Sunday, July 31, 2005


Especially now, with so much going on of great importance, it is difficult to focus on what might or might not happen in 20 years time. But that is the genius of the European Union.

Whatever is the current preoccupation, however, integration goes marching on. And, with no electoral cycle to concern them, and nothing serious in the way of accountability, the "colleagues" can make their plans over an extraordinarily long time-scale – beyond the vision of democratically elected politicians and the media – and then let the plan roll out.

It could only be in Booker's column, therefore, that there could be space to continue with the theme of European defence integration, continuing on from last week, when Booker broached the subject of my then incomplete paper on the issue

"In 20 years time," he writes, quoting from my study "almost the only thing British about Britain's armed forces will be the men and women serving in them, and the Union Jacks sewn on their Chinese-made uniforms to distinguish them from their EU colleagues."

Adds Booker: A wealth of further evidence has come to light to show how, over the next two decades, the British Army will have been almost wholly reorganised and re-equipped to become a fully integrated part of the European Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF), directed from Brussels, using equipment supplied almost entirely by other countries in the EU.

No longer will it be technically or politically possible for Britain’s armed forces to fight independently, or in alliance with those of the USA. Yet the scale and speed at which this astonishing transformation is coming about has been deliberately hidden from view by the Ministry of Defence, to the point where British firms are already being instructed to buy foreign-made defence equipment, which can be relabelled to look as though it is British made.

This is the startling picture, he continues, which emerges from an exhaustive study of current British and EU defence planning carried out by political analyst Dr Richard North, for a paper to be published this autumn on "The Secret Realignment of UK Defence Policy".

The cue for Britain to abandon our military co-operation with the USA in favour of integration with our European ‘partners’ has been the forthcoming revolution in warfare centred on satellites, electronics and a new generation of vehicles, unmanned aircraft and weapons systems. Almost across the board, the MoD is now turning its back on joint defence projects with the US, even where these involve British firms, to purchase instead equipment supplied or developed by firms in France, Germany, Italy and Sweden.

Under the plan to integrate our contribution to the 60,000 strong ERRF, with its command centre in Brussels, the key to co-ordinating future warfare will be largely French-built satellite systems, led by Galileo, the EU’s planned rival to the US GPS system. British troops will no longer be transported by US-built C-130 and C17 aircraft, but by the A400M "Eurolifter". Under the £14 billion project known as FRES (Future Rapid Effect System), their armoured fighting vehicles will be supplied by Sweden, armed with French guns, using French-made ammunition.

Joint US-British bids to supply £1.6 billion-worth of trucks were rejected in favour of a fleet of German-built trucks, adding the name of the former British firm ERF to imply a British contribution. US and other non-EU reconnaissance vehicles were rejected in favour of an obsolescent and much more expensive version made by the Italian firm Iveco, although their origin is again to be disguised behind the name of the British firm BAE Land Systems.

A joint project with the US to develop a 155mm howitzer has been abandoned in favour of a French gun firing German-designed shells. Battlefield radar systems are being built in Germany and Sweden. Development of unmanned aircraft - a vital element in future tactics - is being led by France, while the RAF's main strike aircraft will be the Eurofighter, firing French-made missiles.

So the list continues, for projects large and small: not forgetting the three giant carriers to be shared between the Royal Navy and France, with the French firm Thales playing a central part in their design and construction. The one consistent pattern in all this MoD procurement policy is that, wherever possible, US firms are being excluded, even where this means excluding British firms associated with them.

Such a gulf is now opening up between the US and EU defence forces that, on the satellite and electronically co-ordinated battlefields of the future, it will be impossible for them to work alongside each other. Yet, although the evidence for what is going on can be pieced together by anyone who knows how to use the internet, our politicians have so far remained astonishingly silent. In this respect our opposition is almost as culpable as the ministers themselves.

Booker writes three other good stories, including one which provides an intriguing but unsurprising insight into the character of Ted Heath, all available from this link.

If anyone wants a copy the final report (44 pages long in pdf format), please e-mail me from here.

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