VfB are a useful source of accessible information both on the EU's push for its own armed forces and for the UK's apparent willingness to become fully enmeshed in these plans "despite Brexit".
Whilst their published documents are perhaps not yet as up-to-date as we might like, it has to be acknowledged that the complexities of EU policy in-the-making are notoriously complex and difficult to assess as an operational whole.
In March 2018 VfB published their take on the likely effect of the Draft Exit Agreement on Defence as agreed by David Davis and Michel Barnier. Some of us might believe that the fact that agreement was reached so amicably tells us all we need to know, but VfB's analysis is recommended reading.
See also Dr Lee Rotherham's more recent presentation to the CIB.
VfB have also published a useful "Action Plan Factsheet" (albeit a year old now) which covers the basics on the financial planning assumptions that the EU is working towards. Notable is the insistence that "duplication" (ie: national procurement from national suppliers) should be overtaken by using the EDA ( European Defence Fund) to steer EU defence spending towards chosen defence suppliers working in cooperation with each other on EU defence projects. Whilst this might bring down costs by removing "duplication" it would also seriously reduce competition in the defence market, replacing competition based on price functionality delivery etc for competition for the ear of the relevant EU defence procurement sub-committee.
Not seen this in the UK press?
The Eurocorps website shows what is really going on with the "EU Army", and how it will provide the EU contribution to the NATO Alliance. No mention of UK forces ... yet. A key point is that this is not a collection of units from individual countries. The Eurocorps units of mixed nationalities will owe their allegiance not to their own country but to the EU.
The House of Commons Library houses a research briefing (January 2018) entitled "European Defence: where is it heading?". It seems entirely vague about the UK's involvement - we seem unable to move beyond our support for EU PESCO and related initiatives and to address the role of our armed forces post Brexit. It seems to me that the allegiance of our armed forces is critical to this debate - how may their allegiance to our Monarchy be reconciled with taking their orders from the EU, which will unarguably become a foreign power after we leave?
In this context Mrs May's promise of unconditional support for EU security and cooperation sits extremely uneasily with ongoing developments and it may not be surprising that no announcements about our defence relationship with the EU are to hand at present.
This debate needs to be held in public, meanwhile the Franco British Council is hosting defence talks with France (who as members are not independent of the EU) behind closed doors.
More information here.
PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) is the EU initiative to create EU armed forces, drawn from the nation states but commanded directly by a group of EU committees.
Our Tory Government has been quietly working with the EU on this project ever since the EU referendum and apparently regardless of the resulting vote to leave (no, I haven't seen this reported by the BBC either).
For the history of this project, see the UKColumn web-site here.
For an up-date as at 13th Nov 2017 watch this revealing UKC News report.
As at 16th November the UK has after all NOT yet actually signed up to the whole PESCO nine yards but read this fascinating UKC report on the UK's involvement in EU defence initiatives over the past year - the door remains open for the government to sign up to PESCO at any time in the future (or even simply to participate in reality without actually applying ink to paper).
But surely on a matter as vital to the nation as defence, Parliament will need to be consulted before we could possible consider signing up for PESCO...?
We should note that the Government is technically within its rights to sign new treaties with the EU under the Royal Prerogative without getting Parliamentary approval . . . and it is noteworthy that according to Veterans for Britain our MPs may not have been particularly diligent in holding the Government to account on defence matters (but see the section on the recent Defence Select Committee session below).
In any event it is perfectly possible for the UK government to commit what remains of our forces to the EU command structure under the guise of supporting our NATO partners, since NATO and the "EU army" are seemingly moving closer together. PESCO is simply a signature on a bit of paper that would merely provide formal confirmation of the arrangement.
The fact that PESCO Is even being considered (let alone virtually fully supported) at exactly the time when we are supposed to be leaving the EU tells us all we need to know about the "Brexit" towards which Mrs May is guiding us.
The session on 14th November 2017 at which the committee questioned witnesses General Sir Richard Barrons (rtd), Admiral SIr George Zambellas (rtd) and Air Marshal Sir Baz North (rtd), to throw light upon the National Security Capabilities Review into the state of our armed forces.
It's quite a long session, notable for the outspoken views expressed by the witnesses. If you have an interest in defence, this is essential viewing; follow this link.
The web-site German-Foreign-Policy.com (German News Information Services GmbH) reports on the background to PESCO here.
It gives a run-down on Germany's initial involvement, some of the historical competition between Berlin and Paris, and finally the last paragraph headed "Empire Unification through War" which needs to be read for it's insight into how some of the leading people involved see this project (no I have not made this up).