EU to unveil military cooperation plan after Brexit vote

But no secret plans for creating army across 28-member bloc, insists Brussels

BRUSSELS • The European Union (EU) said yesterday it will unveil plans for closer military cooperation after Britain's referendum on whether to leave the bloc, but denied they were secret proposals for an EU army.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini last year began drawing up a "global strategy" for foreign and security policy in the wake of a series of challenges including Ukraine, Syria and the migration crisis.

But Brussels rejected a report in Britain's The Times newspaper that said there were secret plans for creating an army across the 28-member bloc, a long-time fear of eurosceptics.

"There is absolutely no plan to set up an EU army with the global strategy. There is also no secret paper," an EU spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

The spokesman said Ms Mogherini's preparation of the strategy was "ongoing, in an open and transparent way and is done in consultation with member states and many other stakeholders", adding that there was also a website about the plans.

She said Ms Mogherini would present the strategy to the European Council at a summit from June 28 to June 29, the week after the so-called Brexit referendum on June 23.

NO EUROPEAN ARMY

There is absolutely no plan to set up an EU army with the global strategy.

A EUROPEAN UNION SPOKESMAN

The EU has long been trying to improve its cooperation on defence issues, with some countries, including Germany and France, having formed so-called "battle groups" that are ready to be deployed in crisis zones. An EU source added that "when it comes to security and defence policy, the European Council has expressed its wish to see a more effective policy".

But the source said that the strategy would be within the existing EU treaties, recognise the preferences of member states, including Britain, "and will in no way aim to set up an EU army".

A European diplomat said the plans were "approaching the final phase".

The Times report was seized upon by campaigners pushing for Britain to leave the EU but the British government dismissed it.

"The Prime Minister has repeatedly made clear that the United Kingdom will never be a part of an EU army," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said. "We retain a veto on all defence matters in the EU and we will oppose any measures which would undermine member states' military forces."

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who is pushing for Britain to leave the EU, hailed the report as proof that the "pro-EU establishment" was lying to the British public. Mr Farage said on Twitter: "Pro-EU establishment not telling the truth - European Union pushing for a full EU army."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'EU to unveil military cooperation plan after Brexit vote'. Print Edition | Subscribe