Britain last night declared victory as European defence chiefs killed off plans for an EU army with its own military headquarters in Brussels.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told fellow ministers they should now instead heed Donald Trump’s call for them to spend more on building up their own military capabilities.
But he played down the newly elected President’s campaign warning that they should not expect protection from Nato if they do not meet defence spending targets.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, pictured, warned his EU counterparts that Britain will veto any plans which will undermine Nato while the country remains a member of the union
Boris Johnson was in Brussels today for talks with counterparts over future defence plans
Arriving for the meeting of EU foreign and defence ministers in Brussels, Mr Fallon said: ‘Instead of planning expensive new headquarters or dreaming of a European army, what Europe needs to do now is spend more on its own defence. That is the best possible approach to the Trump presidency. ‘Britain meets the two per cent commitment, other European countries need to increase their own defence spending.’
Brussels officials had drawn up a blueprint of steps towards creating a European army including the building of a military command base.
But Mr Fallon had warned Britain would veto any proposals that would threaten Nato while it still remains an EU member.
Last night he claimed success as plans for future defence cooperation were watered down after a string of countries backed the British stance.
He said: ‘It’s moving our way. We’re avoiding a new military headquarters, the level of ambition seems to have been tempered.
‘So we have moved a long way from the initial concerns about an EU army. And that is not simply Britain, there was resistance around the room from a large number of member states. The level of ambition has clearly changed.’
During the U.S. presidential election Mr Trump provoked alarm by saying he would look to see if Nato member countries had ‘fulfilled their obligations to us’ before deciding whether to come to their aid in the event of a Russian attack.
Mr Johnson, pictured in Brussels today, told reporters that the UK would not seek to block closer military cooperation within the EU, despite concerns about undermining NATO
Mr Johnson shared a laugh with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni (pictured right) and Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders (pictured centre) at the summit today
Under Nato’s collective defence rules, members are all bound to protect each other if one came under attack.
Mr Fallon last night said European countries ‘need not worry so much’ about Mr Trump’s election if they stepped up their defence spending, but dismissed his warning as campaign rhetoric.
‘Every successive American administration has played its leadership role in Nato, I don’t expect a Trump-led White House to be any different,’ he said.
Only five of Nato’s 28 members (Britain, Estonia, Greece, Poland and the U.S.) are currently on target to meet their commitments to spend two per cent of their national income on defence.
US president-elect Donald Trump caused alarm during his election campaign by suggesting Washington would think twice about coming to the aid of an endangered NATO ally if it had not paid its dues
Figures show that Slovenia, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg currently achieve less than one per cent.
Mr Fallon said: ‘We all made that commitment at the Wales summit [in 2014]. Some 20 countries have started to increase their defence spending, but only 10 I believe have set out firm plans to meet the two per cent in addition to the five that meet it at the moment.
‘So that is 15, only half of the 28 are actually committed to the 2pc and that is not good enough.’
The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini last night insisted ‘The European Union is a superpower’ but she dismissed claims she had wanted to create ‘an EU army’.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg issued a stark warning that ‘going it alone is not an option’ following Trump’s stunning US election victory