European Movement UK

Britain's future is with Europe! Join the debate and put your opinion forward!

The debate between the Treasury and the MOD over the cost of the defence budget is raging and the contest is fascinating commentators. It is a fact that the UK spends far too much per year on defence, around £40 billion last time I checked (Budget 2010 p.11). That is a hugely expensive price tag, especially at a time when the government is keen to reduce expenditure and the budget deficit. But we can significantly reduce this price tag. All we have to do is look across the Chanel where lies the European Union and the solution to the national defence vs. age of austerity dilemma faced by most of European nations.

Most of the security challenges that will face the UK in the short, medium and long term future are very similar to those of our European partners. Religious extremism, international terrorism, energy security, competition for diminishing resources like water and food, population displacement due to climate change are threats that come top of most security reviews in almost every EU Member State. These common challenges render pointless the argument that a common European defence strategy is impossible because of distinct security priorities.

But despite this convergence in security priorities European nations still run overlapping defence budgets. A report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies in 2008 found that EU states collectively spend over €200 billion per year but most of that is wasted in duplicated projects. We have 2 million active military personnel but only 2.7 per cent of them are fit for purpose for oversees deployment. Europe has 10.000 main battle tanks, an unnecessarily big number when one considers the nature of future security threats.

It is time we stop wasting valuable resources, which can be used far better in areas like, education, research and healthcare. By using the EU as the framework within which we can pull our military resources together and streamline our defence budgets we will be able to cut the size of our individual national military expenditure and provide better solutions for common security challenges. It is time we kill two birds with one stone.
Petros Fassoulas

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