Great Britain

Oh dear, Brussels! UK's new deal with US and Australia is 'disaster' for EU – expert

Ben Wallace quizzed over submarine pact with Australia

The commentary refers to the Aukus alliance between the US, the UK and Australia, under which the US and UK will share sensitive technology with Australia to let it develop its first nuclear-powered submarines. Wolfgang Münchau branded the pact as an “implicit geopolitical disaster for the EU” in an op-ed for The Spectator, after France was snubbed from the trilateral pact in its contract stages.

The expert claims that “the alliance is the culmination of multiple European failures”, and notes the EU’s political misjudgements of US president Joe Biden’s China strategy among them.

He implies that the pact is a retaliation from the UK after being treated as a “strategic adversary”, saying that following the treatment “don’t be surprised when the UK exploits the areas where it enjoys a competitive advantage.”

Within the piece Wolfgang claims that the EU “has outmanoeuvred itself through lazy group-think” and also brands the union as “monolithic” for it’s slow-changing progress.

One example he provides is that while developments are made by the Biden administration to move beyond Nato towards a multipolar defence strategy, Mr Münchau claims the EU falls behind as German political parties still remain discussing the pros and cons of Nato.

Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen

Oh dear, Brussels! UK's new deal with US and Australia is 'disaster' for EU – expert (Image: Getty Images)

Jean-Yves Le Drian

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian negotiated on behalf of France during the Australian deal (Image: Getty Images)

He claims that while “Nato remains a pillar" for defence strategies, “it is now supplemented by informal Indo-Pacific alliances”, including the US, Japan, India and Australia.

Further domain is acquired due to an informal intelligence pact compromising the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand dubbed ‘Five Eyes’, which forms part of the “variable geometry of the new international order” according to the expert, whereas the EU is on the outskirts of the scheme.

After branding the EU as “monolithic”, Mr Münchau states that the EU is more limited in its progress as it is “stuck with its 27 veto-wielding members in the foreign affairs council”.

Other European states can’t compete with the “different order” of the UK’s investment in modern defence technologies, which make them a natural alliance for the US for this specific scheme aimed at containing the influence of China.

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EU Flag

The EU was branded as “monolithic” by Wolfgang Münchau (Image: Getty Images)

The UK’s involvement within the Aukus agreement has also been termed “something momentous” by Rory Metcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, in the New Statesman.

The deal was borne out of the Cornwall G7 summit held in June, as Australia sought greater protection.

Initially a contract was planned with France, marking an EU link, however Australians were persuaded by the US and the UK’s willingness to share their nuclear technology.

The formation of the pact has been considered “another post-Brexit triumph for Boris Johnson”, with the expert also praising the UK’s quick deployment of vaccines following its withdrawal from the EU.

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EU's Ursula von der Leyen

Mr Münchau says EU is “stuck with its 27 veto-wielding members" (Image: Getty Images)

Wolfgang Münchau speculates that going forward the EU could respond in three different means, the first of which is to “continue to muddle through without direction”, which he claims “would work well with the media but wouldn’t solve the problem”.

A second option would see the strategic alliance with the US being reinforced, which he claims would not be beneficial due to the US’ focus on their “own unilateral interests”

While a third would see a shift towards strategic autonomy from the US, allowing a relationship to be formed with China based on strategic interests, a move which he claims would be the “most desirable” but that would require “a total reboot of the EU’s constitutional order”.

Mr Münchau claims that this would be a “very serious undertaking” and would not be an easy feat as the EU “is only half-built for a monetary union. It is not at all built for a strategic defence union.”

Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister

The Aukus deal was borne out of the Cornwall G7 summit held in June (Image: Getty Images)

He outlines that going forward, the EU is likely to stick to the first of its options and remain setting some minimum legal protection under current EU treaties for its members states, while they pursue and govern their own national trade and investment policies.

Drian reportedly negotiated on behalf of France during the original Australian deal before it fell through, as France and the UK are the only nuclear powers in Europe.

Going forward, there is an expectation that the “geopolitical role of France is back on the table”, following it being the only European country with a stake in the Indo-Pacific, as in its first statement in response to Aukus, the country made it clear that the cooperation with Australia and the US is to continue.

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