Members' Research Service By / May 3, 2019

What role in European defence for a post-Brexit United Kingdom?

Despite the recent turmoil in Britain’s defence establishment, it is in both the European Union and the United Kingdom’s interest to continue to have a deeply interlinked defence partnership.

© donfiore / Fotolia

Written by Tania Latici,

brexit blue european union EU flag on broken wall and half great britain flag, vote for united kingdom exit concept
© donfiore / Fotolia

Despite the recent turmoil in Britain’s defence establishment, it is in both the European Union and the United Kingdom’s interest to continue to have a deeply interlinked defence partnership.

The 2018 British National Security Capability Review states ‘Europe’s security is our security’. The expected departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union will not alter geography, and the UK will remain a European country. The UK and the countries of the EU share the same strategic environment and, by default, the same threats to their peace and security. Historically, pragmatically and geographically, they remain deeply linked from a security and defence perspective, and there is political consensus on the need to nurture this linkage. Official documents from the British government also confirm this: the UK is exiting the EU, not Europe.

In legal terms, after leaving the EU, the UK will become a third country to the EU and cooperation will continue on that basis. While the EU’s common security and defence policy has an established precedent in cooperating closely with third countries on missions and operations, albeit without providing them with decision-making roles, the EU’s new defence integration initiatives are currently exploring third party cooperation. As the UK played a founding role in developing the EU’s security and defence policy, it is naturally deeply interconnected with the other EU Member States in this area. As one of the EU’s biggest military powers, the UK brings a particularly valuable contribution and know-how to the field.

Both parties have made commitments to ensure as close as possible a partnership in foreign policy, security and defence matters. Can cooperation in the area of security and defence result in a positive post-Brexit tale?

Read the complete Briefing: ‘What role in European defence for a post-Brexit United Kingdom?‘ on the European Parliament Think Tank website.

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  • An interesting question…Well, The UK has explained that they di not regard themselves as European despite of shared culture, history and geography.

    In fact, I `ve contacted friends & colleagues in UK and asked them why they do not regard themselves as Europeans because I was shocked about the distancing of UK…The reaction on the idea of an EU defense project was even more shocking and very emotional, frankly speaking.
    Bottomline: If there are any European Forces in Future then it can be realized only under British leadership…because Uk is more experienced and won WWII.
    My contacts in UK showed a very German-hostile attitude (Nazis….etc) at this occasion.

    The idea of an EU coordinated defense initiative – without any participation of UK – let my British colleagues almost panicking…interesting.

    Even the geography reasoning didnt count because UK is located at the fringe and is an island that can easily separate itself from the continent. My impression (confirmed by my British friends) is that they do not want to be European. They want to have a special / superior role. They want to stay flexible in order to respond to international politics opportunistically to always ensure the best deal for UK.
    No, we definitely don
    t possess the same values, targets and interests.

    Given this attitude, it is problem to provide 3rd countries that regard the EU just as a tool to foster their national interests like UK but also USA.
    These 3rd countries are no loyal, trustworthy partners at all and therefore shouldn`t play a role in the EU in general and in particular not in security critical and confidential areas of expertise.
    Not to forget the risk that UK will continue to trade EU information internationally.

    Besides the EU forces shouldnt be depend on resources or know how from 3rd countries.
    Beyond friendly invitations to field exercises from time to time there shouldn
    t be any participation of 3rd countries in my view.

    Finally, an EU 27 exclusive defense “club” might be suitable to rise the value of EU membership like the exclusive access to the single market. The EU shouldnt give away its cherries so easily.
    If you exit, you have to be excluded. No re-entry through the backdoor...that
    s also cherry picking again.

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