in the Indian Ocean, remain impotent and duplicate much of the defence capability of NATO.
NATO, a multinational alliance, has successfully mounted maritime and military operations around the globe since it was formed. Participants have been committed by their countries thus obviating the need for consensus required by the EU. But, in recent years NATO has suffered from European member states reducing their Defence budgets to the detriment of capacity, capability and readiness.
In the UK serving personnel in Defence and Security services are barred from offering professional judgements publicly while the political leadership in the MOD, FCO and Home Office seem to dither and split on what is the ‘best’ Security for the UK.
The threats of terrorism, crime and breakdown in domestic infrastructure call for swift acting national control at a level close to the operation.
The Remain option offers the prospect of an EU Armed Forces to replace the existing multilateral and bilateral treaty agreements between nations. In view of the history of operations in the past 30 years such a ‘body’ with its own command & control, political direction of the EU parliament, recruiting, training, procurement of systems and equipment seems a complex, expensive and, therefore, difficult aim to achieve and might be impossible for the people to accept when the existing regimental gathering has been that of the French Foreign Legion which has amalgamated the SAS, SBS, Italian, German, Polish etc… counterparts. The EU nations faced some of these difficulties in the Balkans, but the experience did not lead to further exploitation. Maybe that is the reason why the UK government has an opt out from a European Army! It is not clear what relationship has been mooted for the opted out British forces vis a vis the European Army and the EU procurement Agency.
The Leave option offers the prospect of the UK Armed Forces being given a clear national Grand Strategy from which to assess, professionally, their roles and the resources required. There seems no reason to alter existing treaties; the resources which might have been committed to the EU defence agencies could be redeployed thus strengthening domestic borders and adding coherence for the reassurance of NATO allies. It seems that the UK’s capability to make significant contributions to Allied requirements might be best served by a period of clarity of aim and consolidation of readiness and capability. In other words, craft out a coherent Grand Strategy and fashion a Future Force from it.
Defence Synergia – EU Membership Security 16/05/16