The European Parliament yesterday ratified the project, with almost £7billion earmarked for “fully interoperable and innovative defence technologies of high quality”. The EU hopes the move will save between £22bn and £88bn annually, with Ursula von der Leyen’s European Commission playing a key role in the process of selecting and managing the fund.
As Rapporteur for the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), Professor Zdzislaw Krasnodebski is responsible for speaking on the issue on behalf of his group.
He said: “The almost 8 billion Euros of the Fund are earmarked for research and development projects carried out jointly by Member States.
“The aim of the Fund is not only to support research and development projects of the European defence industry but also to include new entities in cooperation networks and supply chains, including those that have not been active in this industry until now.
“The EDF will not subsidise bilateral cooperation between countries, as the minimum number of participants in the financed project is at least three entities from at least three Member States.”
Prof Krasondebski denied the move was a step towards the creation of a European Army, pointing out the money cannot be used to purchase weapons.
Nevertheless, referencing the ongoing tensions between the United States and China, he added: “The European Union should pay more attention to its common defence, and thus increase spending in this area.
“But we must have a Europe that can defend itself on its own without relying only on the United States.”
A year later, he appeared to question the merits of the longstanding transatlantic alliance, telling the Economist: “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of Nato.”
Speaking last year, Mrs von der Leyen said: “We must also do more when it comes to managing crises as they develop.
“And for that, Europe also needs credible military capabilities and we have set up the building blocks of the European Defense Union. It is complementary to NATO and it is different.”
Former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has for many years suggested a European army was a very real prospect.
In 2019 he tweeted: “EU now aiming for an army of 60,000 and incoming foreign policy boss Josep Borrell says ‘the EU has to learn to use the language of power’.
“When will Remainers stop lying about the intentions of this dangerous, undemocratic state?”
Speaking to Express.co.uk earlier this year, Ben Habib, like Mr Farage a former Brexit Party MEP, said: “When you go back to 2015 and remember the debate that Nick Clegg had with Nigel Farage, when Nigel said they were aiming to have a standing army and Nick said something like ‘don’t talk garbage, that’s just scaremongering’, they were busy planning it at the same time.
“Now there is no way that the deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom did not know what was going on in the Commission.”