Brexit and Defence

Thank you for contacting me about the UK’s future defence relationship with the EU.

The threats we face are becoming more complex and entwined, so the Government’s ability to keep British people safe requires working with our European and global partners. As we leave the EU, the UK is just as committed to Europe’s security as ever, because our security is dependent on Europe’s security.

The Government has confirmed that if the UK and EU’s interests can best be furthered by the UK continuing to contribute to an EU operation or mission, as we do now, then we should both be open to that. However, the UK must be able to play an appropriate role in shaping our collective action in these areas: any partnership must respect both the decision-making autonomy of the EU and the sovereignty of the UK. It is vital that the future relationship between the UK and the EU allows both of us the means and choice to combine efforts to the greatest effect, where it is in both our interests.

I understand that you have concerns about the United Kingdom’s broader defence cooperation with the European Union. The Political Declaration outlines the UK’s intention to participate in the future in the European Defence Agency (EDA) and European Defence Fund. This co-operation would enable the UK to tailor its contributions and participate on a case-by-case basis on issues of shared interest through a framework participation agreement, while preserving the autonomy and freedom of the UK’s domestic defence industries.

The EDA supports the European Council and the member states in their effort to improve defence capabilities in crisis management contexts. A number of third countries, such Norway, Switzerland, Serbia and Ukraine, have administrative agreements to participate in the work of the Agency.

The European Defence Fund will provide funding for collaborative research projects and create incentives for industries in the joint development of defence products and technologies. As stated in the proposal, “decisions on defence investments and defence development programmes remain the prerogative and the responsibility of Member States”.

The European Intervention Initiative (EI2) is a flexible, non-binding forum that provides a framework for increased cooperation between participating NATO and non-NATO European states. It is designed to improve information-sharing and planning to ensure that work is not duplicated when addressing common threats. I should stress that the EI2 does not affect the independence of the UK Armed Forces in any way and is not a standing force.

Working together on developing the capabilities – in defence and cyber – to meet future threats is also in our interests. It is essential that the UK’s future relationship with the EU allows the British defence industry to fully participate in European capability development. This will help keep our industry strong and our citizens safe.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Craig Whittaker MP

5th November 2019