Seeking to Protect NATO, Britain Could Yet Thwart EU Defense Plans

British military exercice, Feb. 19, 2016Britain will resist new European Union defense proposals if it feels they undermine NATO, British officials say, in a warning to France and Germany that London will defend its military interests even as it negotiates to leave the EU bloc.

Paris and Berlin proposed last week reviving EU common defense plans long blocked by Britain, partly to give the bloc a sense of purpose after Britons’ vote to quit the EU and also to counter the loss of the union’s biggest defense spender.

Those plans include a joint and permanent EU headquarters for civilian and military missions, possibly in Brussels, which London says will drain away finite resources when NATO already has its military command center, also in Belgium….

Britain’s Secretary of Defense Michael Fallon told The Times newspaper on Sept. 16 that London would resist any attempts to duplicate infrastructure that already existed in NATO, also saying there could be no “rival” to NATO.

Fallon said Britain vowed to be an active member of the Council of EU governments until the country leaves the bloc and he will attend an EU defense ministers meeting in Bratislava next Tuesday where plans for EU military cooperation will be discussed….

Britain maintains full EU voting rights until it leaves the bloc and is expected at diplomatic meetings as the proposals are discussed and slowly implemented. Britain’s exit negotiations are expected to take two years, starting from early 2017.

We expect Britain to abstain when it comes to a vote on the issue of increased European defense cooperation,” said Rainer Arnold, parliamentary defense spokesman for Germany’s Social Democrats, the junior partner in government.

“They can’t prevent anything from happening in the long run, so it would make sense if they stayed out of it,” he said.

Image: British military exercice, Feb. 19, 2016 (photo: UK Ministry of Defense)