In Brief

Should Europe have its own army?

Britain has always blocked the idea of a single military force, but Brexit could mean it will no longer have a say

One of Germany's most senior defence officials has become the latest public figure to call for a European army.

What is he proposing?

Hans-Peter Bartels, Germany's national defence commissioner, called on Nato's EU members to organise their armies into a single force.

Integration was "inevitable", he said: "In the end, there will be a European army."

Citing high-ranking officials in Germany and France who have led calls for an EU army, Bartels said the nations of Europe "do not want to go down the solitary national path any more".

Germany and the Netherlands have already merged some units, while the Czech Republic and Romania have also expressed an interest.

How likely is it after Brexit?

Britain has long resisted the idea of a European army and has repeatedly blocked plans for an integrated defence force.

However, with Brexit set to happen by March 2019, European leaders have warned Britain will no longer have a say in continental defence.

Bartels's comments "are a sign the rest of the EU is preparing to press ahead with further defence integration", says the Daily Telegraph.

What about Nato?

Calls for a single European defence policy have also grown following Donald Trump's assertion that Nato is "obsolete" and suggestions he would not intervene to protect eastern European states.

Earlier this month, Brussels set out plans for the foundations of a European "security and defence union" by 2025 to rival Nato as Europe's military defender.

According to the Financial Times, the blueprint envisages an EU military force that can act independently of Nato to run "high-end operations to better protect Europe, potentially including operations against terrorist groups, naval operations in hostile environments and cyber-defence actions".

EU leaders, including European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker, say Europe "can no longer afford to piggy-back on the military might of others", says Bloomberg. Even so, "defence self-sufficiency is easier to discuss than to achieve".

With EU nations currently spending less than half as much on defence than the US, Nato will remain the primary defence force for Europe in the short term.

However, it is clear a "new, less restrictive framework is being explored for European defence" that could "save the EU members some money and make their militaries more compatible and more battle-ready", says Bloomberg.

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