Brexit: Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations Contents

Chapter 3: The UK and CSDP missions and operations to date

The importance of CSDP missions and operations to the UK

97.Mr Lapsley said that CSDP had “never been central to the UK’s defence effort. It has never been as significant as what we do nationally, through coalitions or through NATO.” In the context of “foreign policy in a broader sense”, however, CSDP had been “more significant”.201 He described CSDP as:

“something in the toolbox that we could mobilise to add value in a number of crisis or stabilisation situations around the world, where you needed to try to mobilise a mix of military, civilian, development, political and diplomatic tools—and it is that ability to meld tools which the European Union has been trying to develop over the past 15 years or so. Most of the missions have been valuable to the UK from that perspective.”202

98.He said this was demonstrated in “stabilisation or capacity-building” missions and operations in sub-Saharan Africa, and “some of the maritime security missions, in particular [Operation] Atalanta in the Indian Ocean”. Civilian missions “tended to be about mobilising resource and expertise in areas such as the rule of law, justice, prosecution, policing, et cetera”.203

99.Lord Ricketts said he would not wish to “overclaim on what CSDP has added to British foreign policy”. In his view, “the more classic foreign policy instruments of the EU, such as sanctions policy,204 have probably had more influence on events and the management of crises”. CSDP missions and operations nonetheless had a value: they “have quite bravely tackled some very difficult issues and are worth pursuing”.205

100.Dr Wright was of a similar view. CSDP missions “form quite a small component of the UK’s broader set of objectives”, and had “been relatively small-scale, involving a relatively low commitment in both military and civilian personnel”.206

101.Professor Menon told us the UK’s “engagement with CSDP had one overriding priority … pour encourager les autres”. CSDP was “a way of nudging European partners to take defence and security more seriously. That has always been an important objective of ours.”207 Mr Lapsley agreed that CSDP was “a way of mobilising a wider range of European countries to get involved in crisis management”. He said that “often the answer has not been that the UK needs to be doing something through the CSDP, but actually mobilising the Europeans more widely has been a key aspect of it”.208

102.He gave the examples of Sweden, which “has used these missions to develop an out-of-area expeditionary capability and a battlegroup”, and of Ireland and Greece, which “have taken on command roles in sub-Saharan Africa in a way that would have been inconceivable 20 years ago”.209 This had also been the case for the EU’s role in Somalia, which was “a part of the world that we recognised was important”. The UK had “primarily tried to exert a leadership role on EU policy in the region … along with Italy”, and had “been able to encourage and sometimes push our European colleagues to get more involved”.210

103.Dr Wright told us that although a similar “strategic environment” existed in NATO and other multilateral organisations, CSDP had “been quite important for the UK in seeking to set agendas and the direction of travel” among other EU Member States. The CSDP “brings the Member States together to talk about issues around security, defence, co-operation and interoperability”.211 The Global Europe Centre agreed that CSDP missions and operations had helped to advance the UK’s aim of a “capabilities-driven approach to European security”, through “the range of the operation types … and the level of EU Member State participation”.212

Complementarity between UK foreign and security policy priorities and CSDP missions and operations

104.In assessing the extent of complementarity between UK foreign and security policy objectives and the EU’s CSDP missions and operations, the Global Europe Centre told us that “the range of CSDP operations do not directly or comprehensively map onto the risks and threats set out in the SDSR/NSS”.213 Furthermore, the “existing set of CSDP missions” was not “embedded in a clear and coherent strategy built upon systematic threat and security analysis”.214 Mr Lapsley acknowledged that “it is probably fair to say that not all of them have been such a high priority for us”.215

105.On the other hand, the Global Europe Centre noted that CSDP operations had “provided the UK with a low—and shared—cost contribution to the UK’s security policy objectives as set out in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and National Security Strategy (NSS)”, and said some of the current missions and operations included “some elements” of “UK foreign policy priorities”.216

106.For example, Dr Duke said the UK was “particularly concerned about the protection of Sea Lines of Communication”, to which Operations Atalanta, Sophia, and EUCAP Somalia contributed.217 Dr Chappell and Dr Barrinha also identified the EU’s naval operations as a UK foreign policy priority.218 Agora Think Tank told us that “contributions to maritime CSDP missions … align broadly with British foreign and security policy as well as the Future Navy Vision”. They were part of the “core security and prosperity agenda of the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015”.219

107.In the case of Operation Atalanta, Major General Stickland said that the “linkage” to the UK’s national security objectives was “quite profound … I believe we contribute to four of the five priorities in the National Maritime Strategy published in 2014”.220 These priorities were:

(a)The promotion of a secure international maritime domain, as well as upholding international maritime laws and norms;

(b)Fostering the development of maritime governance and capacity among the states in the area covered by the National Maritime Strategy;

(c)The protection of UK citizens and the UK economy, as well as support for the safety and security of ports, offshore installations, Red Ensign Group vessels221 and cargo ships; and

(d)Ensuring the security of vital maritime trade and energy transportation routes, both regionally and internationally.222

108.Witnesses also identified CSDP missions and operations in the Balkans as an area of complementarity. Dr Jacobs said that “the UK’s strategic interests in the region are very similar to what EULEX wants to do in Kosovo”. She described “the overlap in the wording” between the UK’s regional objectives and overall aims of the mission as “amazing”. In this way, CSDP missions and operations “could be a multiplier of influence and impact” for the UK.223 Major General Sir Adrian Bradshaw said that participation in Operation Althea, in contributing to stabilisation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, was in the UK’s “national interest”.224

109.Dr Hoxhaj added that UK participation in CSDP missions in Kosovo and Ukraine was in line with the UK’s “geopolitical and national security” interests, because “organised crime and corruption” in these two countries posed “a direct threat to the UK”. Thus EULEX Kosovo and EUAM Ukraine contributed to the UK’s priorities as set out in the UK National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime 2016.225

110.The Global Europe Centre identified a third area of complementarity: local capacity building in Africa. It told us that EUTM Mali and EUTM Somalia were

“expressly created to build local capabilities in those countries to counter violence extremism and terrorism. Importantly, the mission objectives in both cases include maintaining security and safe environments ultimately to ensure stability and build resilience as aims of UK foreign policy. These overlaps in approaches suggest that there are advantages to UK participation in these types of military missions.”226

111.Dr Chappell and Dr Barrinha likewise highlighted EUTM Mali as addressing some of the UK’s “key threats”.227 Dr Duke, however, thought African CSDP missions and operations—apart from those in the Horn of Africa and Operation Sophia—228were of less interest to the UK.229

112.The priorities for the UK’s post-Brexit engagement on CSDP missions and operations are discussed in Chapter 5.

The UK’s quantitative contribution


113.Dr Duke calculated that the UK had contributed personnel to 25 of the EU’s 35 past or current CSDP missions. Its average contribution per mission was 15.72 personnel. Across all CSDP missions and operations, the UK’s personnel contributions amounted to 2.3% of total Member State contributions, and 4.3% of the missions and operations to which it contributed.230

114.Dr Duke said that these figures were “modest in comparative terms compared to France, Germany, Italy and even Austria. They are comparable with Greece in terms of overall contributions since 2003.” The UK had “not always pulled its weight”.231 Mr Vimont concurred: there was “no doubt that many Member States have brought a greater contribution than the UK to the operations we have had so far”.232

115.For example, Dr Ejdus said that UK secondments to EULEX Kosovo had “not been spectacular in terms of numbers”.233 In the case of Operation Althea, in contrast, General Sir Adrian Bradshaw told us that the UK “contributes fairly constantly to the reinforcements”. The UK had also “had a company on standby at short notice for quite a number of years. Right now, we have a high-readiness standby battalion committed to the Balkans.” This battalion was “double-hatted for NATO in Kosovo, but it also could do duty in Bosnia-Herzegovina”.234

116.The Operational Headquarters of Operation Atalanta at Northwood is an exception: there are 104 staff, with “56 Brits in the spine”. The headquarters is “responsible for the operational design and the oversight of the activity”.235

117.In summary, Professor Menon described the UK’s “practical contribution in terms of personnel” as “limited”.236 Our witnesses considered the reasons for this. Dr Duke said it was “an issue of (increasingly) scarce national resources and the opportunity cost of their use for CSDP operations or missions”. In the case of civilian missions, this opportunity cost is “the loss of expertise that could otherwise serve national objectives and priorities.”237 Lord Ricketts, Professor Menon and Dr Wright attributed the low level of UK personnel contributions to military missions and operations over the past decade to its involvement in other conflicts, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya.238 Professor Menon explained: “In so far as we had troops available, they were troops that were resting in between deployments and, for good reason, we did not want to deploy them.”239 Mr Lapsley said that the UK’s troops and assets “are often more usefully used elsewhere”, and there was “no shortage of troops or tanks or aeroplanes in Europe” to resource CSDP missions and operations.240

118.A second reason for the UK’s limited contribution to military missions and operations was suggested by Agora Think Tank: the UK’s troops were “operationally oriented towards higher-intensity missions than those offered by the CSDP portfolio of engagements”, which “tend towards low-intensity … training missions.”241

119.The third reason is more political. In the words of Mr Vimont: “Britain has always shown scepticism towards security and defence in the European Union” and considered it to be “a bit of a duplication with NATO”. He added that the UK had never been supportive of a European headquarters or extending the concept of common costs for military and civilian missions and operations.242 Lord Ricketts agreed that the Government, “perhaps particularly the Conservative Government after 2010”, had “been less willing to commit serious resources to CSDP for more political reasons”.243

Costs and assets

120.While its contribution of personnel may be modest, based on the financing mechanisms laid out in Chapter 2, the UK contributes around 16% to the common costs of military CSDP missions and operations, and approximately 15% to the common funding of civilian CSDP missions.244 Mr Lapsley considered the UK to have made “quite a substantial monetary contribution”.245

121.As noted in Chapter 2, the costs of personnel in military missions and operations are borne by the contributing state—the principle of ‘costs lie where they fall’. Mr Ahern said that the UK had made a “potentially significant contribution”, because it “contributes, or is shown to have, about 20% of the force catalogue.”246 The EU ‘force catalogue’ sets out the forces and capabilities contributed by Member States, based on the military capabilities the EU requires.247

122.Dr Duke, however, thought this was an overstatement. He said that common costs are allocated between Member States “on a sliding GNI248 basis”—hence the UK’s 16% share—and, “more significantly, common costs only constitute around 10–15% of the overall costs of CSDP missions and operations”. This meant that the UK’s personnel contributions “may well constitute around 20% of the force catalogue, but there is no automatic assumption of their availability for CSDP mission (as a comparison with the UK’s actual contributions shows)”. He added that while “the UK may also offer an implicit over-the-horizon backstop … no such role has appeared explicitly in the mandates of any past or current CSDP mission.”249

123.Mr Lapsley said that the UK “sometimes put more serious military assets into missions”, for example “some quite capable ships that can provide niche roles” in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).250 The UK has provided Operation Sophia with the survey vessels HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise, the air-defence destroyer HMS Diamond, the frigate HMS Richmond, and with Merlin Mk2, AW159 Wildcat and AW Lynx Mk8 helicopters.251 The UK has provided Operation Atalanta with vessels including UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Lyme Bay, and the frigates HMS Richmond (including a Merlin Mk1 helicopter) and HMS Northumberland.252 Military assets are provided to operations by contributing nations for a specific time period, and change regularly; they are not a permanent part of the operation.

124.Mr Lapsley also drew to our attention that the UK “sometimes” made “exceptional contributions” in support of CSDP missions and operations. For example, the UK has “put £600,000 into a fund to help to support the training of the Libyan coastguard, which is part of the Operation Sophia set-up”.253

The UK’s qualitative contribution

125.Our witnesses also considered the UK’s qualitative contribution to CSDP missions and operations. Mr Lapsley said the UK’s contribution had “been more about leadership and broader diplomatic support, both personal leadership but also intellectual leadership, trying to make sure that we think these missions through and get them right from the outset, and change course if we do not”.254

126.An example of this ‘intellectual leadership’ was EULEX Kosovo, where the UK had done “a lot of the driving, intellectually and politically” of the decision to establish the mission. However, the UK has “never led the mission overall. It has always been led by the French or the Italians”.255

127.Professor Menon described the UK as having “approached CSDP from the position of the ‘manager’ rather than of a ‘player’. We have been there to give guidance, we have been there to talk strategy, and we have been there, in a sense, to offer advice”. The UK was “in a very good position to do so because we are far more experienced at this than most Member States”.256

128.Mr Vimont also said that the UK was “to a large extent … more a manager than a player”.257 Dr Wright agreed: “We will keep an eye on it and, if we need to step in if things are not working or if they need a steer, then fair enough.” The UK had “been quite happy to let other states, particularly if there is a potential issue that they are interested in or that they want to pursue, take the lead on that”.258 For instance, in respect of EUTM Somalia, Mr Lapsley told us it was “excellent that countries such as Spain and Italy, which have been big contributors to that mission, have chosen to get involved in Somalia”. The UK had its own “defence capacity-building effort in Somalia”, and overall, it “supported” the mission.259

129.Another UK contribution, Mr Lapsley said, was that the UK had “progressively tried to integrate the political and the military side” into the process of planning CSDP missions. In the early stages of the CSDP, “some Member States were clear that military is military, defence is defence, and it must be kept discrete from other things”. The UK had sought to embed the approach that, instead of immediately deciding to take military action, “you crunch through whether there is any point sending a battalion unless there is some policing support—whether there is any point in training a bunch of people if no one will then fund their integration into the armed forces, in which case we will need money and so on”. He added that, “to be fair, the European Union has got much better at that now”.260

130.The UK’s ‘managerial’ approach has also been reflected in the types of role it has filled: Lord Ricketts told us that, “rather than supplying battalions of troops on the ground”, the UK had “chosen to go for strategic staff positions—staff in Brussels, staff in missions, deputy head of mission, planning, logistics, reinforcing the staff and direction for missions”.261 Dr Duke agreed that the UK had a “track record in leadership positions”, adding that its “operational experience and professionalism … is of enormous value”.262

131.Mr Vimont said that the EU was in need of “civilian experts of high quality”, and “we find a lot of them in Britain”.263 An example of this, said Mr Lapsley, was the UK contribution to EULEX Kosovo: the UK “chose to invest primarily in high-value secondees into the mission, such as very senior former police officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who had experience of the kind of policing that Kosovo would need, or very senior judges, prosecutors, et cetera”. The UK had also “several times had the number two position within the mission”. These were examples of the UK contribution “being about strategic impact rather than numbers”.264

132.General Sir Adrian Bradshaw said that while the UK’s personnel contribution to Operation Althea, was “very modest” in number, “through high-quality staff officers with the right sort of experience, having commanded UK forces in a variety of circumstances, the UK tends to exert influence beyond the numbers”.265 Brigadier General Aherne told us that he had also worked with UK military and civilian personnel at EUTM Somalia. In his view, “their contribution was at all times capable, informed and willing, if at times it could be a little overbearing in their perception of a monopoly of wisdom on issues”.266

133.Mr Vimont described the UK’s provision of the Operational Headquarters in Northwood to Operation Atalanta as “an important exception” to the UK’s otherwise limited role in military missions and operations. In “most other operations”, the UK “has not played a major role”. More often France, and occasionally Germany, “take the lead” as “front-runners in operations”—the role of ‘framework nation’.267 Mr Lapsley told us that the role of Northwood as the Operational Headquarters for Operation Atalanta had “been really significant, both intellectually and in terms of military capability”.268 Major General Stickland said that “the contribution that we as the framework nation have made to Atalanta is key, such as through the innovation of the Mercury system269 and working with the shipping industry on best management practice”.270

134.The UK, as a maritime nation, had also been “one of the first nations to look at the piracy problem”. Mr Lapsley told us that the Operation Atalanta Headquarters at Northwood “very quickly” developed a “sophisticated” approach, which included the “legal finish and how to work with the shipping industry to change its behaviours to reduce the risk”. His assessment was that “a lot of Europeans at that time were very impressed with the quality of thought leadership that came out of the UK and the contribution that we were making.”271

135.Mr Lapsley said the UK’s diplomatic influence had also been instrumental to the success of CSDP missions and operations. For example, the UK worked to secure authorisation from the UN Security Council (UNSC) for CSDP missions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Missions and operations which operate under UNSC Resolutions “need renewing every year and we are often the ones who patiently persuade the Russians or even sometimes the Americans that a mission is a good idea”. A good example of that was the annual renewal of Operation Althea.272 Dr Duke agreed that the UK’s role in the UN was important “to ensure wider support” for CSDP missions.273

136.Major General Stickland said the EU had also benefited from the UK’s diplomatic influence on Operation Atalanta: “Some of that legal finish was negotiated with Kenya and Seychelles through our UK political auspices to then enable an EU activity.” There had also been a benefit to Operation Atalanta from the deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain being a UK officer. In General Stickland’s view, “the very nature of that UK to UK relationship means that you can build it out to a relationship between the EU and another organisation. We have offered a number of strands through innovation, and military and diplomatic relationships, which have been key throughout.”274 Dr Oksamytna said this had also been helpful in EUTM Somalia: the participation of UK personnel “facilitates informal contacts with British personnel in other EU and international missions in the Horn of Africa as well British forces engaged in Somalia bilaterally”.275

137.Lord Ricketts thought that there was “real respect” for “what we can bring both in military assets”—such as heavy-lift helicopters—”and in diplomatic inside information, intelligence, planning, expertise and so on”.276 Dr Duke also highlighted “UK support to the analysis of intelligence” as one of “the less tangible elements underpinning” CSDP.277

138.Nonetheless, Lord Ricketts thought that the other Member States “think we are slackers”. They “think we talk a big game in Brussels and try to influence things, but on the ground we are not really contributing”.278

Conclusions and recommendations

139.CSDP missions and operations have made a significant contribution to a number of the UK’s foreign policy priorities—including tackling piracy, promoting the rule of law, and peacebuilding in post-conflict states—and have been an important channel of UK influence.

140.One of the UK’s primary objectives for the CSDP has been to encourage other EU countries to develop their defence capabilities and increase their willingness to participate in crisis management and defence operations.

141.CSDP missions and operations are agreed between 28 countries by consensus. They correspond in varying degrees to UK foreign policy priorities—the EU’s maritime operations are particularly closely aligned to UK interests, as are Operation Althea and EULEX Kosovo.

142.The UK’s personnel contribution to CSDP missions and operations to date account for just 2.3% of total Member State contributions. This has, in part, been a result of UK defence commitments across the globe. The UK has also provided assets—including naval vessels and aircraft—and troop reinforcements on standby for CSDP operations.

143.The UK’s financial contribution to civilian missions is 15%. As 85–90% of the costs of military missions and operations are financed by the participating countries, the UK’s 17% contribution to the common costs of military missions and operations is relatively lower.

144.The UK’s principal contribution to CSDP missions and operations has been strategic guidance and advice. It has filled a small number of influential roles, and leveraged its role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to secure authorisation for EU missions and operations.

201 Q 1. Our witnesses did not always make a clear distinction between CSDP as a broader policy area and CSDP missions and operations—a subset of this policy area. Please refer to Chapter 2 for the distinction between the two.

202 Q 1 (Angus Lapsley)

204 We considered the issue of sanctions in our report Brexit: sanctions policy. European Union Committee, Brexit: sanctions policy (8th Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 50)

207 Ibid.

209 Q 1 (Angus Lapsley)

210 Q 4 (Angus Lapsley)

212 Written evidence from the Global Europe Centre (BSD0005)

213 The Strategic Defence and Security Review and the National Security Strategy.

214 Written evidence from the Global Europe Centre (BSD0005)

216 Written evidence from the Global Europe Centre (BSD0005)

217 Written evidence from Dr Simon Duke (BSD0001)

218 Written evidence from Dr Chappell and Dr Barrinha (BSD0004)

219 Written evidence from Agora Think Tank (BSD0006)

221 The Red Ensign Group (REG) is a group of British shipping registers. Any vessel on these registers is a ‘British ship’, and is entitled to fly the British merchant shipping flag, the ‘Red Ensign’.

222 Q 45 (Major General Charlie Stickland)

225 Written evidence from Dr Andi Hoxhaj (BSD0002) and National Crime Agency, National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime 2016 (9 September 2016): [accessed 30 April 2018]

226 Written evidence from the Global Europe Centre (BSD0005)

227 Written evidence from Dr Laura Chappell and Dr André Barrinha (BSD0004)

228 Operation Sophia (EUNAVFOR MED) is the EU’s naval operation in the central Mediterranean, which seeks to combat migrant smuggling. We considered this operation against its mandate in 2017. European Union Committee, Operation Sophia: a failed mission (2nd Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 5)

229 Written evidence from Dr Simon Duke (BSD0001)

230 Ibid.

231 Ibid.

234 Q 29 (General Sir Adrian Bradshaw)

235 Q 40 (Major General Charlie Stickland)

237 Written evidence from Dr Simon Duke (BSD0001)

238 Q 74 and 13. The UK’s engagement in these conflicts has been in partnership with its allies, for example through NATO in Afghanistan.

241 Written evidence from Agora Think Tank (BSD0006)

242 Q 90 (Pierre Vimont)

244 Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (BSD0013). See also Chapter 2.

247 The EU’s requirement is established in the EU Headline Goal—the political goal of the EU with regard to crisis management tasks, including its military level of ambition. EEAS, EUMC Glossary of Acronyms and Definitions Revision 2017 (21 February 2018) p 67:–2018-INIT/en/pdf [accessed 30 April 2016]

248 Gross National Income.

249 Written evidence from Dr Simon Duke (BSD0001)

251 EEAS, ‘EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia—Assets’:;tax=media_category&categories=&nation=&search_archive=filter [accessed 30 April 2018]

252 The Royal Navy, ‘RFA Lyme Bay heads home after counter piracy operations off Somalia’ (22 November 2013): [accessed 30 April 2018] EEAS, ‘EU NAVFOR welcomes the Royal Navy Frigate HMS RICHMOND’ (31 January 2011): [accessed 30 April 2018] European Union Naval Force, ‘British warship completes 1st EU NAVAL Mission’ (18 December 2008): [accessed 30 April 2018]

253 Q 2. We considered this operation in our report, Operation Sophia: a failed mission. European Union Committee, Operation Sophia: a failed mission (2nd Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 5)

255 Q 3 (Angus Lapsley)

260 Q 5 (Angus Lapsley)

262 Written evidence from Dr Simon Duke (BSD0001)

264 Q 3 (Angus Lapsley)

266 Written evidence from Brigadier General Gerald Aherne (BSD0011)

269 See Box 5 on the Maritime Security Centre—Horn of Africa in Chapter 2.

271 Q 4 (Angus Lapsley)

272 2 (Angus Lapsley)

273 Written evidence from Dr Simon Duke (BSD0001)

275 Written evidence from Dr Kseniya Oksamytna (BSD0009)

277 Written evidence from Dr Simon Duke (BSD0001)

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