Last week German and French defense ministries quietly announced contracts for further cooperation. Could Brexit – and the impending departure of the EU’s biggest military spender – finally be causing the Germans to pick up their guns?
Brexit may be sad but it has had one positive outcome for the other 27 nations in the European Union: It has brought them closer together politically. There may soon be another sector that can celebrate more togetherness thanks to the British decision to leave the EU: the defense industry.
Britain is arguably one of the strongest military powers inside the EU – it has the largest military budget in the bloc, meets the agreed upon NATO target of 2 percent of GDP expenditure on defense and, as the UK-based think tank, Institute for Government, points out, “is one of only two member states possessing ‘full-spectrum’ military capabilities (including a nuclear deterrent).”
Despite close cooperation with France – the EU’s other big military spender – the UK has always been closer to NATO than the idea of a European army. Additionally, Britain was always a fly in the sticky ointment of European defense. Successive British governments “have been careful to ensure that the EU did not develop any serious national security or defense capabilities that might impinge on [the UK’s] own,” former British spy chief, Richard Dearlove, pointed out recently.
That could all be about to change. Up until recently, Germany has been reluctant to truly engage in building up a “European army.” But lately there’s been lots of talk about not being able to rely on the Americans anymore, under US President Donald Trump, as well as positive signs from French and German leaders. All that, and the looming loss (at least, contractually) of one of the EU’s major military powers, could finally be pushing the Germans into arming themselves better, after years of procrastination.