Last week, all of us who have been following the darksome path of EU military unification had a shock when the relatively new Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace MP (a former Scots Guards officer), openly admitted in an interview with his namesake Mark Wallace that the question of whether Britain was going to be in or out of EU Defence Union after alleged Brexit was a "lawyers' debate".
As our defence commentator remarked when UK Column News covered this Wallace-Wallace interview:
There clearly is a [British civil service] position, but he [Ben Wallace MP] doesn't know what the position is.
This was a simple and astute observation from which a number of conclusions might arise. Mr Wallace had not been made aware of the Civil Service position, or perhaps he lacked the mental acumen to recognise and understand the Civil Service position, or perhaps he had turned a blind eye to that position. However we look at it, the implications of a Defence Secretary not understanding the UK's military position within the EU, and most importantly EU Defence Union, whilst a Brexit withdrawal agreement is being formed is astoundingly incompetent, and thus dangerous for the nation's defence and security.
The campaign organisation Veterans for Britain recently gave warning briefings at the Royal United Services Institute on the pillars of EU Defence Union (which, as UK Column has long pointed out, expressly includes post-Brexit "bilateral arrangements" between the British Ministry of Defence and individual Continental nations). In this interview performance, Mr Wallace says he watched the videos of those briefings, but he does not even manage to get the organisation's name right; he calls them "Veterans for Brexit".
Why is this haze in Mr Wallace's mind significant?
Quite simply, because under the existing, already signed-up-to pillars of EU Defence Union, the EU will control the deployments of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, the military budgets (both capital and operational), research and development, training and the defence industry. There will be no British veto to allow us to extricate our troops from wars that we have no interest in fighting; that is an explicit point of the manifesto of the President-elect of the European Commission, the former German Defence Minister, Frau Von der Leyen. (Meanwhile, as we have been almost the only media outlet to report in English, her successor at the German Defence Ministry advocates the conscription of 16-year-old girls.)
The typical rejoinder by British enthusiasts for the EU is that PESCO, CARD, EDA and the whole alphabet soup of EU defence schemes, to which Britain has voluntarily signed up since our vote to leave the EU, is nothing sinister because they merely represent continued "co-operation" with Europe on matters of shared strategic interest.
This is plainly wrong and ignorant. Jake Pugh MEP has just vlogged from the European Parliament that the "eighty to a hundred rabid federalists" who attended a European Parliamentary Research Service briefing on EU defence policy entitled The Future of Warfare (PDF) were explicit that "this was about military integration, not co-operation; the integration of the armed forces across the European Union".
Who is giving Ben Wallace his legal advice on Britain’s position in EU Defence Union?
In the interview The Defence Secretary also admitted, in his own words, that he does not know the detail of EU Defence Union and leaves it to "lawyers" to advise him on whether what he has already pledged the nation to is constitutional or spells the end of our nationhood.
This prompts the vital question: who will be issuing his advice as he continues to sign treaties and policy frameworks in Her Majesty's name?
At this point we start to enter very grey and blurred territory because successive UK governments have been very very shy of revealing what has been agreed behind closed doors in relation to defence. As just one example we might recall the 6 October 2010 Franco British military agreements reached behind closed doors at the Paris residence of the British Ambassador Peter Westmacott where senior British military officers donned lounge suits rather than uniforms; presumably in the hope that their deeds were not seen as betrayal of their country and military colleagues, but more a gentleman's agreement over coffee and perhaps a glass of wine. The use of the charity the Franco British Council as the facilitator for this hidden scheming has also never been satisfactorily explained.
In Ben Wallace's case, the pertinent hand is not a charity, but a lawyer. Is it perchance, the MoD senior lawyer Linda Dann? We don't know but will take her as an example of the hidden hand of powerful legal people who make binding agreements to the EU or former Eastern Bloc nations possible. And yes, usually operating well out of sight of the public and all but a select inner circle of MPs.
Let us review the MoD career history that she has shared with the world:
Head, European Bilateral Relations & EU Exit
Aug 2016 – Present
Head of team responsible for Defence bilateral relationships and policy with European countries and Canada, and for coordinating MOD's position on EU withdrawal, managing risks and opportunities and liaising within Whitehall.
Sep 2015 – Present
Member of Royal College of Defence Studies, postgraduate course (one year full time) in International Security and Strategy focusing on political, diplomatic, security, social and economic-related issues at the grand strategic level, plus Kings College London MA in International Security and Strategy.
Deputy Director Corporate Strategy Law team, Central Legal Services
Apr 2012 – Aug 2015
Head of team of 11 lawyers, providing advice on delivery of Defence change programmes including reform of procurement and single source procurement, Defence Infrastructure Organisation and the Defence Reform Bill. Reform of Reserve forces as part of the New Employment Model. Civil Service Reform of terms and conditions of employment and Armed Forces' pensions schemes.
Deputy Director, Operational & International Humanitarian Law team, Central Legal Services
Aug 2005 – Mar 2012
Head of team advising Ministers and senior policy and military personnel on all aspects of overseas military operations including assisting with development of strategy and policy. In particular advising on use of force (public international law including international humanitarian law and international human rights law) for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, plus detention operation, maritime and piracy, crisis/rescue operations, cyber and space, legality and use of conventional, non-conventional and strategic weapons. Advising on related criminal and human rights issues and litigation. Speaking engagements at various international conferences.
There is much in that detail—and indeed in her previous career history as a lawyer elsewhere in the machinery of government, some details of which we are aware of at UK Column—to merit an especially sharp eye on the focus and results of her work. But let us cut to the chase: the effect of what Ms Dann has helped to preside over at the Ministry of Defence has been called by some informed sources as the 'brand destruction of HM Armed Forces.' Under the fine-sounding name of "humanitarian law", her team at the MoD instituted a new policy (note that it was one that ran seamlessly from a Blair government through a Brown government to a Cameron-Clegg government) of persecution by prosecution.
It will be clear from Ms Dann's job title and self-description above that it is the overseas deployments aspect of the prosecution of veterans which she has shaped, i.e. not the more widely reported issue of Northern Ireland prosecutions. In the Northern Ireland situation, veterans of Operation BANNER, the Army's peacekeeping deployment in Northern Ireland, suddenly found themselves issued with legal summonses, and this at a time when the Northern Ireland Office (which shares a building with MI5) was still pumping out "comfort letters" to "on-the-runs", assuring IRA terrorists that they would not be brought to trial if they returned to Northern Ireland from overseas.
If you are not from a military family, you might not appreciate the seriousness of this deliberate policy. There are few things indeed that can dissuade a keen son or daughter of a family that traditionally serves in the military from joining up. One of those very few dissuading factors, though, is the real threat of being dragged out of retirement to be tried for supposed murder or manslaughter for having fired shots on deployment while protecting the nation from terrorist enemies. "Don't whatever you do join up; you'll end up in jail when you're older," will be the reluctant but pressing advice issued by the young person's parents and grandparents when he or she is considering becoming part of the Armed Forces.
Veterans are starting to notice the apparent linkage between the persecution-by-prosecution of retired British veterans and the rolling of Britain into EU Defence Union. Ms Dann's role in the legal arm of the policy was already noticed a year ago, but oddly enough, Plymouth's own Johnny Mercer MP, who is now Mr Wallace's junior minister at the MoD, leaped to Ms Dann's defence, seeking to exonerate her from the accusation of going after veterans.
During the dates 2005–2012 Ms Dann presided over this policy at the MoD or was at least a willing servant to carry out that policy which appeared relentless. The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), for instance, was set up in 2010. (The Northern Ireland timeline is similar.) And in the same month as that exchange with Mr Mercer took place (November 2018), we see Ms Dann giving evidence (p. 66) to the House of Commons Defence Committee on one of the mainstays of EU Defence Union, namely the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), thereby bearing out what UK Column has long said about the forced involvement of British defence manufacture in the plans for EU military unification. Ms Dann's testimony to that hearing was transcribed.
Many noted that Red Snapper was one of the suspiciously small companies employed by the Government to prepare cases for the prosecution of veterans, and even attempted to hire retired policemen to facilitate its work.
What else was Ms Dann doing that same month of November 2018?
She was a speaker at an invitation-only briefing at Chatham House, the think tank that tells the British Government most of what to do, on "the UK's place in European defence". In fact, she had been talking about the post-Brexit management of defence policy under Chatham House rules (which forbid accrediting what was said to who said it) a whole year before that date: in November 2017, the London School of Economics had her come out to the privately-owned country house of Ditchley Park (PDF) to tackle that topic. In January 2018, she was at another of the Home Counties country houses where so much of our foreign and defence policy is set, namely Wilton Park (PDF), specifically addressing the "Future Bilateral Relationships" strand of EU Defence Union that is so crucial to those determined to keep Britain involved in the arrangements after Brexit.
Ms Dann has even been to Ljubljana to talk about "UK-EU security and defence co-operation post-Brexit".
Do the Slovenes know more about MoD policy on EU Defence Union than the Defence Secretary does? we might well ask.
Is Ms Dann the magic legal fairy or just a very willing and highly capable civil servant in matters of defence agreements wth the EU or elsewhere? Or is it really the case that she is the expert opinion driving these shadowy EU Defence Union agreements far from the public gaze, or indeed the gaze of Westminster MPs. It's hard to tell without minutes to the meetings, and under the Official Secrets Act and Ministry of Defence's firewall of "we don't talk about operational military matters", they are harder to obtain than fairy dust.
The real danger for the UK and many MPs ignorant of the facts is that Ms Dann is probably not a fairy and certainly not alone in her work. Who comprises the UK's EU Defence Union team? We simply don't know. Neither do we know where their true allegiances lie in respect of the EU project. And that secrecy and uncertainty just reinforces our initial headline question ... EU Defence Union: Who's really steering UK Government policy?