"You can absolutely rest assured that Britain will never become part of a European army on my watch. It is an absolutely crazy idea. NATO has delivered European security for the last 70 years and we should feel very proud of it. Should we undermine that by forming a separate military force? Absolutely not. To begin discussing a new EU army is dangerous and undermines the security that NATO underwrites," Gavin Williamson said.
The UK defence chief commented on the idea championed by French president Emmanuel Macron, who recently said that a 'real European army' would protect the continent 'with respect to China, Russia, and even the United States of America'.
Williamson suggested that "before Europe starts seriously planning its own army it should adequately fund the military that has protected its borders from aggression for 70 years".
"Two per cent of GDP should not be beyond the wit of those who have accumulated great wealth through the protection of NATO, primarily under the leadership of the US and UK," he added.
The question of contributions to NATO by member states has long been a sticking point, with the US at the forefront of advocating a stronger commitment to the 2% GDP spending target.
NATO data estimated that in 2017, only the US allocated more than 3% of GDP on defence expenditures, followed by Greece (2.36), the UK (2.12) and Estonia (2.08). Other members are spending less than 2%, according to NATO figures.
US president Donald Trump, an outspoken critic of continued underspending by NATO member states, like Williamson, reacted negatively to the idea of European army.
In response to Macron's statement, he said it was very insulting of French President Emmanuel Macron to suggest that Europe should build its own military to protect it from the United States among other countries.
President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018
Backing sufficient contributions to NATO budget, UK lawmakers have indicated that anything less than 3 percent of the GDP allocated for military spending is not an option for Britain.
At the same time, Gavin Williamson suggested earlier in May of this year that as Britain exits the European Union in 2019, NATO will be 'even more important than it has been in the past'. In his zest to back the Alliance, Williamson indicated that the UK can and should do more to be an influential member of NATO.