'Armed forces threatened by EU purchases'

Simon McGee
Political Editor

13 October 2005

THE quality of Britain's armed forces are under threat from the Government's policy of promoting increased harmonisation with European armies that are little better than "military youth movements", according to a study published today.

Ministers are being accused of a covert policy of integrating British forces with those of European Union countries, at the expense of compatibility with US units.

Bradford-based Dr Richard North believes the procurement policies will make it harder for the UK to fight independently or co-operate militarily in the same theatre of war as US forces, and will lead to the end of the "special relationship".

Dr North is a former local government officer and an expert on food safety. For a number of years he worked as a director of research for the UK Independence Party but went on to advise the Conservative Party on agricultural issues.

He is well-known for protests against council tax that have led to him being jailed and has also been associated with protests against metrication.
His Centre for Policy Studies report, The Wrong Side of the Hill: the secret realignment of UK defence policy with the EU, analyses every major procurement contract decision in recent years and concludes that at almost every juncture cheaper and arguably more effective US systems were turned down in favour of EU-built and used kit.

"Until recently the UK and the US were still working in close partnership in developing the technology required to achieve this revolution in the nature of warfare," states the paper.

"But in the past year or two, the MoD's procurement policy has shifted away from co-operation with the US towards closer dependence on Britain's EU partners."

He cites a raft of decisions to prove his case, including the decision to use the A400M 'Eurolifter' to transport troops; a decision to buy trucks built by the German firm MAN Nutzfahrzeuge; and a decision to buy "obsolescent and much more expensive" vehicles made by the Italian firm Iveco.

He also criticised European plans for French artillery firing German-designed shells; battlefield radar systems being built in Germany and Sweden; and the Eurofighter project.

Major-General Julian Thompson, who commanded British land forces during the Falklands War, poured scorn on the procurement policies.
"There should be concern over a number of issues, not least the 'dragging down' effect of integrating Britain's army with low quality European armies," he said.

"Apart from the French Foreign Legion, marine infantry and airborne, plus the Dutch marines (and all of Britain's armed forces), Europe's armies are military youth movements."