Britain's decision to allocate 12,500 troops to serve in the 'rapid reaction force' as part of the EU's armed wing has provoked rabid opposition from the Eurosceptic press and politicians, whose criticisms drew an angry response from Tony Blair and the Labour government. This force is set to include part of the navy and up to 72 combat planes, just a portion of the total 60,000 or so personnel from across Europe.
Though the units forming this force will be under the control of their respective national governments, this has not prevented an outcry. The main objection is not the common cap badge, but the undeniable fact that it represents another step towards the formation of a single European army and a fully integrated European superstate. The Sun proclaimed, "EUre in the army now!" Margaret Thatcher - on the 10th anniversary of her downfall - added fuel to the fire, attacking an "ill advised move" and predicting that the UK's "special relationship" with the US would be weakened. It was Thatcher who provided the butt for Blair, allowing him - no doubt with Labour's core vote in mind - to put some clear, rose-tinted water between himself and the Tories.
Nato is the other plank of the Eurosceptic argument. The claim is that the Euro force will replace Nato and this will detach Europe from the USA. Two points ought to be made.
One, the Euro force incorporates non-Nato countries: e.g., Sweden. In a period of unprecedented US power but with the US committed to downgrading its overseas commitments, this runs with the grain of US policy, not against it. Al Gore or George W Bush: the difference will be of nuance, not substance.
Two, it was the Tory government of John Major which signed the Euro force treaty - the Eurosceptic wing of the party being narrowly defeated at the time. Now, however, the Eurosceptics are in firm control. The rump of Europhiles represented by a handful of grandees like Chris Patten, Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine, along with a string of army bigwigs, have though vehemently protested against Hague's Thatcherite attack on the Euro force.
Europe and European integration is a central question for Tory Party strategists. On this issue if no other they feel they are closer to public opinion than the government. Yet it is doubtful whether they will be able to enthuse anyone other than their core voters on this issue, if their poor performances in the ballot box in recent by-elections are anything to go by.
The Tories articulate the views of that section of capital which fears European integration. In the main this is not transnational capital like Rupert Murdoch's News International, but weak, small to medium capital. True the Confederation of British Industry continues to dither over the issue of the single currency. This will be the next battlefield for those who have wrapped themselves in the Union Jack. The continuing poor performance of the euro while sterling continues to ride high is unlikely to win much support for the single currency. However, rightwing elements such as the UK Independence Party failed to put in any kind of performance in last week's by-elections. Such elements have been effectively neutralised by the increasingly vitriolic nature of the Tories' own Euroscepticism.
This jingoism has the backing of a swathe of the bourgeois media, specifically The Sun, the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. Only a handful of newspapers maintain a consistently pro-European position but, as far as big capital, especially banking capital, is concerned, there is no alternative to further integration into Euroland. This shows we have an issue which splits the bourgeoisie, offering the working class of the EU the opportunity to seize the initiative.
Working class unity must be forged, not just in opposition to attacks, but to fight for the maximum democracy across Europe. The situation cries out for a single Communist Party of the EU.