Dr Julian Lewis: A Common Defence Policy for Europe would clearly undermine the crucial link between Europe and America that forms the basis of NATO. What assessment have our Government made of the number of our fellow EU member states that favour a Common Defence Policy, and of their motivation for favouring such a dangerous step?
[The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): It all depends what is meant by a Common Defence Policy. There is widespread support, including in the United States and from the NATO Secretary-General, for European members of the transatlantic alliance to be more effective and cohesive in their contributions to our joint security arrangements. My hon. Friend is right that some people in Europe want to go a great deal further, particularly in some of the European institutions, such as the Parliament and the Commission.
For rather obvious reasons of parliamentary accountability and a consciousness of the importance of national sovereignty over defence and foreign policy, there is greater reluctance among national Governments. As a rule of thumb, smaller member states often see security advantages in closer European integration at defence level, and the significant defence players are generally the most conscious of the need to preserve national autonomy and to defend what the treaties lay down, which is that defence and security remain national competences and rights.]