The government's cash injection for the Ministry of Defence will all be for nothing if it fails to deliver the United Kingdom's independence from the European Union, and its many foreign policy and defence institutions, argues  Jayne Adye, Director of Get Britain Out. 

In the past few weeks, the Conservative Government has been trying to keep some of its Manifesto promises, whether through hollow attempts at solidifying its Brexit stance or talking about fiscal responsibility after the COVID-19 pandemic. On one topic however, words have actually led to meaningful action. The Government has now committed to a new 4-year funding package for our Armed Forces, which includes an increase of £16.5 billion – the largest in years – and finally giving priority to the defence of this country in an ever-changing world.

However, there is one major problem. As it stands this change in funding and greater priority for the Armed Forces, will all be for nothing if during the negotiations with the EU, the Government does not stand firm and reject any form of integration with the European Defence Union and its many secondary organisations – including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation).

If we fail to escape the clutches of these organisations, then we can spend as much money as we want on defence, but it will not change the fact we will have lost the ability to control the distribution of this money and the full sovereign control of our Armed Forces.

One area in particular where this increase in spending has been targeted is that of military intelligence and cyber security – a part of negotiations with the EU which has so often been ignored or simply taken for granted.

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Under Theresa May's proposed Withdrawal Agreement, the UK Government agreed to pretty much give up our ability to keep information to ourselves, or more precisely, the right to choose who we share information with. Thankfully, these sections of May's proposed Agreement were removed entirely by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. However, the EU has not given up on its attempts to gain leverage over the UK's intelligence community, and they are trying to break up the power held by the so-called Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which is made up of the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Throughout the Brexit negotiations, the EU has continued to try and include a binding commitment on foreign policy and defence from us, alongside any 'Trade Deal' – despite the UK ruling out any such arrangement. However, even as recently as this week, there has been talk of a 'Trade and Security Agreement'. This is a worrying statement which continues to set the groundwork for undermining UK sovereignty on the matter of defence and security. After all, Prime Minister Boris Johnson may well want the UK to have 'the foremost Navy in Europe', but this would be worthless without the other important outstanding issues, including the Level Playing Field, and if we can't even secure the fish in our own waters.

If commitments on intelligence sharing have somehow worked their way into this Agreement, the details must be thoroughly examined, just as in the case of our more formal Armed Forces. Protecting the integrity of our intelligence community is of paramount importance.

The Prime Minister seems to be backsliding in his commitments on Brexit this week. With the Internal Market Bill now effectively not worth the paper it is written on, Northern Ireland is being carved off from the United Kingdom – and Michael Gove announcing there will be at least 30 EU customs staff stationed in Northern Ireland, and rumours are circulating about negotiations rolling on until December 31st 2020. With no real appetite being shown for delivering a real Brexit by our walking away from these negotiations, I am growing increasingly nervous about other issues which seemed to be off the table, but which will no doubt once again rear their ugly heads if or when a new 'Trade Deal' is announced. We will see what crawls out of the woodwork when the new negotiating deadline expires this Sunday.

If Boris Johnson can already appear to be backsliding on fishing – with suggestions of a 3 or 5-year fishing transition period or even delaying the talks on the matter entirely – and the integrity of this very country being at risk over Northern Ireland – then this does not bode well for our defence and security sectors. If the Prime Minister wants his commitments to reinvigorate our Armed Forces to be believed, then his first step must be to Get Britain Out of the EU with no ties or legal commitments for involvement in any form of EU common defence programmes. A failure to do so would make a mockery of our national sovereignty.

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