On Wednesday, the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, gave an insane speech threatening Britain with exclusion from European security programs and capabilities.
I say insane, because Britain provides far more to the security of the E.U. than the E.U. provides to British security.
Barnier began by presenting Britain's June 2016 choice to leave the E.U. as a betrayal of European security. "It was a decision," Barnier lamented, "that came after a series of attacks on European soil, committed by young people who grew up in Europe, in our countries... Never had the need to be together, to protect ourselves together, to act together been so strong, so manifest. Rather than stay shoulder to shoulder with the Union, the British chose to be on their own again."
Translation: the British betrayed us.
Incidentally, there's a special stupidity to Barnier's "chose to be on their own again" line. Consider that 1940 was the last time Britons were "on their own," after the French military imploded in face of a Nazi invasion. It was Britain and America, of course, who fought and died to liberate Barnier's France.
Next, Barnier offered a hint of optimism. The E.U. is now "responding to the demands from three quarters of our compatriots who want Europe to play a bigger role in security issues ... we are witnessing an unprecedented effort to establish a Defense and Security Union."
It might sound good, but Barnier is referencing the E.U.'s joke of an effort to replace national defense forces with a common E.U. military.
Still, this was only the warm-up act. Barnier soon got to the meat of his speech.
Brexit, he clarified, means that the E.U. will have to restrict British defense cooperation with the rest of Europe. Barnier specifically outlined plans to deny British military commanders the chance to lead European battlegroups and to join important defense planning meetings.
Then came Barnier's most insane moment: he pledged that "The UK will for example continue to play a part in NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia and Poland." And the E.U. overlord noted that, "Theresa May has assured the [E.U.] Member States several times that the UK is committed unconditionally to maintaining European security. I welcome this commitment and thank Theresa May for making it. History teaches us that there must be no horse-trading over the security of Europeans - that is an absolute necessity."
Don't be surprised if Theresa May now reconsiders her "commitment." After all, Barnier's entire speech threatened British security!
Unfortunately, the E.U. guru's insanity wasn't done. Barnier declared that Britain had never done its fair share for European security. "In the past, it is true to say that the United Kingdom has not been the spearhead of European defense." The British contribution to E.U.-led military operations is limited, he continued, "[accounting for] barely 5% of the personnel deployed."
Has Barnier forgotten about the U.K. contribution to NATO?
When NATO is considered, Britain's commitment to European security far exceeds that of France, Germany, and all other E.U. states except for Greece, Poland, and the Baltic states. Moreover, Britain doesn't just forward deploy its combat forces in a deterrent posture against Russian invasion of Western Europe (note that Germany and France are closer to Russia than Britain), it spends 2 percent of GDP on defense. In contrast, Germany spends just 1.3 of GDP on defense and France spends only 1.7 percent (although it will spend 1.8 percent next year).
The difference in spending means Britain could surge combat forces alongside U.S. and Polish military personnel in the event of a Russian invasion. Beyond their air forces, French and Germans would require up to a week to get any effective combat forces into the fight.
In short, where Britain's commitment to European security is born out by spending, posture and combat potential, the E.U.'s commitment consists of excuses, bureaucratic structures, and words.
Nevertheless, Britain has an ace card up its sleeve with which to respond to Barnier's lunacy. Indeed, Barnier recognized as much when he called for continuing U.K.-E.U. "exchanges between our intelligence services to support our external action; exchanges on cyber attacks and managing, preventing and responding collectively to such attacks."
It's the ace card, because Barnier knows that the E.U. needs British intelligence cooperation in order to protect its citizens. He knows, for example, that Britain's cyber and signals intelligence service, GCHQ, is far more capable than its European counterparts. He also knows that because of the U.K.-U.S. special relationship, GCHQ has an almost symbiotic relationship with the U.S. National Security Agency.
And he knows that since 2014, these capabilities have saved thousands of European lives from groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In turn, Theresa May should respond to Barnier with a simple clarification: "If you attempt to hold British security interests up for horse trading, then you better believe we'll hold up your counter-terrorism interests for horse trading."
While it would be an aggressive message to send at a tense time in the Brexit negotiations, it's also one that Barnier and the E.U. cannot sidestep. They will blink because the consequences of not blinking are catastrophic.
Some will say such a British response is immoral, but I say too bad.
Britain has a responsibility to secure its citizens: if Barnier and the E.U. want to throw curveballs, they should expect the heater.