Tony Blair joined France in signing declaration for 60,000 EU troops | UK | News (Reports)

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Macron criticised over push for EU army by Italian MEP

Boris Johson’s Brexit deal has helped pave the way for a European army but “lots remains to be done,” according to a close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron. French MEP Nathalie Loiseau, who is a strong ally of Mr Macron, has told an Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) that the UK’s exit from the European Union has cleared the way for “progress” towards greater EU military integration. She argued Britain had never “valued” moves to craft closer military ties with Brussels but would remain a “key partner” for the bloc in terms of foreign policy and defence going forward.

Prior to Brexit, the UK was linked to a series of EU military structures including the European Defence Fund, Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and the European Defence Agency and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) which some critics see as the beginning of an EU army.

Regarding the future of the CSDP, Ms Loiseau said: “Brexit in foreign policy, firstly we have to admit in regards to the participation of the UK in CSDP the loss is small. The CSDP was never really something the UK really owned or really valued that much.

“There were few staff or military from the UK in the CSDP missions, they were reluctant towards efforts like European Defence Fund or PESCO.

“I am pretty certain that we have made progress on European defence because the UK was leaving the European Union but there is a lot that remains to be done.”

Ms Loiseau appears to be wrong, though, as the UK did push for a greater Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) under former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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Tony Blair joined France in signing declaration for 60,000 EU troops (Image: GETTY)

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Brexit timeline (Image: GETTY)

In 1999, Mr Blair and former French president Chirac signed the Saint-Malo Declaration, which was designed to bolster the EU’s ability to conduct autonomous military operations.

The declaration was a response to the armed conflict in Kosovo in the late Nineties, in which the international community, and especially the European Union and its member states, were perceived to have failed to intervene to stop the conflict.

A year later, as a direct consequence of the Saint-Malo summit, a “Headline Goal” was formulated in Helsinki, setting 2003 as a target date for the creation of a European force of up to 60,000 troops.

In what Mr Blair described as a “new era in our military partnership”, the former prime minister went out of their way to reassure Washington that the NATO alliance remains the cornerstone of their national defence.

President Chirac claimed “there will be no negative consequences for NATO”.

Mr Blair also dismissed Conservative warnings of what he called “a single European army”.

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Former prime minister Tony Blair with former French president Jacques Chirac (Image: GETTY)

He said there would be no “autonomous” action without consulting NATO and other allies.

However, former prime minister Margaret Thatcher denounced Mr Blair’s support for a new European defence force as “monumental folly”.

Interviewed on the eve of the 10th anniversary of her departure from Downing Street, the former Conservative Prime Minister said the creation of the EU Rapid Reaction Force made no military sense at all and was threatening to divide and destroy NATO.

Baroness Thatcher said: “Europe has even less chance of becoming a military power than of creating a sound currency.”

And in her strongest attack on Mr Blair, she accused the former prime minister of jeopardising the UK’s security.

She told : “It is a piece of monumental folly that puts our security at risk in order to satisfy political vanity.”

In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Lord David Owen also exposed Mr Blair’s obsession with taking the UK into the monetary union while serving as prime minister.

Lord Owen said: “There is no doubt that Tony Blair would have taken us in.”

During his years as prime minister, the former Labour leader made one of the strongest cases for the country to adopt the single currency and often claimed it would have been a “betrayal” of Britain’s national interest to stay out of the monetary union.

The Labour peer explained: “Ed Balls would have stopped him if he had the power.

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Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher (Image: GETTY)

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Lord David Owen (Image: GETTY)

“But not Gordon Brown. He would have been bought off by Blair.

“We stopped going into the eurozone because of Iraq – that’s the truth that matters.

“It would have been easily done if Number 10 got what they called the Baghdad bounce.

“There was no Baghdad bounce, therefore there was no eurozone referendum.

“I think we have escaped with our lives.”

In the early Noughties a false recovery signal was referred to as the Baghdad bounce after the rise in popularity that both George W Bush and Tony Blair enjoyed following the fall of Baghdad in the Iraq War.

However, that popularity waned somewhat later when it became clear that pulling allied troops out of Iraq was likely to take longer than the public had first anticipated.

In 2003, Mr Blair sustained significant political damage from the debate over Iraq.

His personal rating dropped through the floor to minus 20 points – the lowest level since the petrol crisis.

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