By Jennifer Rankin
• “EU army plans kept secret from voters,” was the front-page story in Friday’s Times. If the claim sounded familiar, that was because just two days earlier a retired British army commander, Major General Tim Ross, had claimed in the Daily Express that the EU was “moving inexorably towards full political union and all that comes with it”, including “unified armed forces”.
Alongside Brussels bans on bendy bananas and high-powered toasters, few subjects get leave campaigners as hot under the collar as the prospect of an EU army. On Friday Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, accused the remain side of lying about moves to create one, while the former defence secretary Liam Fox warned darkly that “Europe’s defence intentions are a dangerous fantasy” that risked cutting the UK off from the US, “our closest and most powerful ally”.
It is no secret that the EU has a common defence and security policy. Tony Blair practically invented it when he signed a defence cooperation agreement with Jacques Chirac in 1998.
Defence cooperation between member states was given more weight when the EU last updated its treaties, with a mutual defence clause introduced in the Lisbon treaty requiring member states to come to each other’s aid.
It is no secret, either, that some would like to see a full-blown EU army. The head of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has said the EU needs one to show Russia it is serious about defending its values.
But is there a serious, imminent chance of this happening? No.