The recent threat by American President Donald Trump to withdraw troops from Germany if the Government fails to meet the NATO 2% defence spending target, will give the EU a rallying point for their attempts to dominate defence and foreign policy in Europe. The UK must resist these attempts and fight to free itself from the grip of Brussels and in doing so, must set out a new vision for British foreign policy for the years to come after Brexit,  argues Jayne Adye, Director of Get Britain Out

For years there have been many of us within the Eurosceptic movement who have called for clarity and honesty from the EU about their ambitions for a so-called 'EU Army'. Time and again we were told this was nonsense and it was simply Brexiteers own version of 'Project Fear'. However, in the last few years we have seen a rapid growth in EU defence infrastructure and Germany has now announced their goal for an EU-wide common foreign policy within the coming months when they take over the Presidency of the European Council at the start of July.

While many would say this should no longer affect us as we left the EU on January 31st 2020, but they would be wrong. Recently, US President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw half of the American troops stationed within Germany because the German Government refuses to meet the mandatory 2% of GDP defence spending commitment for all NATO members. I think we can all agree, this regulation is in place for a purpose and is hardly unreasonable.

The reason this has such significance for the UK is because the EU is trying to push their own defence agenda, claiming the US cannot be trusted and the EU needs to become more self-reliant – something many within the Federalist group of MEPs have been pushing for during the last few years. Guy Verhofstadt MEP only last year argued the EU needs to become an Empire to be able to face-off other global Empires – including the US. While the new head of the European Defence Agency Jiri Sedivy has tried to say the EU intends to operate alongside NATO, his words do not match up with the actions being taken – with pooling of EU research detracting from NATO efforts and deliberately excluding non-EU defence industries – even those based in NATO members. This mentality places the EU in direct competition with NATO and the UK's own approach

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While the EU's desire to control defence matters is only growing, the budget and funds which Member States are willing to contribute simply isn't. EU military ambitions face the same problem as NATO – a lack of funding from European countries- including Germany. However, NATO has the massive support of the US, meaning smaller countries can get by with the minimum amount of contributions. This isn't the case for the EU. Now with Brexit, they are losing the financial support of the single biggest defence spender in Europe. If the EU wants to really try and stand up to global military superpowers, they need to get far more money for defence.

This is where the UK's exit and our future ties to the EU are so important. At present the UK has ruled out membership of the European Defence Fund and other 'institutional frameworks' set up within the European Defence Agency.  However, the EU is repeatedly pushing for the UK to U-turn on this position, envisaging an extremely close connection between the two parties on foreign policy and defence. Why else would this issue make up the second largest section of the EU's draft agreement with the UK, compared to the UK's proposals, which don't even mention the topic once! The EU has always seen the UK as a 'cash cow' – often called 'Treasure Island' by many within Brussels! On defence, this mentality is exactly the same. With their increasing focus on defence, over the next few years, we can expect the EU to try and gain extra funding by tying to tie the UK into their plans as part of the final Brexit negotiations in this Transition Period.

The UK Government must firmly reject this. We already have our own funding issues for our Armed Forces and our economy is under further strain as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We simply cannot afford to send billions of pounds to Brussels to fund their Federalist dream – and even if we could, the UK needs to 'Take Back Control' and not accede control to the EU under any circumstances!

The EU now sees a golden chance to push their own foreign and defence policy agenda – without interference from the US, and to paint Americans as some sort of enemy from which Europe must protect itself. However, the UK must not be pulled into this twisted view of the modern world. Instead we must cut ourselves free from Brussels' visions of grandeur and promote a true ambition for international collaboration on matters of defence, which works within the framework of NATO and our old allies, not one of ongoing political and financial entanglement with the EU. If we fail to be ambitious, now more than ever all the efforts made to Get Britain Out of the EU will have been for nothing.

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