This is of course absurd. There was no need for any cuts in the department of defence. In 2009 defence spending amounted to £42bn out of £631bn — less than 7%.
Britain and France are being forced by budget cut-backs and the lack of their own strategic capability to co-operate more closely on defence.
They both want to be global players but increasingly lack the resources to remain so.
A series of measures is being formally agreed at a summit in London on Tuesday between Prime Minister David Cameron and President Nicolas Sarkozy.
As I commented over at Lord Tebbit's blog,
As bad as our financial situation is, we could easily find a few billion to invest in our national defence. There is so much fat just begging to be trimmed, and so many things government does that it shouldn't.The planned cooperation is not a matter of necessity.
If we were to roll spending back to 1997 levels, we could eliminate the deficit at a stroke, and have plenty left over to buy and operate top notch military hardware.
According to the BBC,
They will share air-to-air refuelling because Britain might have spare capacity in this in the future. There is scope for joint maintenance work on transport aircraft, and shared development of a drone, mine-counter measures, satellite communications and cyber warfare.That's all fine when we're getting along, but what when we disagree? If we become reliant on French air-to-air refuelling capability, we could find ourselves in a very tight spot. As Lord Tebbit put it,
To rely on France and America for aircraft is a policy designed by those too young to remember Oran or SuezThe BBC article continues,
British Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "This is not a push for an EU army which we oppose... It has always been my view that defence must be a sovereign and therefore an inter-governmental issue."The Eurocrats are a patient bunch. If we become accustomed to military cooperation with foreign powers, and reduce our own forces to the point where we cannot credibly act alone, the EU army will seem a much more realistic prospect than it does today.
Britain is therefore not taking advantage of the mechanism offered by the Lisbon Treaty. The treaty allows for what is called "permanent structured cooperation in defence".
This is in effect an EU "opt-in" arrangement. It allows member states to get approval from the European Council (the heads of state and government) to organise combat units capable of operating on missions up to at least 120 days.
Such EU-led cooperation was envisaged in 1998 when Tony Blair and President Chirac agreed at St Malo that "The [European] Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces".
And once there is an EU army, how likely is it that secession will remain a peaceful matter? The Americans weren't content to see a part of their federation go its own way. Will the federal powers in Brussels take a more relaxed view?