I’ve lost count of the number of debates I attended where there would be much tut-tutting, head shaking and eye rolling every time the EU army was mentioned.
We were told emphatically that it was all a bit fat lie – a malignant piece of “fake news” aimed at convincing ignorant working class voters to back Leave.
In a televised debate, former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg denounced such talk as a “dangerous fantasy” and a sinister conspiracy dreamt up by Brexiteers on a par with suggestions the moon landings had been faked and Elvis was still alive.
The idea that the EU was planning to form an army was “simply not true”, the then-MP for Sheffield Hallam added.
Since then Remainers have often pointed to the EU army story as evidence that the Leave campaign was “built on lies” and was therefore illegitimate and could safely be ignored.
But this week Remainers have gone suddenly very quiet on this topic, perhaps because there have been some dramatic developments with regard to the EU’s military ambitions.
It turns out this particular piece of “fake news” isn’t the slightest bit fake at all. Reports that the EU intends to form an army are, in fact, 100 per cent true.
Step forward French Finance Minister Bruno La Maire who this week urged the EU to use its power to oppose Donald Trump, the leader of a country which last time I looked was an important ally.
He said the EU had to create a new “empire” to stand up to the United States and China. An empire? Seriously? Given Europe’s recent history this kind of language is as dangerous as it is insensitive. If they are looking for a name for this new empire “the Fourth Reich” has a certain ring to it.
Then up popped French President Emmanuel Macron, whose opinion poll ratings appear to be in a death spiral just 18 months after his election victory.
He called for a “true European army” to defend the EU adding: “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.”
Have EU leaders taken leave of their senses? Are they seriously suggesting that weak and ineffectual European countries which spend comparatively little on defence should set themselves up in opposition to the most powerful military force on the planet and one which has guaranteed Western European security for over 70 years?
Apparently the answer is yes, because next up was the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a woman whose reputation and career lies in tatters after she threw open Europe’s borders, thereby unleashing a wave of crime and terror that will blight the continent for many decades to come.
She gave her backing to Macron’s plan saying “we have to work on a vision to establish a real European army one day”.
This is dangerous nonsense. The reason peace has prevailed in Europe since 1945 has very little to do with the posturing of the EU – and everything to do with the hard military might of Nato and in particular the US nuclear umbrella.
There is absolutely nothing to stop France and Germany contributing more realistically to Nato’s coffers if they want to improve European security. Indeed one of the key complaints of President Donald Trump is that these countries contribute relatively little, preferring instead to let American taxpayers guarantee their safety. That is simply unfair.
Undermining Nato and setting themselves up in opposition to the United States, while refusing to spend adequately on defence, is nothing short of crazy. It could encourage the reckless military adventurism of Vladimir Putin. If Russia starts interfering in the Baltic states, France and Germany may quickly realise that Nato has its uses after all.
The French in particular should remember what happened the last time they relied on their own forces to defend their country. They shouldn’t depend on the Americans and the British to liberate them for a third time.
As for the UK these developments show why we need to get out of the EU quickly. Can you imagine handing over command of British forces to someone like the infamously well-refreshed Jean-Claude Juncker? Not in a million years!