And journalist Iain Dale has pointedly reminded former deputy Prime Minister and arch-Remainer Nick Clegg of his previous dismissal of the idea, which he branded a “dangerous fantasy”. However, the plan could yet be scuppered by the reluctance of EU member states to supply the requisite troops.
Speaking yesterday, Portugal’s defence minister Joao Cravinho said he hoped the mission would be approved in June.
Sixty Portuguese soldiers sent to Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, in May are running a four-month programme training eleven Mozambican troops to counter the insurgency, share intelligence and use drones to track militants’ movements.
The EU’s mission will expand Portugal’s work to carry out training on a larger scale, Cravinho said, adding that Portugal was prepared to provide 50 percent of the manpower.
Countries unable to send troops may provide other forms of aid such as satellite communication, Mr Cravinho said.
Joseph Borrell, who as High Representative is the bloc’s foreign policy supremo, has previously said 200-300 personnel could be sent by the end of the year.
Mozambique has been grappling with an insurgency in its northernmost province of Cabo Delgado since 2017 and violence has grown significantly in the past year.
Mr Cravinho added: “First the mission must be formally approved, and then the countries who will participate will have the opportunity to declare what they have said privately.”
Reacting on Twitter, Mr Dale posted: “Nick Clegg: ‘An EU Army is a dangerous fantasy. It will not happen.’
“I’ll just leave that there for you to ponder when Remain say they never misled us.”
Mr Clegg made his famous remark in 2015 during an interview on LBC in response to a suggestion by then-European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who suggested a combined European force would act as a bulwark against Russia.
The Liberal Democrat leader said: “It’s not going to happen. It doesn’t matter whether Nigel Farage says it might happen or Jean-Claude Juncker says it might. He can’t create a European army.”
French President Emmanuel Macron is among those who favours the idea of an EU-wide military force, having claimed in 2018 the continent could not be adequately protected without a “true European army”.
Former Brexit Party leader Mr Farage has for many years suggested a European army was a very real prospect, and himself clashed with Mr Clegg during a televised debate in 2014.
In 2019 he tweeted: “EU now aiming for an army of 60,000 and incoming foreign policy boss Josep Borrell says ‘the EU has to learn to use the language of power’.
“When will Remainers stop lying about the intentions of this dangerous, undemocratic state?”
Earlier this year, Ben Habib, also a former Brexit Party MEP, told Express.co.uk: “When you go back to 2015 and remember the debate that Nick Clegg had with Nigel Farage, when Nigel said they were aiming to have a standing army and Nick said something like ‘don’t talk garbage, that’s just scaremongering’, they were busy planning it at the same time.
“Now there is no way that the deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom did not know what was going on in the Commission.”