US Vice-President Mike Pence has urged Europe to up its defence spending
Miserly member states have racked up an astonishing £530 billion deficit with the pivotal military alliance which has helped keep the peace on the continent for five decades.
The biggest skinflint of all is Germany, which under Angela Merkel’s parsimonious leadership has built up a healthy budget surplus, in part by reneging on £170bn worth of promised military spending.
And unsurprisingly it is Britain, which has the largest and best equipped army on the continent, which together with the US has shouldered the financial burden of protecting Europe.
The shock revelations will heap pressure on European leaders who have already faced intense criticism from new US President Donald Trump over their miserly defence spending.
The EU is demanding £50bn from Britain but is not paying its own way in NATO
Britain and the US has been bankrolling Europe's defence for decades
They will also raise serious questions over how eurocrats can expect the UK to cough up for a Brexit bill when it has spent years subsidising their defence to the tune of tens of billions.
Fittingly, Britain’s surplus spend in terms of NATO contributions over the last eight years amounts to a whopping £50 billion, which is exactly the same amount the EU is apparently set to charge the country for leaving.
Ukip’s defence spokesman Bill Etheridge MEP told express.co.uk the findings showed the EU were "hypocrites" and said their demands for £50bn from the UK "should be treated with the contempt they deserve”.
He said: “We should take a serious look at our NATO allies and demand they pull their weight.
"The US have made it clear they won't be bankrolling NATO and nor should we. We must increase defence spending in the UK to counter the years of neglect and ensure we have a military which can defend this county.
"But we must not be dragged into fighting EU wars because they do not properly fund defence.”
Just four EU countries meet their obligations to the alliance
We must not be dragged into fighting EU wars because they do not properly fund defence
Ukip defence spokesman Bill Etheridge
According to figures compiled by the pro-Brexit website facts4eu.org just four European Union countries have paid their way in NATO over recent years – Britain, Greece, Estonia and Poland.
In an editorial the website asked: “How do the EU elites expect any sane member of the public in any EU member state to believe that the EU will ever be capable of defending them, without the umbrella of NATO and the contributions of the UK and the USA?”
The statistics were compiled from official NATO papers and are based on a commitment all members of the alliance made to spend at least two per cent of their GDP on defence.
Although the spending pledge is not binding, and therefore the countries do not literally owe NATO any money, it has been described by the US as a "cornerstone" of Western cooperation.
But in the last eight years Germany has devoted on average just 1.19 per cent of its national income to military matters, and Mrs Merkel has admitted it will not reach its obligations any time soon.
11 things you need to know about NATO
Tue, February 14, 2017
NATO – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on 4th April 1949. The organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.
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Every member country, no matter how large or small, has an equal say in discussions and decisions. Photo shows: Signing the North Atlantic Treaty which marked the beginning of NATO, 1949.
Troubled Italy has spent just 1.11 per cent while racking up a deficit of £107bn and France, on which Brussels’ hopes of an EU army will heavily rely, has underfunded NATO to the tune of £20bn.
Speaking to the Munich Security Conference over the weekend, US Vice-President Mike Pence reiterated his commander-in-chief’s message that Europe needed to pull its boots up.
He said: “The promise to share the burden of our defense has not been fulfilled by too many for too long, and it erodes the foundation of our alliance.
“The President of the United States of America expects our allies to keep their word, to fulfill this commitment, and for most, this means, the time has come to do more.
“If you don't yet have a plan, get one. It is time for actions, not words.”
But EU leaders have reacted angrily to the demand, with both Jean-Claude Juncker and Mrs Merkel indicating they will not be pressured into increasing military budgets.