By Julian Thompson for The Telegraph (*)
As the EU referendum campaign enters its final stages, the Remain camp is resorting to ever more desperate fear tactics to win the argument. The latest – and most ludicrous – proposition is that the future of UK dependent territories will be under threat if we leave. Without EU support, we are told, Argentina would perceive Britain as “weakened” and might invade the Falklands.
At some point, maybe sooner that you think, those responsible for EU foreign policy might decide that it is in the interests of the EU to accede to Argentine demands for the Falklands
In fact, the UK’s liberation of the Islands in 1982, which strengthened the credibility of British power worldwide for decades, did not benefit at all from membership of the EEC as it then was. Individual European nations did help on a bilateral basis – France, for example, ceased supplying Exocet missiles to Argentina at the request of the prime minister. But Italy and Ireland did all they could to help Argentina and hinder Britain. Spain, surprisingly, forestalled an operation by Argentine attack divers on shipping in Gibraltar. Belgium, on the other hand, halted delivery of ammunition to Britain and continued to supply military equipment to Argentina.
The key strategic factors that enabled the British were fourfold. First, we had the ability to manage our own defence policy and foreign affairs. Secondly, we had strong armed forces that we could deploy without seeking permission from any other country. Thirdly, a seat at the UN Security Council gave us influence where it mattered. Fourthly, close relations with the US meant that – before America openly sided with us – it provided the Fleet Air Arm with the latest Sidewinder air-to-air missile (originally destined for Israel), and diverted tankers to replenish the supply of fuel to the task force as it steamed south.
So should the Falklands be threatened again, would things be different if we were still in the EU? Despite denials to the contrary by the Remain camp, the unelected oligarchy of officials who run the EU have two aims that would change the game entirely, especially if the UK is locked into the ever-closer union announced in last June’s “Five Presidents’ Report”.
First, the UK will be subordinate to a common security and defence policy as articulated in the Lisbon Treaty Article 42. It contains statements such as: “Member States shall make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defence policy”, and, “Member States shall identify operational requirements, and shall promote measures to satisfy those requirements”. The language, using shall, is mandatory: that is the way it is going to go.
When taxed with the prospect of an EU army, the Remainers, all the way up to the Prime Minister, scoff at the notion. But the facts are against them. The utter failure of Mr Cameron’s renegotiation showed just how little influence our politicians actually have; although it did prove beyond doubt that the EU is unreformed and unreformable. The common security and defence policy is coming whatever ministers say. If the Euro-oligarchs get their way, and in the end they usually do, sooner or later we shall find we no longer have the freedom to deploy our Armed Forces as we choose.
Secondly, Brussels wants a common foreign policy, with all the machinery to run it. The EU already has a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in the person of Federica Mogherini, whose reaction to the flood of immigrants across the Mediterranean has greatly exacerbated the problem. Logically, progress towards EU control of foreign affairs will include the replacement of national by EU embassies worldwide, and an EU seat on the Security Council supplanting the British and French ones. “Can you imagine the French agreeing?” is how some ministers quash such a suggestion. But we do not know what the French, or indeed our leaders, will agree to in five, 10, 15 years time. We do, however, know the publicly stated aim of those who run the EU, which does not include anyone accountable to the British, the French, or any peoples of the member states.
At some point, maybe sooner that you think, those responsible for EU foreign policy might decide that it is in the interests of the EU to accede to Argentine demands for the Falklands. If the UK were part of that Union, we wouldn’t be able to do a thing about it. But if we were not, matters would be very different.
(*) Major General Julian Thompson commanded 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines when landing at San Carlos Water, commencing the Falklands liberation in 1982