What he does not seem to understand is that this current government has already committed the UK to joining it. In that sense, we already have joined an EU army. Fox is way behind the curve.
Furthermore, the defence establishment is already working to fulfilling that commitment in the name of the the European Security Strategy, which was agreed in its current form in December 2003.
It was then that Member States (including the UK) decided to set themselves a new headline goal reflecting the evolution of the strategic environment and technology. In May 2004, EU defence ministers (including the UK defence minister) adopted the Headline Goal 2010 (HG 2010), which was later endorsed by the European Council held in Brussels on June 2004.
The HG 2010 calls on EU Member States to "be able by 2010 to respond with rapid and decisive action applying a fully coherent approach to the whole spectrum of crisis management operations covered by the Treaty of the European Union." Among the milestones identified in the 2010 horizon are:
• Establishing a civil-military cell within the European Union Military Staff. The cell should have the capacity to rapidly set-up an operations centre for a particular operation. [currently operational]This is the core of the integration process and, as the notes affirm (updated last month) that process is continuing, unabated, with the full assent of the UK.
• Establishing a European Defence Agency. [operational as of July 2004]
• Implementing EU strategic lift joint coordination. [process initiated in 2004]
• Developing a fully efficient European Airlift Command for those member states who want to be part of the EAC. [process initiated in 2004]
• Completing development of the rapidly deployable EU Battlegroups. [full operational capability reached on 1 January 2007]
• Ensuring the availability of an aircraft carrier with its associated air wing and escort by 2008.
• Improving the performance of all levels of EU operations through appropriate compatibility and network linkage of all communications equipment and assets (terrestrial and space based) by 2010.
• Developing quantitative benchmarks and criteria that national forces declared to the Headline Goal have to meet in the field of deployability and training. [a process for 'scrutinising, evaluating, and assessing' capabilities is presently employed].
It is all very well, therefore, for Liam to preach about his response to the European Defence Agency, but there is a lot, lot more to defence integration than this organisation.
What Fox and the rest of his fellow Tory travellers must get their brains around is that a lot of us are better informed than they give us credit for – and we no longer have to rely exclusively on politicians to tell us what is happening. We have this thing called the internet. They may even have heard of it themselves.
Thus, before Dr Fox even begins to convince us that, as part of a Tory government he would arrest the progress of European defence integration, he must convince us that he understands what is going on. To succeed in that, he needs to do more than write patronising, superficial little pieces in the Torygraph.
This is the sticking point. We will not tolerate being patronised. Engage in an honest, informed debate, or suffer the consequences.