And Brexiteer and Tory MP Sir John Redwood said Europe itself was heavily dependent on NATO and the US for its own defence needs, let alone anywhere else in the world. Bepi Pezzulli, Editor-in-Chief of La Voce Repubblicana, the official journal of Republican Party of Italy, and Stefano Magni, a journalist and essayist, an associate professor of Economic Geography at the Faculty of Law, University of Milan, took aim at the bloc in an article written for the website of the Facts4EU think tank.
They were speaking after Joseph Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, suggested the US’s chaotic pullout from Afghanistan would serve as a “catalyst” for the bloc to establish its own permanent military division.
Initially, reports suggested Mr Borrell wanted a 50,000-strong intervention force, but speaking after a meeting of EU defence ministers last week, he insisted 5,000 troops would be sufficient.
Among the advocates of an EU army are French President Emmanuel Macron, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has also broached the subject – despite the fact that neither France nor Mrs von der Leyen’s native Germany spends the two percent of GDP on defence annually recommended annually by NATO.
To support their argument Mr Pezzulli and Mr Magni pointed to several historical remarks about the idea of an EU army by former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, not least her declaration in 2002 that Brussels was setting itself up as a “competitor” to both the UK and the US.
They added: “Lady Thatcher closed the case two decades ago. From a military point of view, European defence is a pipe dream.
“From a political point of view, it serves to separate Europe from its allies across the Atlantic and across the Channel.
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“The truth is the defence of Europe relies heavily on NATO and US involvement.
“The EU needs to make a bigger contribution to NATO if wants to strengthen its defences.”
Leigh Evans, chairman of Facts4EU, told Express.co.uk: “For many years Facts4EU.Org has argued that if the EU27 countries cannot even spend anywhere near the NATO minimum of two percent of GDP on defence, what chance do they have of establishing a realistic military force of their own?
“The latest figures from the EU’s own statistics agency Eurostat, published on 27 August 2021, show the average defence spend amongst EU27 countries is only 1.2 percent of GDP. Germany’s spend was only 1.1 percent, according to Eurostat.
“For decades the EU countries have seemingly been incapable of paying for their own defence.”
Mr Evans added: “This article by prominent Italian Eurosceptics today points out the obvious to the EU.
“We’re pleased they have done so because this information does not seem to be widely publicised in the EU, nor in places like Washington.
“The Italian authors’ assessment that any idea of the EU forming its own credible military forces is “pie in the sky” is almost charitable to the EU.
“We suggest that those EU27 countries who are members of NATO start by paying their way in NATO first, before they entertain notions of grandeur which are currently well beyond their reach.”
Margaret Thatcher on talk of an EU army:
“We should develop the Western European Union, not as an alternative to NATO, but as a means of strengthening Europe’s contribution to the common defence of the West.“Above all, at a time of change and uncertainly in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, we must preserve Europe’s unity and resolve so that whatever may happen, our defence is sure.”
(Speaking in Bruges on September 20, 1988)
“Superficially, it sounds splendid that the Europeans are now willing to concern themselves more with the continent’s defence. However, the real drive towards a separate European defence is the same as that towards a single European currency – namely the utopian venture of creating a single European super-state to rival America on the world stage.”
(Speaking in 1999, in the aftermath of the Kosovo war, when then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair did not oppose a common European defence in principle)
“If the Europeans really wanted to increase their contributions to NATO, they could prove it now. They can increase military spending. They can rapidly transform their armies into professional corps, like the United Kingdom’s. And they can acquire more advanced technology.” But: “I don’t think the aim is to share the same field with the U.S. but to compete with them. And that is the real purpose of European defence plans and the UK should never be part of it.”
(Speaking in 2002, when the issue resurfaced after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001)