Ahead of a two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels, the transatlantic alliance’s chief cautioned European Union partners not to weaken with their new armed forces pact. Jens Stoltenberg said it would not make sense for “Nato and the EU to start to compete”.

He said there was “no way” the agreement, known as PESCO, could replace the transatlantic alliance in guaranteeing Europe’s safety.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, the European Union’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) has recently come under fire from US officials who fear this defence agreement could divert resources away from Nato and undermine the alliance.

Launched in December as a way for EU member states expand collaboration post-Brexit, the framework aims to spend military funds more efficiently.

But US Ambassador to Nato Kay Bailey Hutchison warned: “We do not want this to be a protectionist vehicle for the EU”. She said there could be “serious consequences” if the bloc shut US defence companies out of cooperation projects.