Brexit supporters have hit out at German plans for a European army with joint headquarters and shared military assets.
A white paper drawn up by Berlin calls for ‘all possibilities’ to be considered to make the forces of member states work more closely together.
The prospect of integrating European militaries more closely has been highly controversial in the UK.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was said to have been pushing David Cameron to lower his resistance to the idea as part of his renegotiation of membership terms.
David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mrs Merkel was said to have been pressing the Prime Minister to drop resistance to closer defence cooperation within the EU
Hard power is currently coordinated through Nato rather than EU structures.
The draft paper, seen by the Financial Times, sets out moves towards establishing ‘common structures’ within the union.
It suggests ‘all possibilities’ should be used under EU treaties to deepen ties between willing member states.
That could include creating a joint civil-military headquarters for EU operations, a council of defence ministers, and the sharing of military equipment.
‘The more we Europeans are ready to take on a greater share of the common burden and the more our American partner is prepared to go along the road of common decision-making, the further the transatlantic security partnership will develop greater intensity and richer results,’ the paper states.
The document, which is not expected to be formally published until after the referendum on June 23, says that the EU’s defence industry is ‘organised nationally and seriously fragmented’.
That raises costs and makes it difficult for national militaries to operate together, it complains.
‘It is therefore necessary that military capabilities are jointly planned, developed, managed, procured and deployed to raise the interoperability of Europe’s defence forces and to further improve Europe’s capacity to act,’ the paper states.
Tory MP Liam Fox is backing a Brexit vote
The paper also reinforces Germany’s desire to bolster its own use of hard power, which it has largely avoided since the Second World War.
‘German security policy has relevance — also far beyond our country,’ the paper states. ‘Germany is willing to join early, decisively and substantially as a driving force in international debates … to take responsibility and assume leadership’.
Ukip MP Douglas Carswell told MailOnline: ‘Why would we hand over our defence to the EU, which cannot even properly manage its own currency, the Euro?
‘If we vote to remain on June 23 we will be forced to join this EU army.
‘The only way to guarantee we stay out of this EU army is to vote Leave.’
Former defence secretary Liam Fox, a Brexit supporter, said that ‘many in the European project see Nato as an impediment to ever closer union’.
Dr Fox added: ‘Their every instinct is to move towards European defence co-operation. The problem is that while they are unwilling to spend money, it is a dangerous fantasy that diverts money away from Nato.’
As the battle heats up ahead of the crucial poll on June 23, a former trade chief has said France would seize on the opportunity of a Brexit vote to hammer the City of London and impose protective tariffs
Pascal Lamy, ex-director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), said French farmers would be ‘eager’ to stop British beef and lamb reaching their supermarket shelves.
He also claimed that negotiating the deal could take up to 15 years.
Former Chancellor Alistair Darling is warning that leaving could cost us up to £250 billion a year in lost trade with the EU.
‘The choice is between free trade within the EU’s single market of 500million consumers, or spending years negotiating new trade deals only to leave us in a weaker position than we enjoy today,’ he will say in a speech.
‘Leaving the single market would be catastrophic for our businesses and our families who would be paying more and suffering from a weaker economy.’