In April 2014 Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage took part in a TV debate on Britain’s EU membership: ‘The European Union: In or Out?’. During the debate, Farage talked about EU plans for a European army. Clegg dismissed these as a “dangerous fantasy:
The idea that there is going to be a European airforce, a European Army – it is simply not true. This is a dangerous fantasy.
However, the idea was popular in the EU. In March 2015, European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker declared that there was a need for a “common army among the Europeans”.
In response, Clegg was adamant that Nigel Farage and Jean-Claude Junker were “dangerous fantasists.”
“It’s not going to happen.”
The plans get traction
Nevertheless, the idea continued to be discussed in the EU. Talk was muffled in the run up to Britain’s EU referendum. EU officials didn’t want to help the Leave Campaign by discussing an idea that was unpopular in Britain.
Since the vote EU leaders broken their silence, declare that they want to press ahead with establishing the army.
In Britain there is concern that this would undermine NATO and bring us closer to a European Superstate.
Clegg changes his tune
However, Nick Clegg welcomed the proposal. He argued that in the face of possible American isolationism following Trump’s election,
“We should actually deepen our commitment and integration with European security arrangements.”
Is he a dangerous fantasist?
The Eurocrats press ahead
Junker makes the same argument. Trump has threatened that America might not come to the aid of a NATO ally if that ally hasn’t met NATO requirements on defence spending. Therefore, a European army is necessary.
This should not come as a surprise because EU officials have long seen ever-closer union as the answer to Europe’s (many) woes.
The Euro disaster does not mean Euro countries should return to their previous currencies. Rather, it requires closer political union.
The migrant crisis is not a sign that Schengen requires an external border to function. Rather, we need closer political union to distribute the migrants across the EU.
The Brexit vote is not a sign that rule from Brussels is unpopular and should be curtailed. Rather, it is an opportunity for the EU to press ahead with projects which Britain had opposed.
The British answer
The British have a more straightforward answer to the problem raised by Trump’s warning.
On Monday Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon will go to Brussels to urge EU states to meet NATO spending requirements. To do so they must spend at least 2% of their GDP on defence.
The US funds 72% of NATO expenditure. Even after European countries meet NATO requirements, America’s contribution will remain immensely important.
Trump’s desire to see NATO allies pay their share isn’t remarkable; he is merely asking that they pay their share of defence costs.