Generation Brexit

Strengthening the relationship with regard to security issues

With the Munich Security Conference taking place right now, I believe that this is just the right time to talk about the possibilities of a future cooperation between the UK and the EU in the area of security. Since there are different aspects to it, I will focus only on military security and international security policies, as well as on inner, and human security. Of course, there could be a whole paper written on each of them separately. So, this post should really just give an overview.


First of all, there is military security. Obviously, the UK prefers to entrust its defence to NATO and enjoys a close relationship with the US (cf. Keukeleire, Delreux 2014). However, the EU is known for its soft power approach. Also, it has unique instruments such as political dialogue and mediation, sanctions or conditionality. This distinguishes the EU from NATO, the UN or any single country. Therefore, a relationship with the EU could provide the UK with an additional toolbox for conflict prevention and crisis management.


The importance of the EU for inner security has been recognized by the UK. Following the terrorist attack in 2005, the UK saw a need for better intelligence sharing within the EU. Thus, it used its presidency of the EU for creating the counter-terrorism strategy (cf. Coolsaet 2010). Currently, the EU is really focusing on (cyber) security (cf. Cybersecurity and Digital Privacy (Unit H.1) 2013/2017) and preventing terrorism (also low tech ones such as vehicle ramming’s). Since intelligence sharing and coordinated police efforts across Europe are indispensable for preventing terrorism and chasing suspects, I argue that the UK should advance its relationship with the EU in this field.


Also, in human security a closer cooperation between the UK and the EU seems viable. Recently, Frederica Mogherini stressed that PESCO is critical for peace and development (EEAS 2017/12/12). Thus, it seems as if CSDP may include more stabilizing missions in the future. Due to the pooling of resources and division of costs, these missions are usually cheaper than those of a single country (as it is the same with UN missions compared to one executed by the US alone). Also, CSDP (as CFSP) can draw on the legitimization the EU provides by its norms stated in the TEU, and as a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Considering that just as France in Mali, the UK, too, is interested in guaranteeing human security in its former colonies, it seems sensible to opt for the most efficient approach which would be engaging in CSDP missions.


In conclusion, therefore, I argue that the EU could provide a unique toolbox to the UK with regard to crisis management. Also, engaging with the EU in intelligence sharing and coordinated police efforts is crucial for UK’s inner security. Last, but not least, participating in CSDP missions could be the most efficient way for the UK to guarantee human security in countries of interest. Of course, such a relationship would also be advantageous to the EU which is in need of functioning military equipment, the UK's intelligence and every penny it can get for its military operations.

Olivia Fitzpatrick 9 months ago

What consequences will brexit have military security in the UK ?

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Martina Svibic 9 months ago

Concerning military security, I think that leaving the EU doesn’t open up the UK to immanent threats, as the UK still is a NATO member, a nuclear power and a strong ally of the US. Also, it has a good geographical position. However, the UK’s instruments in reacting to international security issues, such as Syria or Mali, will be limited, as it will lack the incentive needed to persuade the EU to use its distinguished soft power instruments. Acting on these issues in an international framework, such as the UN, is much more complicated due to the diverse interests of states. Also, hard power, as NATO could provide, wouldn't compose a holistic approach. In conclusion, it may become much more difficult for the UK to holistically counter international security threats, due to the lack of soft power tools.

However, I believe the biggest concern is the fight against terrorism. At the same time, this field should be the easiest to engage in a common effort, as such already exists with the US, for instance, under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.

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Tara Hinds 9 months ago

Do you think the UK will find it harder to make allies with EU countries in the future if needed?

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Martina Svibic 9 months ago

That’s a very interesting question. Answering spontaneously, I would say yes, as even the US finds it difficult to win the EU or any one member state as an ally (as seen especially with the Iraq war). It is even difficult for a member state to launch a CSDP mission - that’s why France had to act on its own when the crisis in Mali emerged. Also, in both cases, we are talking about nuclear powers which contribute to a great extend to EU missions abroad (the US through NATO which then supports the EU; and France directly). Compared to these two countries, the UK won’t have any additional bargaining chip once it leaves the EU. Before that, the UK could at least trade not blocking further integration steps in one area for support from a member state in another. In conclusion, the UK may lose considerable leverage over EU member states as well as over the EU itself due to Brexit.

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