Defence

Eventual Eurozone reform and improving Russian/European relations

Speech by Lord Owen to the Progress Foundation’s 43rd Economic Conference on ‘Which Future for Europe?’, Zurich, Friday 28 October 2016.

Extracts only. Read the full speech here: zurichspeech2

The EU is wisely, four months on since the UK referendum vote to leave the EU, less inclined to dismiss Brexit as an event of little significance, a matter just for the British. The EU is more likely now, in the wake of Brexit, to start to face long overdue reform….

Defining a core Eurozone involving a Fiscal Union and a Banking Union will have to be openly discussed, as already has been done informally by Germany and the Netherlands. Initially at least with Belgium and Austria. Even if something dire happens to the Eurozone these four countries will ensure that a small Eurozone continues. The question is who will be their partners?

As for France, a lot will depend on the outcome of the French elections. But for the first time, whereas it would have been automatic in the past that Germany would insist on French membership, there may not be the level of public support after the elections in Germany to include France initially.

It is very unlikely that German public opinion will accept any system of automatic money transfers to Italy….

Other countries that would want to be part of a core Eurozone are Spain and Ireland. Finland in the past would have expected to be a member; perhaps not now. Luxembourg will want to participate but they, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta, may need to face tax haven questions first as it is very undesirable that any unacceptable practices should be inherited by a new Fiscal and Banking Union…..

The core Eurozone countries cannot throw a number of countries out of the Eurozone given the practical politics of the EU. What they can do is make them ineligible to be part of a core because of the way that core has fixed the initial criteria for a Fiscal and Banking Union. The weakest economies would become more vulnerable to speculative moves aimed at destabilising some of their economies, but if they can ride out speculation they might be able to stay in the Eurozone even though they were not protected as would be members of the core. Aware of their vulnerability and anticipating such speculation, some might prefer to leave rather than await being forced to decide to leave at a time of crisis. The best outcome would be if Italy voluntarily chose to leave the Eurozone for they would have the power to lead a serious restructuring of the EEA and ensure it was not unduly influenced by core Eurozone members. And others like Greece and Portugal might follow.

A core Eurozone will not be a North-South Eurozone in the sense of a formal geographical divide, though this may be the appearance. A divide will happen because of the design and disciplines of the core. Some countries that stay in the Eurozone and make the transition will be able to qualify to be part of the Fiscal Union and Banking Union over time. In effect this core will become a federal Europe.

… Besides Eurozone reform, there is the need to face up to President Obama’s criticism that Europe is “freeloading” within NATO and the disappointing record of the European External Action Service, EEAS.

… Only in a revived NATO, where European countries are no longer as President Obama rightly accused us of being ‘freeloaders’, and we make a greater financial contribution, will Europe redress the imbalance between us and President Putin’s Russian Federation.

Read the full speech here: zurichspeech2

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Outside a dysfunctional EU with its common defence agenda, we must champion and strengthen Nato

Lord Owen writing for the website brexitcentral.com

….The EU policy paper Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy was presented to the Heads of Government Brussels summit meeting on 28th June 2016 quickly followed on 13th July by the publication of the German White Paper on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr. Both papers had been held back deliberately to avoid debate during the UK referendum. These documents are likely to be the defining moment in the creation of a continental United States of Europe and the deepest political reason for the UK voting to leave the EU.

….There are people in the UK who take a largely French view that Europe alone can deal with its own defence, that we do not need the US and need not worry about a decline in NATO. The facts simply do not bear this out in terms of the money EU countries spend, the numbers in the military and the quality and total armaments held. Indeed, it is questionable whether some of our European neighbours have the necessary will and resolve in foreign affairs to make the difficult decisions.

Read the full text here: brexitcentral

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If the UK leaves the EU, we can champion Nato and put the resources we currently spend on EU defence and foreign policy into Nato and global diplomacy.

Letter to The Times, Wednesday 4 May 2016.

Read the full text here: TimesLetter 4.5.16

Extracts: If the EU pushes ahead with the idea of two centres for defence in the EU, one in the EU and one in Nato, as the recent leaked German proposals imply, then we can expect to see the day that the United States withdraws its commitment to Europe.

….it is utter pretension to think that the EU can mirror the defence capabilities of a united single country – unless of course, as many of us believe, it is yet one more step towards a United States of Europe.

…If, as I hope, the UK decides to leave the EU, we can be the champion of Nato and put the resources we currently spend on EU defence and foreign policy into Nato and global diplomacy.

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Outside the EU, the UK has a unique opportunity to shield itself from a future collapse in the Eurozone by starting to negotiate global trading arrangements and improving our competitiveness and simultaneously demonstrating a greater commitment to NATO. 

Lord Owen addressing Princeton University conference on ‘Europe and the challenges of Brexit’: 15 April 2016

Excerpts: When you are a member of a dysfunctional organisation like the EU that can neither reform nor restructure you have two choices: either to reluctantly remain in the organisation or be brave enough to leave. That is the choice that faces individual British voters on 23 June.

President Obama’s first Secretary of the Treasury has used some very tough language about the Eurozone in his book Stress Test published in 2014. In writing about 2010 he says, “The second drag on our recovery was Europe, which was in financial and economic disarray,” and “the European mess was a serious threat to us.”….”The sudden panic in Europe was shocking.”….”Now Europe was burning again, and it did not seem to have the tools or the desire to control the fire. The Eurozone was sixteen [now 19] nations with sixteen fiscal policies and sixteen banking systems,..”

Geithner writes in words with which I totally agree. “For all the flaws of the U.S. system, our fragmented regulatory agencies were at least part of the same nation, with a common language and traditions. And we routinely transferred resources to economically weak regions through our national budget.”

…. The U.S. Defense Department for decades has been hostile to EU “common defence” and to “autonomous defence” in the EU as well as to having two planning centres for defence in Europe, one in the EU and one in NATO. That is no secret and a factual judgement which I and many other people in Britain share.

….President Obama in his recent interview for the Atlantic magazine, correctly, and in the view of many Europeans rightly, openly criticised us in Europe for ‘freeloading’ on the NATO defence budget. It is clearly not tolerable for the U.S. voters that they should pay 73% or 75% of the NATO budget. That direction of travel has got to be corrected and soon. But it will not be done by the EU.

While the EU is dysfunctional, NATO is not.

Read the full text here:PrincetonUK PRESS RELEASE

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The case for a new start for Britain grows stronger by the day. The Dutch vote should encourage voters in the UK to vote to leave in our referendum.

Lord Owen speaking at a Civitas seminar on EU foreign and defence policy, 7 April 2016:

Just as in 2005 when the Dutch voted down Giscard d’Estaing’s Constitutional Treaty, they have now blocked ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. No-one, not even the Prime Minister, can say that the Dutch vote is anti-European.  It is anti the dysfunctional EU that is dragging Europe down in its economic performance and its foreign and security policy. The French will be even more reluctant to risk a referendum to reform the euro and so the euro crisis will go on, reform will be shelved, relative stagnation continue. The case for a new start for Britain grows stronger by the day. The Dutch vote should encourage voters in the UK to vote to leave in our referendum.  There is another Europe that is starting to emerge and it is one which the UK can work happily with.

Britain must give primacy to NATO and demonstrate to Americans that we in Europe will not continue to be ‘freeloaders’. In the process we will ditch the pretence of a European foreign policy that bears a heavy responsibility for the mess we are in over the Ukraine.”

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Trident and options for the UK’s nuclear deterrent

In a letter to The Times, Lord Owen suggests alternatives that could enable the SNP to support Scotland-based nuclear-capable submarines. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

TimesTridentletter_opt-2

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Pakistan and the nuclear deterrent

Lord Owen comments: “In the outline agreement reached two days ago in Geneva between Iran and the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany, we can see the relevance of Pakistan’s history and its possession of nuclear weapons.”  Read his Statement in full here: Pakistan & the Nuclear Deterrent

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Senior UK parliamentarians urge nuclear disarmament must remain priority in 2012

Statement made on Friday 11 May 2012

To read the full statement please click here

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