An EU army? The idea is utterly barmy

In his latest salvo, Brussels chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, has called for the creation of an EU army to face down the Russians.

The idea is utterly barmy.

It reveals that too many politicians at the heart of the EU project are out of touch with the instincts of ordinary people.

The comments have also exposed, I'm afraid, the naivety of certain British politicians, including Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg. Only last year he accused those claiming the EU wanted its own army as peddling "a dangerous fantasy". It turns out he was completely wrong.

 

The reality too is that this wasn't a bolt from the blue. The idea of an EU army has been a long-held aspiration for those driving the European project, including Mr Juncker himself. Proposals for an EU defence force were first formally spelt out in the Lisbon Treaty which came into force in December 2009.

The concept, which would see British forces under the command of goodness-knows-who is completely misconceived and doomed to fail. Just imagine it: a battalion made up of Greek and German soldiers marching into Ukraine. What would morale be like as they see their leaders fighting like cats in Brussels over whether the Germans should be bailing out the Greeks (and therefore paying Greek soldiers' wages)? Putin would be rubbing his hands.

Mr Juncker's proposals remind me of when I was working as a speechwriter for William Hague (then Leader of the Opposition) in 1998. Then the big issue was whether Britain should join the Euro. At the time there were enthusiastic calls in favour from the Liberal Democrats, who then, as now, were the party of 'In'. Hague steadfastly opposed Britain joining, arguing at the time that the Euro would be a "burning building with no exits". He got a huge amount of flak about that from his political opponents. But he was right.

We should be equally clear now that the EU army idea is a non-starter. Defence is a national, not an EU responsibility. Whilst it's perfectly sensible to cooperate with other countries in the area of defence – including training together and even sharing facilities – Mr Juncker's proposal goes far too far.

Apart from fundamental issues of sovereignty, it also risks undermining NATO, and with it the role of the United States as the bulwark of European security.

It is NATO, not the EU, that has underpinned our defence.

The essence of NATO's existence is to show any potential aggressor that an attack on any of its European member states will trigger a conflict with the US. Diluting that deterrent is not in Britain's national interest.

Mr Juncker needs to think again.