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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Lobby Your MP: EU Control Over UK Defence

The UK has continued to enter defence agreements with the European Union following the 2016 referendum, ensuring that the UK will remain closely bound to the EU. The EU, in fact, has been pursuing the establishment of an 'EU Defence Union' to include the UK even after Britain leaves the EU. Send an email to your MP to call for a full Brexit for defence and question the many problematic agreements and concessions which have been made thus far, detailed here.

Firstly, the proposed Deep and Special Partnership would see the UK staying in the EU`s new defence architecture and would commit the UK to an even wider set of structures governing joint decision-making over its Armed Forces and defence industry. This Deep and Special Partnership includes as its two main parts the European Defence Fund (EDF) and European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), which require the UK to subscribe to the EU's defence policy (CSDP), EU Defence Directives and the European Defence Agency (via an Enhanced Association agreement).That participation would require an on-going financial contribution from the UK.

Since the Brexit vote in June 2016, the UK has agreed to all parts of the EU's new defence architecture, including EDF and EDIDP. The UK, therefore, is already in most of the EU's 'defence union' including the parts alluded to in the proposed Deep and Special Partnership. Only PESCO is not agreed by the UK, although a junior defence minister has openly voiced a preference to be involved.And, due to one of the quirks of the EU, it is foreign ministries rather than defence ministries which decide participation in EU defence policy. As such, it was the Foreign Office via their Brussels office which negotiated UK entry into the EU's defence architecture.

The UK ministers' stated reason for participation in the EU defence agreements since the Brexit vote was to attempt to 'influence' those agreements in two ways: to prevent duplication with NATO and to prevent protectionist defence industrial policy. Each objective has failed. The EU has declared 'defence decision-making autonomy from NATO', has created duplicating mutual defence agreements and response structures, and has created duplicating bodies for military operational oversight. And the EDF and EDIDP have deeply protectionist elements, including: the use of EU, rather than NATO standards; projects are restricted to EU-compliant territories; and capability development projects are restricted to countries contributing finance, participating in the European Defence Agency and applying the EU Defence Procurement Directive.

Further, ministers initially told MPs that the UK was entering the discussion over EU Defence to avoid 'playing dog in a manger' and avoid holding up the remaining 27 while the UK was on its way out. This reasoning has changed to policy of continued participation in the Government's September 12 2017 Partnership Paper on Foreign Policy, Defence and Development.

The UK is already participating in a trial of the European Defence Fund, which is locking UK companies into funding which depends on a future UK membership of the new EU defence arrangements. The EU Commission conducted a charm offensive sine the Brexit vote to attract UK defence industry into the trial of the European Defence Fund, and UK companies have already been brought into this trial, acting as a disincentive for the UK to leave the EU defence policy architecture. Additionally, the UK's MOD, as well as government agencies DSTL and DSO have actually been involved in attracting UK companies into this trial which require the UK to remain in deep continuing policy commitments to the EU.

The UK is also participating in a trial of the EU's Coordinated Annual Review of Defence – a mechanism that gives the EU the right to dictate defence spending using financial incentives. These incentives are from member states' own contributions to the EU.

Any UK commitment to the European Defence Fund makes it more difficult for the UK to withdraw from the European Investment Bank, the EU's bank supporting its own policy. The fund takes part of its finance from loans the EIB is putting together.

UK agreement to the militarization of EU space projects makes it more difficult for the EU to strike an equal and bilateral future deal on joint ESA project. These projects, Copernicus and Galileo, rely heavily on UK expertise. UK agreement to the militarization of EU space projects came within the EU's Security and Defence Implementation Plan, approved at EU Council including by UK ministers.

Ministers continue to talk about the UK being "involved" in EU defence policy with the same wording as seen before the referendum, as if nothing has changed? This is despite the EU growing the scope of its defence policy beyond all recognition. Ministers have described a `formal framework for participation` in EU defence policy after Brexit. The major problem is that any institutional framework between the UK and EU defence policy would bring policy commitments for the UK which are already spelled out by the EU and require the UK to remain in EU defence rules, policies and structures and pay a financial contribution. This is completely unnecessary as the UK can work with its European partners through NATO. So why carry on this `participation/involvement` paradigm with the EU, knowing that it would make the UK subject to EU decision-making.

In terms of leverage, the UK conducts 40% of the defence research that takes place in the EU by value. This means that the UK should have been well-placed to negotiate a bilateral arrangement, rather than the one which is currently being pursued which is subject to EU authority.

The UK also agreed to the creation of a military command centre called the Military Planning and Conduct Capability which, in a single decision, gives the EU Council access to military expertise. This unit would be crucial to the conduct of a military 'crisis response' led by the EU Council and its Political and Security Committee. This EU capability is laid out in the Lisbon Treaty.

The UK government previously gave a commitment that any new powers given to the EU would be subject to a referendum. The new defence competency adopted by the EU in 2017 has never been suggested as a referendum topic, and in fact it has never even been subject to a Parliamentary vote.

And significantly, MPs only received scant information about the UK's entry into these agreements, and only several weeks after the agreements were negotiations concluded. There has never been a debate (up to March 2018) about the wider policy commitments demanded by the Deep and Special Partnership or even whether the UK should pursue any such commitments to the EU's defence architectures.

And finally, German academics have already given a name to the wider policy commitments the UK would need to maintain in the Deep and Special Partnership – they call it a Framework Participation Agreement, in common with similar EU agreements with 3rd countries in other policy topics. This agreement would need to reflect what the EU demands from non-EU participants, which so far only includes Norway: apply CSDP, apply EU Defence Procurement Directives, 'Enhanced Association' status with the European Defence Agency, financial contribution.Norway's adherence to CSDP also see it participate in the EU Battlegroups which are subject to EU Council control. The UK Government has kept open the idea of making UK forces subject to EU Council control in the EU Battlegroups, even after exit.

Given all of this, we must take action to ensure that the UK's defence and security is independent of the European Union.

Send an email using the link below to your MP to lobby for this.

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