The First Resort
Posted on November 27th, 2018
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
One of the points Brexiteers often make about the EU is that there are plans to create a European Army. This is, in Brexit philosophy, a bad thing since it would give foreigners the power to order British troops into wars the British Government may not want to be involved in.
Of course, the precise structure of any European Army is a matter of speculation, but it is difficult to see how such an all-encompassing organisation would be approved by the member states. It may well be that the idea is to further reinforce the EU view that wars within Europe should be a thing of the past and that if all European armies were combined into one, there would be no prospect of a further war. I don’t think this is a realistic view for a couple of reasons. Firstly, history shows us that civil wars within a single state are not exactly unknown, and various factions within the army of a state can take different sides within a conflict. Secondly, the very fact that an important part of the EU is that individual member states retain most of their sovereignty suggests that army units within the control of an EU-wide armed forces structure would still be answerable to their home Government.
In practical terms, any EU-wide defence force is likely to impose some sort of uniformity on things like procurement of equipment, with an over-arching command structure which would oversee the deployment of EU forces in any conflict. Whether it would lead to, say, Italian officers commanding a British regiment is something every member state would need to agree on before an EU army is created and, quite frankly, I’m not sure many of them would agree to such a thing. More likely, we would see something akin to the WW2 western Allies, where a command structure overlaid the individual armies, although an EU force may well want to impose more uniformity in terms of equipment used.
But the main thing that amuses me about the Brexiteer dislike of an EU army is that their arguments suggest they should really not support the involvement of Scottish regiments in the British Army. Scottish troops have been at the beck and call of Westminster for the past three centuries, often sent into conflicts which the Scottish public wanted no part of, and frequently suffering a higher casualty rate than other regiments. Of course, most Brexiteers see no anomaly in this since they view Scotland (and let’s not forget Wales and Northern Ireland) as mere regions of the UK. If what they fear is that an EU army would resemble the structure of the British Army, they surely cannot simultaneously insist that the British Army structure is perfectly normal and acceptable.
It’s a small point in the greater scheme of things but, quite frankly, I think Scottish regiments, plus a new Scottish Air Force and Navy, would be better off as part of an integrated EU defence force, if for no other reason that the EU is unlikely to attack other nations at the behest of the USA. As long as we remain part of the UK, our service men and women will be sent into war zones because attacking other nations is what the UK does. In its 311 year history, the UK has been at war (or at least in armed conflicts) almost continuously. That must be more than coincidence, and it makes me wonder whether what the Brexiteers really fear is the EU preventing them from making war. Some of the rhetoric we’ve heard from pro-Brexit politicians certainly indicates a liking for violence. Personally, I’d prefer to live in a country where going to war is seen as a last resort, not a first one.