Cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Defence Committee and the Committee on Exiting the European Union and the Foreign Affairs Comittee
(a) Implementation Plan on Security and Defence, proposed by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Head of the European Defence Agency; (b) 2017 European Defence Agency General Budget
Foreign and Commonwealth Office AND Ministry of Defence
(a) (38262), 14392/16, —; (b) (38324), —, —
9.1EU Ministers, meeting in the Foreign Affairs Council, affirmed in November 2016 that:
“The Council is committed to strengthening the Union’s ability to act as a security provider and to enhance the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) as an essential part of the Union’s external action. This will enhance its global strategic role and its capacity to act autonomously when and where necessary and with partners wherever possible. The Council underlines the need to discuss and decide on security and defence issues on a regular basis. It recalls the European Council’s commitment to keep Security and Defence regularly on its agenda.”
9.2In response to the proposals set out by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs (Francesca Mogherini) in her Security and Defence Implementation Plan (SDIP), Ministers went on to agree her proposed level of ambition for action in these areas. The priorities were based around four themes:
9.3In his Explanatory Memorandum of 22 November 2016, the Minister for Europe and the Americas (Sir Alan Duncan) told us that the Government supported much of the content of the SDIP. He noted that there are also elements which will not directly affect the UK after it has left the EU, such as the EU Battlegroup and the policy on common funding. The Minister observes support from other Member States for UK engagement in EU defence policy post–Brexit and consequent recognition of the need to avoid initiatives that will hamper such future cooperation.
9.4Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers also agreed an increase to the budget of the European Defence Agency (EDA). Details of this are set out in document (b). The Minister of State (Earl Howe) reports that the UK agreed to an increase in the EDA’s budget in line with inflation. EDA budget increases have not been supported by the UK since 2010.
9.5In a letter of 15 November, the Secretary of State for Defence (Sir Michael Fallon) explained the Government’s changed stance on EDA budget increases:
“In the new context of the UK’s exit from the EU I judged that we should review this stance. By proposing a more pragmatic approach, increasing our contribution in line with inflation, we reinforced the Government’s stated position of engaging constructively, while highlighting the need to avoid unnecessary duplication with NATO. In addition it underlined our policy that seeks to ensure EU proposals neither encroach on Member States’ ownership of Defence capabilities, nor disadvantage the UK Defence industry once we have left the EU.”
9.6We take note of the letter from the Secretary of State for Defence dated 15 November and the letter from the Minister for Europe and the Americas dated 22 November.
9.7We clear both documents from scrutiny but we judge them of sufficient political importance to report them to the House. Both touch on considerations about the future of EU defence cooperation and the UK’s engagement in EU security and defence policy after it has withdrawn from the EU. We have already proposed that foreign and security policy be the subject of one of the general Brexit debates being scheduled by the Government. That debate will be a good opportunity to discuss the issues arising from these documents.
9.8We draw the documents to the attention of the Committees on Defence, the Committee for Exiting the European Union and Foreign Affairs Committee.
(a) Implementation Plan on Security and Defence, proposed by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Head of the European Defence Agency: (38262), ; (b) 2017 European Defence Agency General Budget: (38324), —.
9.9The SDIP followed presentation of the European Global Strategy (EGS) to the June 2016 European Council. The EGS provided the EU with a high-level strategic vision over the medium term on foreign and security policy. The High Representative, the Commission, and the Council were invited to proceed with more detailed work on several strands including defence and security.
9.10The SDIP includes 13 proposed actions, which are designed to boost capability and cooperation. These proposed actions were largely supported by the Council in its Conclusions, while emphasising the primacy of Member State competence in defence matters.
9.11The Minister sets out the Government’s position in the following terms:
“The UK has engaged constructively as proposals have developed. We have highlighted in particular the need to avoid unnecessary duplication with NATO; for Member States to retain ownership of capabilities; and to retain an open and competitive European defence industry. As many Member States have expressed an interest in the UK continuing to play a role in Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) after we leave the EU, we have invited other Member States not to bring forward initiatives that could make such cooperation harder. This approach has been generally well received.
“We can strongly support much of the SDIP. For example, it includes welcome language on strengthening EU/NATO cooperation, information sharing and improving the civilian dimension of CSDP. This is all consistent with the UK’s long-term approach of focusing on practicable improvements to CSDP.
“There are elements of the implementation plan which will not directly affect the UK after we leave the EU, such as the EU Battlegroup and the policy on common funding. We will remain vigilant that these remain within our core principles above, but we have sought not to expend political capital on these issues.”
9.12The Minister draws attention to the proposal in the SDIP that Member States review:
“the structures and capabilities available for the planning and conduct of CSDP missions and operations, in view of enhancing civ/mil synergies, ensuring more seamless planning and conduct, and improving on current shortcomings. As a short term objective, address the gap at the strategic-level for the conduct of non-executive military CSDP missions (EUTM type) from within EEAS structures.”
9.13He explains that the UK position on the SDIP proposal is that:
“any such restructuring must enhance civilian–military synergies and be limited to improving the planning and conduct of non-executive missions. It should not extend to executive missions or operations or lead to military command from Brussels. We are content that the proposal as cast in the SDIP falls within these parameters, and will seek to ensure that the same objectives are met in Council Conclusions.”
9.14The Minister concludes:
“While we remain a member of the EU, we will continue to engage with the SDIP, including by steering it in a direction that would not make it more difficult for us to participate in future, if that would be mutually advantageous. All EU Member States agree on the importance of the UK’s ongoing contribution to European security and defence. The UK will continue to be a major player, as a leading member of NATO and as a leading provider of security in Europe. We will also continue to argue that Member States should invest more in defence, which should strengthen both the EU and NATO, and support wider European security.”
9.15We note that in a separate letter; also dated 22 November, the Minister confirmed that the SDIP was welcomed by Council Conclusions on 14 November and that it was marked LIMITÉ prior to this date.
9.16The EDA was established in 2004 in order to improve European Defence capabilities in the field of crisis management and to develop the Common Security and Defence Policy. There are 27 participating Member States (Denmark does not participate).
9.17The Secretary of State for Defence outlined the UK’s past stance on the EDA in the following terms:
“The UK has consistently sought to keep the EDA focussed on delivery of existing commitments, rather than take on new ones, and has blocked—as the lone voice—all requests for an EDA budget increase since 2010, which has resulted in a real terms reduction due to the effects of inflation.”
9.18Confirming the information provided by the Secretary of State in his earlier letter, the Minister set out the Government’s position in the following terms:
“On 8 November, at the EDA Preparatory Committee, Member States discussed High Representative Mogherini’s budget proposal but were unable to reach agreement. The EDA-proposed 6.45% increase to the 2016 Budget corresponded to a total budget of €32.5 million (£29.31 million). The 2016 budget proposal was supported by all other Member States, but the UK considered it excessive.
“At the Ministerial Steering Board on 15 November the UK sought to limit the EDA budget, and, once again, did not agree to the 6.45% increase that the EDA requested; we were the only Member State to do so. The UK put forward a counter proposal of an increase to the EDA budget in line with inflation (1.67%), and this was agreed by all Member States. The additional funding will be used exclusively for the EDA’s operational budget not salaries and infrastructure, for which expenditure has been frozen again.
“The UK has blocked—as the lone voice—all requests for an EDA budget increase since 2010, which has resulted in a real term reduction due to the effects of inflation. In the new context of the UK’s exit from the EU it was judged that this stance should be reviewed. By proposing a more pragmatic approach, increasing our contribution in line with inflation, the UK reinforced the Government’s stated position of engaging constructively and recognised the EDA had made some progress on UK demands for reform and better performance. In addition it also highlighted the need to avoid unnecessary duplication with NATO and underlined our policy that seeks to ensure EU proposals neither encroach on Member States’ ownership of Defence capabilities, nor disadvantage the UK Defence industry once we have left the EU.
“The EDA will have a central role as the EU implements its European Global Strategy. It is likely to have a specific role in developing the capability proposals in the Security and Defence Implementation Plan—and implementing the Preparatory Action on EU-funded Defence research, which is an area of potential high value to UK industry. It is therefore important that the UK works with the EDA and other Member States, and avoids creating a more difficult negotiating environment in the wider discussions over our exit once Article 50 is triggered.”
9.19On the financing of the increase, the Minister says:
“Member State contributions are based on GNI and the UK’s allotted share of the requested increase would have required c.£254,000 pa more than the current UK contribution of £3.9 million pa. The Zero Real Growth (inflation only) increase equates to approximately £69,000 more pa for the UK. The 2017 budget will uplift to €31 million (£27.96 million), with the Functional Budget staying at €24.4 million (£22 million) and the Operational Budget increasing to €6.6 million (£5.96 million) from €6.1 million (£5.5 million).
“A total block on the EDA budget would disproportionally impact our ability to engage on the development of new industry and capability proposals. The small investment in the EDA, which has realised savings to the UK in the delivery of its core objectives, and will now be an important route for access to potentially significant amounts of EU resources for research and UK Defence industry, is a positive step in support of our wider national objectives.”
45 This allows a group of Member States to pursue greater defence cooperation than the level agreed for the EU as whole. It is provided for and defined in Articles 42(6), 46, TEU and Protocol 10, TEU.
46 Council conclusions on implementing the EU Global Strategy in the area of Security and Defence, (14 November 2016).
47 EU Military Training Mission.
48 European External Action Service.
16 December 2016