The Government’s proposals for a future security partnership with the European Union Contents

3The proposed shape of the Government’s engagement post-Brexit

The future partnership paper

15.On 12 September 2017 the UK Government published ‘Foreign policy, defence and development: a future partnership paper’, a position paper on the future UK-EU partnership on foreign policy, defence and development. The paper stated that:

The UK would like to offer a future relationship that is deeper than any current third country partnership and that reflects our shared interests, values and the importance of a strong and prosperous Europe. This future partnership should be unprecedented in its breadth, taking in cooperation on foreign policy, defence and security, and development, and in the degree of engagement that we envisage. … Given the shared threats and challenges we face, and the UK’s deep commitment to European values, it is in the interests of both the UK and the EU to continue to work together to meet the challenges of the day. … The UK is therefore offering a deep and special partnership that will make available UK assets, capabilities and influence to the EU and European partners.13

16.The first 17 pages of the document set out the UK’s past contribution to the EU in a range of fields which fall under the policy areas covered by the paper. The remaining five pages cover the future relationship between the UK and the EU. The paper argues that the UK and the EU should explore the option of using close consultation on foreign policy and security policy issues to agree joint positions, including potentially in the area of sanctions listings.14 The paper suggests that on defence and security:

17.In conclusion, the paper notes that in support of the proposed partnership the UK could also offer the EU:

Subsequent announcements and public statements

18.On 6 February 2018, Rt Hon Earl Howe, Minister of State for Defence, and Nick Gurr, Director of International Security Policy at the Ministry of Defence, gave evidence to us on the future partnership paper. During the session, the Minister suggested that current models of relationships between the EU and non-EU member states were “inadequate”, and set out the goals of the UK Government as meaningful discussion and consultation on foreign policy; co-ordination in areas where it is “more effective to work side-by-side than alone”; and co-operation on EU defence operations, defence industry, research and capability development.17

Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

19.In relation to CSDP operations and missions, the Minister noted that:

on operations and missions there is only a limited degree of prior engagement that countries like Norway have with the planning process and the extent to which they are kept in the loop thereafter is also limited. So if the UK is going to achieve a position where we are able if we choose to take part in EU operations and missions and put our people’s lives on the line in the process it is not unreasonable to expect that we should be allowed a greater degree of involvement along the way.18

20.He also told the Committee that the Government would like the EU to issue the UK with a standing invitation to contribute to CSDP operations and missions, to be exempt from the common costs for civilian missions and non-executive military operations and to have an agreement that enabled UK contributions to the EU force catalogue.19 When asked whether the UK’s entire force catalogue would be on offer to the EU for use in CSDP missions and operations, the Minister accepted there would be an opportunity cost which would have to be reconciled as assets committed to a CSDP operation or mission would no longer available to other missions.20 However, he also noted that CSDP operations and missions could be useful to UK foreign policy objectives, highlighting that in some cases EU-badged missions were considered to be acceptable in a way that NATO-badged missions were not.21

21.On 17 February 2018, the Prime Minister gave a speech to the Munich Security Conference in which she emphasised the importance of engaging in CSDP operations and missions, noting that:

if the UK and EU’s interests can best be furthered by the UK continuing to contributing to an EU operation or mission as we do now, then we should both be open to that.22

22.On 9 May the UK Government published a set of slides, described as a ‘Framework for the UK-EU Security Partnership’. Those slides stated that the UK could engage through a number of mechanisms:

23.The Framework suggests that the UK is seeking to have a sliding scale of engagement with the EU on CSDP operations and missions which would be “scalable and commensurate with the UK contribution to an operation or mission”:

24.This was then expanded upon with the publication of a technical note on 24 May which stated that that consultation and co-operation could include:

a. Regular dialogue as per consultation and cooperation on CFSP, including through ad-hoc meetings with the PSC and EU Military Committee (EUMC) in informal sessions;

b. Ad-hoc meetings with the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) in informal sessions or attending sessions of informal Councils;

c. Through EU Military Staff (EUMS) and INTCEN liaison we could do joint and shared horizon scanning and analysis;

d. Exchange of information on possible UK contributions to the EU force catalogue;

e. Following political consultation between the EU and UK, and subject to appropriate decisions by the EU, the EU could share crisis management planning documents (including Political Framework for Crisis Approach, Crisis Management Concept, Military Strategic Options, Initiating Military Directive, Concept of Operation, Operational Plan, Rules of Engagement) with the UK in order for the UK to contribute to force sensing, analysis of strategic or military options, and eventually to offer to contribute to an operation or mission if so invited by the EU after its decision to establish a mission or operation;

f. Through liaison and secondments to the EEAS and EUMS the UK could provide expertise, facilitate information sharing, and enable cooperation–where appropriate and beneficial to both sides–in the development and operational planning stages;

g. Possibility for the UK and EU to cooperate on diplomatic support for crisis management operations (UNSC authorisations, Status of Forces Agreements, continue to provide diplomatic support to the effective functioning of EU missions and operations in third countries etc.);

h. Where the UK contributes to a mission/operation, and in proportion to the size/significance/nature of its contribution:

i. UK participation in the Operational Headquarters;

ii. Ad hoc consultations with the FAC/FAC(D)/PSC/EUMC in informal session;

iii. UK participation in the Committee of Contributors;

iv. UK participation in force generation conferences and/or calls for contributions at the appropriate moment.23

25.There has been a history of third country participation in CSDP, with 45 non-EU countries contributing troops to various CSDP missions and operations, either through a participation agreement for a specific mission or operation or through a Framework Participation Agreement (FPA) which allows a country to participate in any mission or operation if invited to do so by the EU. The EU has signed eighteen Framework Participation Agreements (FPAs) with third countries that contribute to CSDP operations and missions, including Norway, Canada, Turkey and the US. None of those has the sort of decision-making ability described by the UK Government as its preferred model, with third countries becoming involved at a later stage of planning (where they tend to fill gaps), requiring them to accept the EU’s timelines and procedures.24

26.We discussed the UK and CSDP with witnesses. Lord Ricketts told us that CSDP “has developed as capable of running these smaller civil military missions around the world, but never into a serious defence player” which “makes a modest contribution towards the UK’s defence and security interest, but only that”.25 Sophia Besch told the Committee that CSDP was not at the heart of the UK’s strategic thinking and priorities but that the UK did have an interest in influencing the strategic and regional priorities in the debate on European Security. She suggested that the limited number of troops that the UK had provided to EU missions and operations had influenced the debate in Europe around whether the UK was a valuable part of CSDP although she stressed that the few troops that the UK had sent were invariably of very high quality.

27.Furthermore, the UK’s “strategic thinking, the outstanding diplomatic service and the well-connected embassies are the contributions that the UK makes to European security”.26 She argued that this was significant as the UK included provisions within the Future Partnership paper which would allow the EU to benefit from these.27 However, on the suggestion in the same paper of the UK being involved in operational planning and mandate development for CSDP, Sophia Besch emphasised that the proposals made were unlike any current relationship between the EU and a non-member.28 She also warned that the ‘Norway model’ in CSDP missions—trading numbers of troops for influence—requires Norway to “align with pretty much all the political decisions that the EU makes on defence”.29

28.Lord Ricketts thought that the UK’s experience, and assistance in the development, of these structures put it in a different category to countries such as Canada or Norway.30 He also pointed to the Nice Implementation Text (which he had helped draft in 2002) which created rights for non-EU NATO members in regards to participation in CSDP operations and missions:

it sets out rights to participate before decisions are taken and afterwards in the committee of contributors, and so on. I think that the UK should be looking to fully exercise those rights when it chooses to participate in future CSDP missions, which I hope and believe that it will from time to time, though not necessarily every one.31

29.In written evidence, the Oxford Research Group expressed the concern that although the UK force catalogue was the most comprehensive in Europe, it was already overstretched covering existing commitments. The suggestion made was that a significant change would be needed with a reprioritisation of the UK’s defence structure to focus simultaneously on collective territorial defence under NATO and on CSDP missions in the Western Balkans, Mediterranean and Africa.32 Professor Prins told the Committee that he believed that the UK ought to prosecute bilateral relationships with national governments in Europe, pointing to current defence relations with the Netherlands, France, the Scandinavian countries and the Baltic States. He suggested that the Czech Republic and Poland would engage with the UK bilaterally or through NATO which they saw as a more powerful vehicle.33 However, all three witnesses agreed that the UK’s stated intention to support individual CSDP operations was relatively uncontroversial.34


30.On PESCO, the Minister, Earl Howe, told us that it was intended to be a way of driving up defence investment in Europe and developing capabilities necessary for European security. He therefore thought that it was right that the UK was keeping its options open as to whether it might wish to sign up to individual PESCO projects.35 Nick Gurr, Director of International Security Policy at the Ministry of Defence, told the Committee that the UK had worked hard to “ensure that PESCO projects remain open to third parties, because there may well be some projects that we do want to participate in as a third party,”36 a statement which was reiterated in the ‘Framework for the UK-EU Security Partnership’.37 The Minister for Armed Forces, Rt Hon Mark Lancaster TD VR MP, has since announced that the UK Government is “particularly interested in the Dutch-led military mobility infrastructure project”.38 The Dutch Government have given the following overview of the project:

This project will support Member States’ commitment to simplify and standardise cross-border military transport procedures. It aims to enhance the speed of movement of military forces across Europe. It aims to guarantee the unhindered movement of military personnel and assets within the borders of the EU.

This entails avoiding long bureaucratic procedures to move through or over EU Member States, be it via rail, road, air or sea. The project should help to reduce barriers such as legal hurdles to cross-border movement, lingering bureaucratic requirements (such as passport checks at some border crossings) and infrastructure problems, like roads and bridges that cannot accommodate large military vehicles.39

31.The European Scrutiny Committee recently concluded that the Government’s interest in the Military Mobility project had “unclear policy and financial implications for the UK”.40 In our 5 December 2017 evidence session, there was a difference of opinion amongst our witnesses as to both the nature and the benefits of PESCO. Professor Prins raised concerns that PESCO would potentially bind in and constrain the national decision-making ability of those states which had signed up to it.41 He was also concerned by statements made by the European Commission President which suggested that PESCO was an extension of EU sovereignty into defence matters.42 Sophia Besch did not believe this to be the case, describing the commitments made by the nations which had subscribed to PESCO as both open-ended and without an agreed level of ambition. She also argued that there was little accountability for those that did not fulfil them since a Qualified Majority Vote would be needed to eject them.43 However, she accepted that that was the current version of PESCO, which could change if there were the political will to do so.44 Lord Ricketts felt that if PESCO were able to help European countries gain parliamentary authority and public support for increased defence spending and readiness, then there would be no cause for concern.45


32.The European Defence Agency has launched a trial run of the Co-ordinated Annual Review of Defence (CARD), with which the UK has engaged. Nick Gurr told us that, in principle, CARD is trying to get EU member states to focus on their capability development in areas that will benefit both the European Union and NATO. He explained that the UK’s primary motivation in engaging with CARD was to ensure that it did not duplicate or undermine the NATO Defence Planning Process.46 Sophia Besch also highlighted concerns that CARD could duplicate bureaucratic processes if members had to submit their capability priorities and annual review to both NATO and the EU. She told us that several members, including Poland, had “flagged this up as being potentially problematic”.47 When we asked the Government whether it envisioned the UK engaging with CARD post-Brexit, we were told that future UK involvement in CARD “remains subject to negotiation”.48

European Defence Fund

33.On 6 February 2018, the Minister told us that since the European Defence Fund was still in the process of being formulated, the Government was keeping its options open as to whether it would engage with it as it considered that it could become the “instrument of choice for European nations in developing their capability”.49 Nick Gurr reiterated this, telling us that:

On the European Defence Fund, in all of its various elements, as the Minister has said, there are aspects of it that interest us. There is scope there for considerably more funding to be made available to European industry. We have wanted to keep our option open as to whether we can participate in that. In terms of keeping our options open, again we have managed to insert language in some of the various protocols to ensure that the possibility of third-party participation in these things has not been closed down. That is not to mean that we will participate, but it means that we have still got the option at the moment. These things have not been closed on us.50

34.However, the Minister noted that discussions around the financial contribution that the UK would make in order to engage in the EDF had yet to take place. He did suggest that the Government was not necessarily willing to pay an ‘annual subscription’ given that it might not wish to participate in any projects. Instead, he suggested that the UK’s preferred route was that “if we perceive that there is a project in which we wish to participate, we will pay in commensurately to that project on a pay and play basis”.51 The Minister also expressed concerns that the EDF could be driven by an “unspoken protectionist aspect” which would result in the UK (and its defence industry) being excluded from it.52

35.In Munich, later that month, the Prime Minister emphasised her belief that an “open and inclusive” approach to European capability development which enabled British defence industry to participate was in both the UK and EU’s strategic security interests and confirmed that the UK was seeking to agree a future relationship with the European Defence Fund.53 In April 2018, the Minister for Armed Forces, told Parliament that:

When it comes to EDIDP projects, to be honest, the programme has not yet been established so it is difficult to speculate on exactly what it will entail. That is why we are particularly keen that we should have a flexible framework—so that if and when the UK wants to participate, we will have a mechanism for doing so.54

The May 2018 ‘Framework for the UK-EU security partnership’ also confirmed that the UK was seeking to discuss models for participation of the UK and UK entities in the European Defence Research Programme and the European Defence Industrial Development Programme projects.55 The technical note published on 24 May again stated that the UK Government intends to agree arrangements for participation in the Commission’s European Defence Fund. It highlighted that for “for UK contributions to programmes to deliver mutual benefit, the UK would require access to both sensitive information and commercial opportunities”.56 The document suggested that a co-ordinated approach to European capability development between the UK and the EU could be achieved through:

a. Regular strategic EU-UK dialogue on capability collaboration and industrial development;

e. Dialogue with DG Grow [European Commission Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs] and DG Move [European Commission Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport] on broader European defence industrial and capability priorities;

f. UK attendance at the European Defence Research Programme (EDRP) and European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) programme committee.57

The note suggests that technical aspects of UK participation in specific projects could then be addressed through dialogue with DG Grow to consider UK engagement in EDF projects. The UK note also suggests that where the UK contributes to a European Defence Fund (EDF) it should be able to participate in the relevant meetings.

36.The European Defence Fund was subject to much discussion in our evidence session on 5 December 2017. Sophia Besch suggested it would be in the UK’s interest to stay closely aligned to the EU in defence industry, capability development and joint procurement, noting that:

When you speak to UK defence firms, they say that customs, trade standards and free movement of people are irritations after Brexit but are manageable. Where they see a potential risk is in being left out of capability co-operation projects. European partners there have a similar outlook, similar track record and similar history. The UK works with European partners on existing capability programmes such as the Eurofighter.58

37.However, both Lord Ricketts and Professor Prins raised concerns about the EDF with Lord Ricketts highlighting what he saw as a “protectionist tinge” and suggesting the UK ought:

to make sure it does not develop into something that excludes British defence industrial companies. I don’t know what the mechanism would be for us to have some involvement in it—whether it would require us to contribute or what—but I think we need to keep that under careful review, because it could become a risk to defence industrial co-operation.59

He added:

My worry about the EDF is that it could be used to influence companies in, say, France, Germany and Italy to work together to the exclusion of the UK defence industry. It would not be a level playing field; it would be tilted by EU money. I therefore think that ideas such as Sophia’s of finding a way of being involved, maybe even by contributing in some way, may be in the UK’s interest. That would avoid this becoming a non-level playing field of incentives for defence industrial co-operation. … That would be an option. Another option is just to let it happen and take the risk that it would encourage collaborations between European defence companies, by which I mean EU defence companies. I cannot judge how great a risk that is, but I have seen BAE and Dassault working together and I know from MBDA, which is of course a 50:50 UK and French company, and from Thales and other companies that co-operation is very effective between British and French companies. It would be a pity if that were influenced by this fund. That is my view.60

38.Professor Prins believed that the EDF would be a protectionist vehicle and suggested that engagement with the European Defence Fund would result in the UK working within something which was “deliberately structured to create a single market in defence”. He argued that the UK would be better off if it engaged in a “simpler, more reliable and more transparent relationship, which does not have an underlying political agenda.”61 He suggested that collaboration on military matters ought to be on a case-by-case basis with national governments, rather than engaging in programmes under the aegis of the EU, citing Denmark as the model to follow.62 Both the Minister in evidence to us63 and the Prime Minister in her Munich speech64 highlighted the vital importance of bilateral relationships with European partners. However, both indicated this ought to be done alongside engagement with EU structures rather than as an alternative to it.

39.Sophia Besch agreed that the fund, when realised, could be formatted as a vehicle for EU protectionism which might mean that the UK would be barred from engaging with it.65 However, she thought that even if the European Defence Fund were protectionist, the UK could still potentially benefit from association with it.66

European Defence Agency

40.In her February 2018 speech at the Munich Security Conference, the Prime Minister expressed a desire for the UK to have a future relationship with the European Defence Agency.67 The May 2018 ‘Framework for the UK-EU security partnership’ slides expand on this, suggesting that the UK wishes to have an Administrative Arrangement with the European Defence Agency which could facilitate:

The UK Government notes that in order for UK contributions to programmes to deliver mutual benefit, the UK would require access to both sensitive information and commercial opportunities.68 The technical note published 24 May expanded upon this, suggesting that the UK’s proposed bespoke Administrative Agreement would include:

c. Ad-hoc invitations to the EDA Ministerial Steering Boards;

d. Ad-hoc UK attendance at EDA National Armaments Directors, Research & Technology, Policy and Capability Directors Steering Boards and Point of Contact meetings;

The note suggests that technical aspects of UK participation in specific projects could then be addressed through Director/Chief Executive dialogue with the EDA to consider UK participation in future projects, programmes and activities, including the possibility of re-establishing a ‘Consultative Committee’ with third countries; participation in the relevant meetings where the UK contributes to an EDA project or initiative; and seconded national experts and/or UK liaison officers in the EDA and Commission.69

41.The EDA has previously signed Administrative Arrangements with Norway, Switzerland, the Republic of Serbia and Ukraine enabling them to participate in EDA’s projects and programmes.70 In evidence on 5 December 2017, Professor Prins told us that an Administrative Arrangement would not necessarily result in having influence at the Agency, citing Norway as proof.71 However, written evidence from ADS, the trade association for the UK Defence industry, suggested that the UK Government ought to seek to negotiate an ‘Associate Plus’ membership of the EDA which is more substantial than the current Administrative Arrangements with other states. ADS highlighted its belief that:

Going forward, the EDA will provide an important institutional structure within which the UK can seek to exert its influence on defence and security matters. Since 22 EDA members are also NATO members, continued membership of the EDA will be yet another means of ensuring continued coordination and collaboration with our primary defence alliance. The potential impact of losing participation following Brexit could see a loss of influence over EU defence priorities and activities, both through the EDA and more generally.72

42.We deal with the questions arising from the points above in Chapter 5.

13 Department for Exiting the European Union, Foreign policy, defence and development - a future partnership paper, September 2017, p18

14 Department for Exiting the European Union, Foreign policy, defence and development - a future partnership paper, September 2017, p18

15 Department for Exiting the European Union, Foreign policy, defence and development - a future partnership paper, September 2017, p19–20

17 Q63

18 Q64

19 Q111

20 Q107

21 Q68

23 Department for Exiting the European Union, Technical Note: Consultation and Cooperation on External Security. 24 May 2018

25 Q2

26 Q4

28 Q19

29 Q52, also see Q50

30 Q55

31 Q50

32 Written evidence from Oxford Research Group (DFP0005)

33 Q15

34 Q21;23

35 Q70; 79

36 Q82

37 Department for Exiting the European Union, Framework for the UK-EU Security Partnership, May 2018, Slide 37

38 HC Deb, 3 May 2018, Col. 5MC [Ministerial Corrections]

40 European Scrutiny Committee, Twenty-sixth Report of the Session 17–19, Documents considered by the Committee on 2 May 2018, HC 301-xxv, para 10.9

41 Q5

42 In answer to Q17, Professor Prins referenced a speech that Mr Juncker gave in Prague in June 2017. The relevant excerpt of the speech is “The European Union already has the legal means at its disposal to move away from the current patchwork of bilateral and multilateral military cooperation to more efficient forms of defence integration. I am talking about permanent structured cooperation—the Sleeping Beauty of the Lisbon Treaty. Article 42 of the Treaty makes it possible for a group of like-minded Member States to take European defence to the next level. I have said it before and I will say it again: I think the time to make use of this possibility is now. It is time to wake the Sleeping Beauty up. But at the end of the day, it is not the Commission that will build a common defence. The Commission is putting everything it has on the table. We have explained how our policies can help fight hybrid threats. We are using our development policy to build up the security of partner countries. We have proposed a Defence Fund which commits the EU budget in an unprecedented way. And we have produced a detailed reflection paper with different options for how the European Union at 27 might develop by 2025 in the area of defence. But it will always—always—come down to a question of ambition and political will of the Member States. … Just last month, the Member States unanimously decided to establish the first Military Planning and Conduct Capability to take over command of EU training missions. This is a first step towards a more robust capability. In two weeks, the European Council will meet. My colleagues and friends in the European Council understand the importance of this debate. They know how much the debate on the future of Europe’s defence is tied to the debate about the future of Europe.” [–1581_en.htm]

43 Q6; 22; 48

44 Q7

45 Q10

46 Q83

47 Q22

48 Written evidence from the Ministry of Defence (DFP0007)

49 Q70

50 Q83

51 Q73

52 Q94

54 European Committee, EU Defence: Permanent Structured Co-operation, 26 April 2018, Col. 20

56 Department for Exiting the European Union, Technical Note: Consultation and Cooperation on External Security. 24 May 2018

57 Department for Exiting the European Union, Technical Note: Consultation and Cooperation on External Security. 24 May 2018

58 Q23

59 Q32

60 Q32–3

61 Q32

62 Q50

63 Q115

65 Q33

66 Q57

68 Department for Exiting the European Union, Framework for the UK-EU Security Partnership, May 2018, Slide 36

69 Department for Exiting the European Union, Technical Note: Consultation and Cooperation on External Security. 24 May 2018

70 Written evidence from ADS (DFP0004)

71 Q50

72 Written evidence from ADS (DFP0004)

Published: 8 June 2018