The Strategist

The UK has to find a new place in the European security system

03/07/2018 - 11:20

On Thursday, the House of Lords of the British Parliament will hold hearings about the future participation of the United Kingdom in operations conducted under the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) of the European Union. The British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her desire to continue the defense partnership with the EU after Brexit. Although third countries are not formally prohibited to cooperate with CSDP, it will not be easy for London to participate in the development of EU defense projects.

qasdan_calvados0 via pixabay
qasdan_calvados0 via pixabay
Former adviser to the Prime Minister for National Security, Lord Peter Ricketts, and former head of the European External Relations Service (EEAS) Pierre Vimont will take part In the planned discussion of the prospects for defense cooperation between the UK and the EU. A detailed report describing possible options for London's participation in CSDP operations after Brexit will be presented later in March.

Despite the forthcoming withdrawal from the EU, Britain tops the list of the EU countries in terms of military spending and the volume of arms exports. In addition, the kingdom supports 15 missions of the CSDP and heads one of them - Operation Atalanta, aimed at combating piracy off the coast of Somalia. Considering this, Prime Minister Theresa May declared her readiness not only to continue to partner with the defense institutions of the EU after Brexit, but also to participate in them.

London is already counting on a new agreement on security and foreign policy by 2019. However, the final format of such arrangements remains unclear. On the one hand, third countries are allowed to support European defense projects, providing they supply contingent and weapons. On the other hand, Britain is going to lose representation in the structures of the EU, where a discussion and determination of the agenda of foreign and defense policy takes place. This is the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), which includes ministers of the member countries of the association, and the Policy and Security Committee (PSC), where the ambassadors meet.

London is not going to allocate resources to the European Union without any opportunity to influence the decision making process. "If we decide to work together, the United Kingdom should participate in shaping the agenda in these areas (foreign policy and security)," warned Theresa May. She proposed an unprecedented defense agreement between London and Brussels that goes beyond the existing EU agreements with third countries.

However, Brussels is not in a hurry to make concessions to the United Kingdom. According to Michel Barnier, the European Chief Negotiator for the United Kingdom Exiting the European Union, "the United Kingdom will no longer be able to participate in defense decisions and in developing mechanisms for our security" after march 2019. He says that after Brexit, the British will also lose the opportunity to lead the CSDP operations.

Despite serious disagreements between London and Brussels, the search for a compromise does not stop. For example, the House of Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs was asked to give Britain a special status as a "permanent observer" under the PSC, which should allow the kingdom to participate in discussions on the EU defense strategy and initiate discussion of certain issues. Another proposal of the committee is to hold a meeting of a representative of London every six months with the head of European diplomacy to discuss the general course of foreign policy and security.