‘You cannot do it without the UK!’ Brussels’ EU army dreams shattered by Brexit

The Italian MEP highlighted the essential role the UK still covers in terms of security and defence of the continent, despite Britons’ decision to leave the EU. Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that the bloc must be able to intervene militarily without the help of the United States but lacks the political will.

She said: “The more fundamental issue is, why has this not worked in the past.

“You can have the most advanced forces in the world, but if you are never prepared to use them, what use are they?

“What has held us back until now is not just shortfalls of capacity it is a lack of political will.”

The Commission President added: “The good news is that over the past years, we have started to develop a European defence ecosystem.

“In the last weeks, there have been many discussions on expeditionary forces. On what type and how many we need: battlegroups or EU entry forces.

“This is no doubt part of the debate – and I believe it will be part of the solution.”

But responding to the European Union Commission Chief, Marco Zanni warned the bloc’s defence could never prescind from the cooperation of the UK and the US.

Addressing Mrs von der Leyen, he said: “I think you have launched a project that will be discussed: I say that the Western action force already exists, it is called NATO, because European defence and military cooperation cannot be separated from the United Kingdom and cooperation with the United States.

“There was only one problem, which is always a money problem.

“We have too often taken advantage of the American ally’s umbrella and the states have not done their duty to invest in defence.

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It is understood that France wants to champion a new system based on a “coalition of willing”.

Under the plan, EU troops could be deployed quickly to intervene anywhere in the world, especially to safeguard the evacuation of officials and staff from conflict zones.

Officials say they believe there is going to be a shift away from unanimous decision-making for EU army projects in the wake of the Afghan crisis.

France will urge fellow EU governments to consider the possibility of dropping the requirement for all leaders to support military intervention.

There are also plans in the pipeline to further integrate defence policy.

Mr Macron recently attacked German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s attempt to scupper EU army plans.

She said that “illusions of European strategic autonomy must come to an end” and that “Europeans will not be able to replace America’s crucial role as a security provider”.

Mr Macron said he disagreed “profoundly” with the German’s comments.