Royal Navy vessels could take part in a new “European Union fleet” being planned by France.
I am not sure that I see a problem with this, in fact it could well be a good idea. It is about time that the EU had more clout and in the current climate, where the UN is ineffectual and bogged down with bureaucracy and the US is already over stretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be good to have another power looking after humanitarian interests.
But back to the real world, all this means is that EU countries will have one of the most powerful navies in the world protecting them, the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy has the second largest carrier fleet in the world, as unbelievable as that may sound, with a whopping 3 carriers. France has just 1, Germany 0, Italy 1, Russia also has just 1.
France is currently building another aircraft carrier, but Britain is building two big new carriers that will take the fleet to 5 (although three will probably be decommissioned), giving the EU quite a carrier fleet at about 8 carriers. The US has 24.
The Royal Navy also has the largest submarine fleet in the EU, twice the size of its nearest rival, but only half the size of the Russian and Chinese fleets, and a third of the size of the US one.
I can see why France would want a European Union Fleet, all of the benefits of the Royal Navy and none of the costs, but this isn’t all one way traffic. I am sure that the British government is thinking the same thing, after all why build the destroyers that the Royal Navy desperately needs, when we could use the French and German ones? The RN has just eight destroyers, the French and Germans have twelve each.
This could be the start of another cost saving plan by the government to scale down the Royal Navy and have other nations fill the gaps.
The other concern is spelt out by the Conservative Defence spokesman:
“We need to know if this is an attempt by the Government to ingratiate itself with EU allies and in so doing sell the Royal Navy down the river. “
Both France and Germany have shown their unwillingness to risk their own armed forces in Afghanistan so will the EU Fleet simply be a way of France and Germany getting the British to once again do the fighting for them?
This scheme has grand aims but I think that it will be forever bogged down with just who contributes what for each mission and more importantly, who controls the fleet, and the French have never been much good at compromising.