Generation Brexit

You are not alone: why EU-UK relationship in matters of defence must continue

The recent events in Salisbury, where a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned by a Soviet-era nerve-agent, have once again proven that Russia is not playing by international rules (evidence points that the Kremlin was involved). PM Theresa May, and American and several European counterparts, responded by expelling Russian diplomats. Nevertheless, it seems that such an action has had little impact and it certainly will not undermine President Putin's position in Russia. More importantly, the attack proves that the UK has a strong interest in making sure that its cooperation with European states continues in the field of defence and security. The UK, after all, has had a massive historical importance in the development of the Common Security and Defence Policy of the EU and possesses one of the largest armies in Europe. Such a position should not be diminished by Brexit. European and British leaders must take into consideration that in order to fend off external threats, such as Russia, or internal ones, such as terrorism, British contribution to European defences cannot be reduced in the future. 

Martha Eckersley Mar 27, 2018

An interesting point you're making here, and it does seem as though the UK needs its allies to present a united front in times of crisis. Whilst the nerve agent issue is technically that of a diplomatic one at this stage, it could well escalate to being a full security threat. However, despite the intricate links between British defence and EU defence, the UK does not contribute as much as other EU member states, particularly in Common Security and Defence Policy as you mentioned. In fact, it is claimed that with the removal of the UK, the CSDP can actually be more ambitious. Considering this also, who do you think relies more on who at both a diplomatic level and a pragmatic military defence level? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this!

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Sebastian Contreras Aguiar Mar 27, 2018

Hi Martha,

It is true that some have viewed Brexit as an opportunity for the CSDP to become more integrated and for the EU to develop more its military capabilities due to the UK's traditional atlanticist nature. Nevertheless, taking into account the mutual defence clause in the Treaty of Lisbon and the UK's military capabilities, I do consider these as important contributions. Also, with the Berlin Plus agreement, any EU missions have the right to use NATO equipment, including essential infrastructure in the UK and British defence systems. Finally, it is important to remember that with France, the UK has a nuclear arsenal, which can arguably be a deterrent in future conflicts that could affect the EU's security.

On your last question, I think both rely on each other. This not only applies to military might but also intelligence and information-sharing. Diplomatically, the UK knows that it will need European support in many diplomatic resolutions. Although it still keeps a seat at the UN Security Council, I believe the UK is not capable on its own to say resolve humanitarian issues on an international scale.

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Martha Eckersley Mar 27, 2018

Thank you for your quick response! In reference to your point on the Treaty of Lisbon, it is highly likely that this may hinder both the UK and other EU member states when assistance is needed in times of crisis. In addition, considering the UK's military capabilities, I suppose it would depend on the severity of each individual situation as to whether the UK would need military assistance from other EU member states. In reference to your point about the Berlin Plus agreement, as the UK is obviously a member of NATO, would this still not benefit both the EU and the UK as both are still involved? I may be completely misunderstanding this, so I do apologise if I am!
I was hoping you would mention nuclear deterrence as it is that that I personally think hurts the EU's defence and security more than anything else regarding the UK's military and defence capabilities.

Considering humanitarian interventions, would the UK's membership on the UN SC not be sufficient or do you think there needs to be an agreement within Brexit negotiations for this cooperation to continue between the UK and EU specifically? I'm not personally sure on the intelligence aspect of being a member of the EU and how effective that has been in the past, however, I agree it must be extremely useful at least to have the option.

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Shreya Kochhar Mar 30, 2018

I agree that a partnership between the EU and the UK in the CSDP is for both highly beneficial after Brexit. The EU loses an important military power, while it is already dealing with a capability gap. The UK, on the other hand, isolates itself and will have to regain its credibility as a military power in the global world. With the current common threats as terrorism, cooperation is key: the EU and the UK will be more efficient and effective in their crisis management when they work together.

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ScipioTheYoung Mar 31, 2018

The UK will definitely have to exploit its comparative advantage in these matters. I can see it as a way of buying influence from the European CFSP. They can contribute much needed troops and equipment in exchange for a seat at the table.

Thankfully, our Eastern partners are really pulling their weight. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and Romania all contribute 2% (or close) of GDP to defence. Considering Russia spends only 15% more on defence than France, it is reasonable to believe that sustained and collective efforts from all EU nations will be able to effectively counterbalance Russia, with or without the UK. I do agree with you, however, that the UK is such an important partner that it would be expensive to do without.

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luke clark May 16, 2018

The security of the EU and the UK should come first, we apparently live in a society which is the safest its ever been yet the most dangerous. Attacks such as terrorism are rare and mostly stopped by the joint contribution of the UK and the EU officials, however, some do still happen and it has a major effect on the citizens of the UK and we can also take the recent attacks in France. The defence should be put first in the negotiations and this would also mean we stay in close ties with the EU.

Reply 1