What place for the UK in Europe's defence labyrinth?

16-03-2020

There is at least one point of agreement in the debates about the future relationship between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU): European security is British security. The UK's departure from the EU will not alter geography and the UK will inevitably share interests and challenges with its continental neighbours. The UK and the EU nations 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 general consensus on the need to nurture this link. This view is reflected in official documents from both sides. Having now left the Union, the UK has become a third country to the EU, albeit a distinctive one, and future cooperation will evolve on that basis. While the EU's common security and defence policy has an established precedent of close cooperation with third countries on missions and operations, the EU's new defence integration initiatives are currently tracing new contours for third-party cooperation. Possibilities for going beyond existing EU rules for third-country participation and more precise parameters for security and defence cooperation between the EU and the UK will likely be decided after the transition period ends. The UK played a foundational role in shaping the EU's security and defence policy. Though long sceptical of EU-level supranational military integration, the UK nevertheless remains deeply interconnected with the remaining EU Member States in this area. As one of Europe's biggest military powers, the UK brings a particularly valuable contribution to the field, from top-notch military strategists and innovative capabilities to a highly performing army with varied expeditionary know-how. While it will continue to bring this contribution through NATO and intergovernmental formats, the UK and the EU both have an interest in close alignment, strategically, politically and militarily. They had, indeed, both expressed a commitment to securing an unparalleled partnership in foreign, security and defence policy. Regardless of anticipated difficulties in negotiating the future relationship, the two parties' security interests are largely shared. As threats pay no heed to a country's memberships, and great power competition is showing no sign of abating, a strongly knitted UK-EU relationship is essential.

There is at least one point of agreement in the debates about the future relationship between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU): European security is British security. The UK's departure from the EU will not alter geography and the UK will inevitably share interests and challenges with its continental neighbours. The UK and the EU nations 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 general consensus on the need to nurture this link. This view is reflected in official documents from both sides. Having now left the Union, the UK has become a third country to the EU, albeit a distinctive one, and future cooperation will evolve on that basis. While the EU's common security and defence policy has an established precedent of close cooperation with third countries on missions and operations, the EU's new defence integration initiatives are currently tracing new contours for third-party cooperation. Possibilities for going beyond existing EU rules for third-country participation and more precise parameters for security and defence cooperation between the EU and the UK will likely be decided after the transition period ends. The UK played a foundational role in shaping the EU's security and defence policy. Though long sceptical of EU-level supranational military integration, the UK nevertheless remains deeply interconnected with the remaining EU Member States in this area. As one of Europe's biggest military powers, the UK brings a particularly valuable contribution to the field, from top-notch military strategists and innovative capabilities to a highly performing army with varied expeditionary know-how. While it will continue to bring this contribution through NATO and intergovernmental formats, the UK and the EU both have an interest in close alignment, strategically, politically and militarily. They had, indeed, both expressed a commitment to securing an unparalleled partnership in foreign, security and defence policy. Regardless of anticipated difficulties in negotiating the future relationship, the two parties' security interests are largely shared. As threats pay no heed to a country's memberships, and great power competition is showing no sign of abating, a strongly knitted UK-EU relationship is essential.