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Unabridged: Protecting UK National Security from PESCO: the EU’s Most Daring Hostile Post-Brexit Ploy

Written by Gwythian Prins

William Roper : Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that! Sir Thomas More : Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s!

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In Robert Bolt’s “A Man for All Seasons,” Thomas More has this famous exchange with his hot-head son-in-law.  It’s a warning about the dangers of broad brush (if emotionally satisfying) generalisations, a reminder of the power that lies in command of the details and it cuts both ways. In the EU, mastery of detail has always been the means to capture and subordinate those less obsessive or more light-hearted: il n’y a que texte is the Commission’s battle-cry, sotto voce, of course.  The tactic is being used actively and with determination against the UK in relation to defence and security, today. That makes the EU a real and present danger to us, especially in time of war.

Right now, British Ministers who, it appears, are not personally in command of the detail are stating that it is both possible and risk-free to join aspects of the EU Defence Union emerging rapidly from something called PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation).  Perhaps they say this because, reasonably enough but sadly unwisely in toxic times, they trust civil servants to be across the detail; and they trust the advice which civil servants whose confirmation bias is overwhelmingly ‘rejoiner’, give them. But PESCO is by no means risk-free to the UK, as I will show.

PESCO is a set of binding commitments made by participating member states which increase joint centralised EU-led political military decision making in the EU. It is a means of creating military unification between member states subordinating the planning, procurement, strategic decision-making, and operational deployment to central organs, which are not under sovereign control.

PESCO is now expanding rapidly. Since May 2023, the number of PESCO projects increased to sixty eight. These projects enter deeply into “critical defence capabilities” and “interoperability”- far beyond ‘enablers’ and all core NATO functions, long established. There are five in the space/satellite area alone (an area where the UK is by a long margin the European leader). It looks like a military alliance. It sounds like a military alliance. It is a military alliance. And as such it is a threat to NATO.

PESCO/EUDU’s formal goal is swiftly to acquire equal legal purchase over members and collaborating “Third Countries”, to acquire equal scale and status with NATO and then, as President Macron made clear in his reasons for wishing to block Ben Wallace from following in George Robertson’s footsteps to be next Secretary General of NATO, to effect a reverse takeover of NATO by the EU: all this in time of war.

President Macron’s earlier ‘European Political Community’ is a precursor to such thinking and action. What role, if any, could it play in European defence cooperation? Entirely negative and not to be touched and extremely dangerous at this dangerous time in the present European war. Macron having been humiliated and rendered impotent in domestic politics, he has been freelancing on the international stage, first with Putin and then more ridiculously with Xi Jin Ping,  playing into the hands of both. His evident anglophobia makes him both vulnerable and a security risk.

Facts display his record of attempts to demonise and exclude the United States and fracture the Anglosphere alliances. Listen only to his Armistice Day interview in 2018, given on French local radio from Verdun – as heavily  symbolic a place in modern French history as you could possibly choose – in which he explicitly identified the United States as one of the EU’s potential future enemies. In November 2019 he famously observed that NATO was now brain-dead.

Never underestimate the schizophrenia of the European intelligentsia who hate owing their freedom to the uncouth Yanks buried above Omaha beach or to the ancient foes, their sweet enemy, the Brits. As a rule of thumb, the deeper the collaboration and the more fabricated the past tale of resistance to the Nazis, the greater the present resentment of the english-speaking world liberators.

As for the free pass: ask any informed EU member state official whether ‘Third Countries’ can participate à la carte and without legally binding obligations and you will be greeted with puzzlement. But before we delve into the devil’s details, a general reminder.

None of this is really about defence. In the EU it never is. It is about forcing ever closer union on populations where there is little conferred legitimacy and where all referendums that have gone against the EU, bar one, have been neutered or reversed; and the ‘third country agreements’ are legally binding commitments designed since 2016 above all to bring the UK to heel and into subordination to EU control in this most fundamental area of the social contract.

PESCO is therefore to be seen as the other pincer to the Northern Irish Protocol/’Windsor Framework:’ pincers designed to keep the UK in “high, dynamic alignment” under the EU’s laws in order to suppress the latent benefits of brexit so that it can be claimed to have failed and those benefits be denounced as ‘lies’ and illusions regardless of evidence to the contrary.  Preservation of “high, dynamic alignment” is also essential against the rejoiners’ dreamed-for day when this country can be returned to a legally colonial status similar to the one which the Norwegian establishment has imposed on its anti-EU voting population.

Could anything be more ill-advised and dangerous in wartime? Since 24 February 2022, the EU’s record in defence and security has been useless to the point of catatonic at the key moments. Had the UK, thanks to Brexit, not been a free agent in January/February 2022, and been able to supply Ukraine with mission-critical anti-tank weapons, Putin’s original blitzkrieg plan might well have succeeded.

In fact the UK has acted twice more unilaterally since 24 February 2022. Secondly, by providing two weapons systems that were more valuable as keys than as weapons. These were respectively, Challenger Two tanks which have been the key to unlock the cage and ‘let the Leopards loose’ and most recently Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which are the key which may open supplies of American ATACMS.

Since then, thirdly, we have used diplomatic leverage to perform the same trick with manned aircraft training to open supplies of the world’s best (for Ukrainian need) air superiority fighters and eventually ground attack aircraft: F-16 Viper, and (not yet but must follow) A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthog, respectively. Both are American and both are needed: The F1/CAS combination along with sufficient AA guns and missiles ‘opens the skies’ and completes the combined arms kinetic capabilities for fast and safe manoeuvre operations. Ukrainians have built their own simulators and, I am informed, already have good numbers of simulator trained pilots waiting to convert to both aircraft types (two squadrons of A-10 pilots, for example). As often before, they are, in the jargon, “inside the decision loop.” But had the UK been hobbled, none of this could have happened as nimbly or even at all.

In short, the Ukraine war has elevated the EU’s defence ambitions from being an habitual irritant to being a serious danger to this country’s security. The legal obligations that I will shortly document have the potential to compromise Five Eyes. And the worst of it is that whereas the public is alive to the malevolence built into the Northern Irish Protocol, hardly anyone has heard of, still less understood, what PESCO is designed to do. Instead we have hand-waving reassurances that there is nothing to see here.  But there is. My goodness there is.

James Heappey, the Armed Forces Minister is, to my certain knowledge, in every sense an honourable and honest former soldier and an excellent minister on defence detail. Yet he has twice told Parliament – on 12th January and more recently on 26th June – that the UK’s administrative ‘arrangement’ with the PESCO ‘Military Mobility’ initiative and with other future unspecified aspects of PESCO à la carte – pose no risk to the UK.  The Military Mobility project was first conceived by US Army General Ben Hodges, when he asked why there was no ‘Schengen for defence’. The EU spotted an opportunity to try to capture the planning around this military capability, which of course could and should be done by NATO; and it is a failure of NATO’s leadership that it was not and that it entertains collaborations. The January 2023 Joint Declaration is reviewed below.

Mt Heappey’s comments suggest that he is not aware of the history and motivations behind PESCO, sketched above, about which he appears to be relaxed. Yet he is wrong. Wrong in detail and wrong on the facts because il n’y a que texte. The UK has already signed up to Military Mobility on a misunderstanding.

The EU has always pushed its agenda by extending the aquis communautaire: by planting the Union thick with legal entanglement on its terms within which to trap member states and suck out their sovereign autonomy.  The founders’ very first ambition in 1950 was to take command of pan-European defence – the Plevan Plan. That failed, and so the founders moved over swiftly to the vehicle of the Coal and Steel Community (CECA). But control of the ‘Nightwatchman Functions’ of defence from enemies without and within is a central – indeed I would say the central – attribute of a mature political Union. The ambition never died and returned with force in 2016. Since then it has been advanced with ruthless determination and speed, employing the EU’s most favoured tactic never to waste a good crisis. There have been plenty of those.

As I have documented previously on BfB, the EU Defence Union is animated by two foundation documents: the Security and Defence Implementation Plan (SDIP) on 14th and European Defence Action Plan (EDAP) on 30th November 2016, five months after the Brexit vote. “More has been done … since November 2016 than in the previous sixty years”  commented the then High Representative, Federica Mogharini and she was not wrong. The organogram (Figure 1) shows how far the EU has already gone.

The EUDU launch in November 2016 was deliberately delayed twice because if revealed it might have boosted the UK ‘Leave’ vote in the Referendum. It was originally planned for Spring 2016, then put back to June – then the autumn.


Figure 1:  See how far you can get in seven years if you have the will

It gave material substance to the EU Global Strategy. This overall blueprint was drafted for its ‘owner’, the European External Action Service (EEAS) by, with others, that key British official about whom I have written at length for BfB, Mr Angus Lapsley who was the UK Ambassador to the PSC. He later declared his personal  approval of it to fellow Ambassadors. It was next approved by the Political and Security Committee (PSC) which included the same Angus Lapsley, sitting as the UK Ambassador. The package was transmitted on and up and finally signed off at the EU Council with the same omnipresent Mr Lapsley sitting in the absent British Minister’s chair at a crucial meeting.  He is, despite his unpunished security breach, now the UK’s most senior official at NATO as ASG for Defence Policy and Planning, responsible for NATO liaison with the EU, which is a worry, given his past record and well-known views.

The reason for anxiety is justified and is documented in the EU/NATO Joint Declaration of 10th January 2023.  It is a classic “Bait and Hook” exercise by the EU.  Clauses 1 to 7 consist of entirely unexceptional statements about the threat environment that we all now face. That is the bait.  Clauses 8 to 13 are designed with increasing strength to present the EU as a defence organisation on a par with NATO. Which it is not. That is the hook. What is it likely to deliver? Now that we are again in a world of war, it is a material threat to European security because it is a distraction. The European union has no business of any sort in the Defence, Intelligence or Security area: these are sovereign responsibilities, fundamental to the identity of Independent States and insofar, as they are collaborative, they are through interstate alliances – in the European case, NATO.

Before Brexit, the British government’s settled and consistent policy was to resist all efforts to create any form of European defence identity, because it was correctly seen as a threat to NATO, and hence to the coherence of European defence. Sir Gerald Howarth was the Defence Minister responsible for relations with the EU when we stopped the EU from creating a military HQ. For the west African anti-piracy patrol, we successfully offered Northwood as the C2 HQ for Ocean Shield (NATO) and Op Atalanta (EU CSDP mission) both commanded by the distinguished Major-General Buster Howes RM (subsequently Commandant General of the Royal Marines). Thus it was a NATO operation with an EU flag decal symbolically and powerlessly applied.

But the EU went on planning and preparing regardless. In particular, it created the MPCC: Military Planning Coordination Capability.  Natalie Tocci, later adviser to Josep Borrell as High Representative, admitted openly that it was a trojan horse for a full military HQ when the Deputy Director-General, Malcolm Chalmers, interviewed her at RUSI on 13 March 2018 just a few days before the revelation of the so-called KitKat tapes occurred in which a British official, Alistair Brockbank, then defence adviser to Mrs May’s right-hand man Oliver Robbins, was recorded at the LSE explaining an intention to subordinate the UK covertly to the organs of EU military coordination (see below).  The second organogram is therefore the twinkle that was in Natalie Tocci’s eye.  Malcolm Chalmers expressed some surprise at her revelation.

MPCC became an executive agency in 2019. It is now fully embedded in a complete Command & Control wiring diagram with the Political & Security Committee in its centre.


Figure 2: Athena from the Head of Zeus.  This organogram show the central role of the PSC. Note that the MPCC now has its own shield and stars and that the Political and Security Committee is nodal in the Chain of Command: upwards to EUCO Pres and down to MPCC and TAC

SDIP is part of the EU Global Strategy (aka ‘Strategic Compass’ now) – itself under CSDP.    EDAP provides finances and assets to realise SDIP – the European Defence Fund the prime conduit (“Follow the money”)

In my appearance before the European Scrutiny Select Committee on 17th May 2023, I offered evidence in which I argued, on facts that are not in dispute, that needlessly and heedlessly on 29th July 2022, the Johnson Government of the United Kingdom applied for membership of the PESCO “Military Mobility” scheme.

Why was that done? One may surmise that to the official mind of today’s Foreign Office wherein, unlike in the Security Services who know better, faults will always lie in London and not Brussels, it may have looked like a friendly and risk-free gesture of atonement to improve fractious relations with the EU? But it wasn’t risk free and it wasn’t reciprocated. Such a gesture is simply viewed as a welcome sign of weakness and hence an opportunity to advance Commission interests and to damage British ones as part of on-going punishment for Brexit which must be seen to fail.

As the objectively crumbling EU’s centre of gravity moves from Paris to Warsaw, by-passing Berlin, the more that the French-driven vision of the EU fails, the fiercer and sharper those talons will be, any inhibitions in striking out dulled as France’s worst domestic crisis since 1967-68 (which I witnessed as a student in Paris) tears the country apart.

The UK application was approved by the EU in Council Decision 2022/2244 on 15th November 2022. This approval was accompanied by the news that, for reasons which I also placed on the Parliamentary record, two of the usual commitments – there are nine – would be waived, namely, a “separate administrative agreement (sic) with the EDA” and application to bind the UK to the priorities of  “the EU’s CDP and CARD…in this instance.”   EU High Representative Borrell welcomed UK adhesion in warm terms.

However, on Saturday 20th,  the Press Spokesman for the MoD issued the following comment on – implicitly – my evidence before the Committee:

These claims are incorrect. The UK is in the process of negotiating a non-binding Administrative Arrangement – as our NATO Allies the US, Canada, and Norway have already done – and not a binding ‘Administrative Agreement’.

I was also informed that morning that the senior press officer of the MoD had contacted a journalist, who was relying on my evidence, to say that House of Commons Library Research papers (one of which, No 9058 of 21 November 2022, I referenced for the Committee’s convenience, because it cited the primary EU sources) were “not necessarily a reliable source.” I expect that this remark will come as an indignant surprise in the Library, which is rightly jealous of its reputation for scrupulous research in the service of Members of the House. What can this Press Release mean?

In summary, the MoD Press Statement is materially wrong on two counts:

  1. whatever it is called, the UK agreement contains serious binding commitments
  2. both the US and Norway analogies are false, involving category mistakes: different in each case

Accordingly my evidence and my analysis before the Committee – here expanded and displayed – remain uninjured, although now armoured from sallet to solleret.

Let us plunge into the original texts. What do we find?

The nub of the issue lies in the description in the Press Statement: “non-binding administrative arrangement” which is simply wrong. All agreements/arrangements that result in formal adhesions are legally binding. There is, as noted, an attempt to claim otherwise by asserting that arrangements are not agreements. But this is a magician’s misdirection as I will shortly explain.

By Council Decision 2022/2244 of 14th November 2022 (our adhesion agreement), the UK is apparently agreeing to binding undertakings of some magnitude. The manner in which our adhesion is presented – which I described in my oral evidence as the ‘bait’ part before the ‘hook’ – makes statements that are consistent with binding agreements as set out in the core generic document Council Decision 2020/1639 of 5th November 2020 (published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 6th inst) “…establishing the general conditions under which third States could exceptionally be invited to participate in individual PESCO projects.”

The Recital to 2020/1639 states as follows: (quotations are in italics for ease of reading. Hooks are emphasised in bold.)

Having regard to the Treaty on European Union, in particular Article 46(6) thereof [the Unanimity requirement, ie not QMV]

Having regard to Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/2315 of 11 December 2017 establishing permanent structured cooperation (PESCO)

Then it erects the Defence Ambition canopy, citing the two foundational documents of November 2016 which I just identified above.

On 14 November 2016, (1) the Council adopted conclusions on implementing the EU Global Strategy in the area of security and defence, determining the Union level of ambition, in support of three strategic priorities identified in that Strategy: (a) responding to external conflicts and crises; (b) building the capacities of partners; and (c) protecting the Union and its citizens. (2) In its conclusions on security and defence in the context of the EU Global Strategy, adopted on 19 November 2018, the Council further stated that by addressing Europe’s current and future security and defence needs, the Union will enhance its capacity to act as a security provider and its strategic autonomy, and strengthen its ability to cooperate  with partners. 

Next comes a double-barbed hook.(3) The eleventh paragraph of Annex I to the Notification (2) on PESCO to the Council and to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (‘the High Representative’), of 13 November 2017, specified that the more binding commitments must help to reach the level of ambition of the Union as defined in the Council conclusions of 14 November 2016, endorsed by the December 2016 European Council, and thus strengthen the strategic autonomy of both Europeans and the Union.

We can skip on to Rehearsal clauses 8, 9 & 10:

(8) Paragraph 2.2.1, last subparagraph, of Annex III to the Notification on PESCO to the Council and to the High Representative, which contained proposals for the governance of PESCO, specified that third States which may exceptionally be invited by project participants would need to provide substantial added value to the project,
contribute to strengthening PESCO and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and meet more
demanding commitments. It also specified that inviting third States will not grant powers of decision to them in the governance of PESCO [ie we are subservient Barbarians to their Romans]

Article 9(2) and (3) of Decision (CFSP) 2017/2315 provides that the Council shall decide in accordance with Article 46(6) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) whether a third State, which the participating Member States taking part in a project wish to invite to take part in that project, meets the requirements set out in the present Decision, and that following a positive decision by the Council, the participating Member States taking part in a project may enter into administrative arrangements with the third State concerned for the purpose of its taking part in that project. Such arrangements must respect the procedures and the decision-making autonomy of the Union.

(10) There should be consistency between actions undertaken within the framework of PESCO and other CFSP actions and other Union policies. [ie catch-all]

What all this says is that any ‘arrangement’ requires ‘agreement’ to a series of hooks, in collected summary:

  1. must help to reach the level of ambition of the Union
  2. and thus strengthen the strategic autonomy of both Europeans and the Union.
  3. contribute to strengthening PESCO and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and meet more demanding commitments
  4. Such arrangements must respect the procedures and the decision-making autonomy of the Union. [Note the imperative verb]
  5. should be consistent…[with]… other CFSP actions and other Union policies

In case there is any doubt about the colonial status intended in the British case, we have only to turn to the original text of Council Decision 2022/2244 of 14th Nov 2022 which approved the British request by the Johnson government to enter Military Mobility made so unwisely or perhaps so light-heartedly without deep due diligence.

The Recital Clause (8) states:

…the PSC [Political & Security Committee on which Mr Lapsley once sat] confirmed the view unanimously agreed by the project members that the UK complies with the general conditions set out in Article 3 of Decision (CFSP) 2020/1639, as follows:

the UK meets the conditions set out in Article 3(a) of Decision (CFSP) 2020/1639, which requires: sharing of the values on which the Union is founded, as laid down in Article 2 TEU [human and diversity rights, mainly], the principles referred to in Article 21(1) TEU [This is Title 5 Chapter 1 General Provisions on the Union’s External Action: “The Union’s action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement”  [ie The World in the image of the Federal European dream] and the objectives of the common foreign and security policy as laid down in points (a), (b), (c) and (h) of Article 21(2) TEU; not contravening the security and defence interests of the Union and its Member States, including respect for the principle of good neighbourly relations with the Member States; and having a political dialogue with the Union, which should also cover security and defence aspects when participating in a PESCO project; [elsewhere there is an intelligence co-operation hook also]


as regards the condition in Article 3(b) of Decision (CFSP) 2020/1639 on the substantial added value of the UK to the PESCO project Military Mobility, the notification provides a detailed outline of the UK contribution including on the scope, form and extent of the participation in that project, which substantiates the fulfilment of this condition;


as regards the condition in Article 3(c) of Decision (CFSP) 2020/1639, the UK’s participation in the PESCO project Military Mobility will contribute to strengthening the common security and defence policy (CSDP) and the Union’s level of ambition including in support of CSDP missions and operations, as also specified in the notification…

What do we take from these hooks? That they are formally colonial insofar as they lay binding obligation with imperative verbs upon the sovereign UK, just as if 17.4 million British people had never voted to leave the EU.  As I said in the evidence session – always remember “Hotel California’s” Night Manager:  “you can check out any time you like; but you can never leave.” My point is made here on the face of the texts.

What does this mean for the MoD Press Statement? I suggest two possibilities.

Possibility Number One: Not all ‘arrangements’ are equal and the British one is a de facto ‘agreement’. Or put more graphically, someone is blowing smoke 

As I explained in the evidence session there is a clear attempt to confuse ‘arrangement’ with ‘agreement’ in order to argue that the US – and Norwegian – ‘arrangements’ show us that it is safe and that pari passu the Swiss may, in turn, take courage from us.(Bait)

The references to the USA and Norway in the Press Statement are disingenuous and dissimilar.  As I stated in the oral evidence it is inconceivable that, with Congress’s formidable equivalents to our Select Committees, the DoD could commit to anything remotely like the mandatory binding undertakings I have just laid out above. Not least they are unconstitutional. I believed that the most the USA system could or would do is to execute an aspirational note with genuinely no legal heft. I duly initiated my own checks in Washington and received back from high-level contacts precisely this point.

The Norwegian case is quite different.  Yes, they signed an ‘arrangement’ for PESCO MM and 2020/1639 shows you what that involves for any ‘third country’. But they are already neck deep in binding agreements to CSDP, to the European Defence Fund (EDF), and Agency (EDA). However, rather like in Great Britain, the anti-EU sentiment of the electorate is intensely resented by the political class which has been repeatedly rebuffed: so they work sub rosa as our institutionally captured civil servants also do. Hence even a hookless MM ‘arrangement’ is no comfort or example to us because Norway is already leg, arm and neck in shackles.

A common argument among British officials that is also heard from the mouths of current ministers is that by not being in a Norwegian posture, the UK misses out on things to its benefit, not least EU money from the EDF. But this is not so, because taking money from these institutions involves accepting degrees of subordination to Brussels Commission control which are unacceptable to any sovereign country.  The consequences of the UK not being able to access the European Defence Fund are the same as us not being able to access Indian or Chilean military budgets. In other words, entirely beneficial. Just as with Horizon or joint foreign aid or most recently joint vaccine development, British subordination in these schemes would have been drag anchors on British innovation and freedom of action in their respective areas.

Are there any  wider consequences, if any, of the EU excluding non-members from accessing the European Defence Fund?  There are two. The first is protectionist of which the most recent example to be seen is the attempt to seize control of shell production for Ukraine. This is peculiarly obnoxious given the EU’s dismal inaction during the crucial first months of the war and the simple fact that shell supply to Ukraine comes from the United States, the United Kingdom, from Poland and, now that it has joined NATO which is its biggest geopolitical act in decades, most particularly Finland. The purpose of such protectionism is – as with the common agricultural policy – to protect French interests above all.

A further incursion into inappropriate areas has been announced with the EU trying to seize control of coordination of North Sea underwater critical infrastructure (energy/internet). This should be comprehensively rebuffed. These are the responsibility of littoral states and their inter-state treaties and alliances, like NATO.

Our adhesion agreement (2022/2244) is sui generis and is an ‘agreement’ in ‘arrangement’ clothing.  Compelling evidence for this lies in the exclusion clauses which I cited in the oral evidence.

If the UK is indeed as the Press Office of MoD would have us believe, namely akin to a US genuinely non-binding agreement, then why does the adhesion agreement specify waivers to making administrative agreements drawn from the requirements for nine bindings prescribed in 2020/1639 to which I drew attention and faithfully listed in the House of Commons Library Paper? In sum: the UK agreement may be called an ‘arrangement’ in order to permit use of the US and Norway comparisons, but on the face of the EU documents it is an ‘agreement’ that dare not speak its name. You say tomato. I say tomaeto. Let’s call the whole thing off.

Possibility Number Two: The British civil servants involved were actually planning to sign an agreement with full subordinations or simply didn’t grasp the EU MoA – knaves or fools – and at some point, possibly very recently, realised that they were discovered.

The former would be consistent with the Alistair Brockbank testimony in the LSE ‘Kit Kat’ transcript, mentioned above, which can be found in full as an annex to an earlier BfB essay:  “we are negotiating the detail of that at the same time as we are discussing the political high level fluffy bits (sic) that will go into any declaration that gets made public…. When it comes to the European Defence Fund, EDRP which will come in in the next MFF (EU budget Multi-annual Financial Framework) and EDIDP on the capabilities side, um, we are interested in it all.”

Also from the May era, it is also consistent with the 19th November 2018 Alan Duncan subscription to the whole nine yards bar PESCO which led to a ‘near death’ experience only retrieved by the Johnson/Frost reversals of the May era PD and WA.


Johnson’s PD materially changed May’s functionally subordinating agreement (mis-described as Withdrawal Agreement (WA)) in significant and positive ways. In Cl 99, on operations, the opt-out of WA 129 was reversed to opt-in. Cl 101, on conditions for force contribution, is framed on the NATO text and gives us command positions proportionate to contribution. Vital was deletion of former clause 104, under which we agreed to subordinate the UK to the EU’s Global Strategy via the oblique route of engagement in the defence industrial area under EU law. Instead, in revised PD 102, we “agree to consider… “.  This commits us to absolutely nothing.

In the intelligence area, the really dangerous May WA former clause 118, which linked to the Cabinet Office Security Paper of 28 November 2018, gave the EU automatic entry into UK intelligence collection, methodologies and processing. Had that stood it would have posed a direct threat to the integrity of Five Eyes, but it was replaced by Cl 103. This provides for the “timely and voluntary” supply of case-by-case intel that will be “produced autonomously”. Once again, it commits to nothing.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of civil service keenness to follow the Norway pathway and there is no dearth of low-wattage civil service operations which might indeed simply not understand how the EU operates but is used simply to embellishing EU regulations as its habitual job. One cannot prescribe the exact mix in this case.

In either of these possibilities, my suggestion to the Select Committee that the Armed Forces Minister Mr Heappey inadvertently mislead the House on 12 January 2023, stands, now compounded by repetition on 26th June.

This unhappy story is as detailed an illustration as can be of the reasons why the newly sovereign UK needs to keep good sea-room from any part of PESCO where every part is linked to every other. Outside time of war these detailed entrapments of hot-headed Will Ropers might be regarded as time-wasting games. But with UK defence still struggling to recover from the consequences of the Coalition Government’s grotesque defence cuts of 2010, any opportunity/costs are too costly, for they threaten both the first duty of government at home and our capacity to sustain Ukraine, where the Ukrainians at least know that the UK has been the indispensable lead nation in Europe and where they fight for all of us.

Finally, I think that it also illustrates something cultural and sad.  The evidence of Civil Service conduct and utterance – whether by Mr Lapsley or the Press Statement after my Select Committee appearance – supports the accumulating case for believing that our administrative class and many in the political class are not merely convinced rejoiners who disrespect the 2016 vote in this country’s biggest ever democratic exercise, nor merely victims of institutional capture.  It suggests that forty years of living as a member state within Mr Barroso’s European Union ’empire’ has so atrophied the mental sinews that, now that the door to the cage has been opened, the canary dares not fly out to greet the sun of restored national sovereignty, but rather is dazzled and, blinking fearfully, prefers the familiarity of life as a willing captive, merely embellishing Brussels legislation.

Indeed, the very art of governing a free country seems to have been lost.  This is of global consequence because of our leading role over three centuries: the country whose proud history is one of shaping the modern world from the abolition of slavery to being in the lead across an astonishing spectrum of creativity in all fields, not forgetting saving Europe from itself three times since 1800. In the end, this atrophy may be the greatest threat of all to our national security; and it is at home.

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About the author

Gwythian Prins