Is good for Britain - so writes Liam Fox in a comment piece in today's Sunday Telegraph. As is often the case, the print edition differs from that online.
The print edition commences:
"Too often the debate on defence within Europe has been focused on what the EU should or should not do. Yet it has always been my view that defence must be a sovereign, and therefore an inter-governmental issue. When nations can benefit from co-operation without losing sovereignty, they should aim to do so - which is why this week will mark the beginning of a long-term commitment to closer defence and security links with France. There are many reasons why this co-operation makes sense. We are Europe's only nuclear powers. We have the largest defence budgets and are the only two countries with real, large-scale expeditionary capability. We are both permanent members of the UN Security Council, and leading members of the G8 and G20. And there is no better time to deepen our relationship with France."
The print version, later, continues:
"This is not, I must point out, a repeat of Tony BLair's trip to St, Malo, where he called for deeper military co-operation through the EU. Nor is it a push for an EU army, which we oppose."
Well, he could have fooled me - but doesn't!. It is by now a well-known fact that the EU proceeds by stealth and this policy stinks of 'EU stealth'! Regardless of Fox's assertion that:
"I want to make it very clear that, if required, we maintain an autonomous capability to sustain a considerable and very capable military force in the field on an enduring basis."
it is obvious that we do not have the capability to sustain a considerable and very capable military force in the field on an enduring basis - FFS, we are due to have aircraft carriers that will not have any planes.
The Mail-on-Sunday reports that the Americans have offered to send an aircraft carrier which would be stationed off the British coast in order to boost security during the London Olympics, The suggestion has been, it is reported, rejected by No10 as it would make the UK "look weak". The UK does not have to look weak - it is bloody weak! From the Mail article:
"Cuts announced by David Cameron in the Defence Review this month will lead to the axing of our Harrier jump jets and the decommissioning of the Ark Royal carrier. That means that no British planes will be available to fly from our sole aircraft carrier, Illustrious, in 2012."
It must be obvious to the thickest of the thick presently in the House of Commons that this idea of British/French 'co-operation' presents the EU with something that they have always sought - an EU navy and one with nuclear capability! That fact alone shoots holes in Fox's statement that "Yet it has always been my view that defence must be a sovereign, and therefore an inter-governmental issue". WTF, how can defence maintain sovereignty and, at the same time, contain an element of 'inter-governmental' co-operation? This surely must be another loss of 'power', although it is acknowledged that loss of sovereignty is not a subject that much interests the minds of the present political class.
The present collection of Conservative Ministers that deal with our foreign affairs must be the most supine, spineless apologists for their offices that it has been this country's misfortune to have been saddled with - and they should be hung by their necks in recognition of the shame they appear not to feel!