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EU deal 'is first step towards joining Euro Army': Leaders agreed plans for greater defence corporation at Brussels summit
Plans appear to duplicate role of Nato alliance which Tories credit with responsibility for European defenceCall for a co-ordinated policy to boost development of defence technology
01:56 GMT, 15 December 2012
Accusations: David Cameron is said to have signed Britain up to a blueprint for a Euro Army
David Cameron was accused yesterday of signing Britain up to a blueprint for a Euro Army.
European leaders agreed plans for greater defence co-operation at a summit in Brussels that will force Britain to consult fellow EU nations over defence planning, with defence chiefs having to co-ordinate capabilities and procurement.
The plans appear to duplicate the role of the Nato alliance, which Tories have traditionally credited with sole responsibility for European defence.
The communique issued at the end of the summit also featured calls for a co-ordinated policy to boost development of defence technology across Europe.
In language that Eurosceptics last night denounced as a power grab, the document calls for ‘a more systematic and longer term European defence co-operation’, including through ‘pooling and sharing of military capabilities’.
And it demands that EU countries should be ‘systematically considering co-operation from the outset in national defence planning’.
A review will be conducted by Britain’s commissioner in Brussels, Labour peer Baroness Ashton, who will report by September, and EU leaders will agree plans at a summit in December 2013.
Downing Street insisted the plans are welcome since they will encourage smaller countries to make more useful defence contributions at a time when budgets are tight.
Officials stressed that the UK already co-operates closely with France, Europe’s other main military power.
A senior source said: ‘We are very relaxed about this. Nato will still have primacy.’
But Eurosceptics demanded reassurances that the plans would not undermine the Atlantic alliance. Peter Bone, Tory MP for Wellingborough, said: ‘The Conservative Party position has always been that Nato is the bedrock of the defence of Europe.
A communique issued at the end of the EU summit calls for a coordinated policy to boost development of defence technology
‘The idea of a European defence force is something that we’ve absolutely been against. Even if this is only a first step, it is worrying.
‘Slice by slice they [the EU] will expand their influence and what begins as co-operation will end up as a Euro Army.’
Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton, said: ‘If anyone seriously believes that it is in our national interest to hand over our defence to the people running the euro, they need their head examined.’
BRITAIN TO ARM SYRIAN REBELS
Britain is likely to help arm the Syrian rebels early in the New Year, David Cameron signalled yesterday.
The Prime Minister won approval from his 27 fellow European Union leaders to tear up the current arms embargo over the next few months if the rebels cannot oust dictator Bashar al-Assad alone.
In a dramatic move, leaders ordered foreign ministers ‘to work on all options to support and help the opposition’.
Mr Cameron said everything including military action was ‘robustly on the table’ and that indifference over the slaughter in Syria was ‘not an option’.
The leaders also signed a statement that the Assad regime is ‘illegitimate’ and should be replaced by the rebels.
Britain and France are in talks with America and other countries about providing military assistance to the rebels, which could see them join Arab states in supplying small arms, ammunition and shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles.