What the European Union owes the United Kingdom

By James Rogers; Jack Wright

A policy briefing by The Henry Jackson Society – What the European Union owes the United Kingdom – highlights how European defence is substantially dependent upon the United Kingdom’s financial contributions. Countries on the European mainland that are members of both NATO and the EU shortchanged the alliance – and therefore their own security – by over US$96 billion in 2016, and in total by US$451 billion over the past five-year period (2012-2016). The countries that failed to reach their 2% GDP defence spending target include: Germany, who underspent by US$142 billion, falling short of its NATO spending target by 39%. Italy, who has shortchanged European security by almost US$90 billion, or 43%. Spain, who has shortchanged European security by US$75 billion, which means it has failed to meet NATO’s target by a massive 54%. France, who has underspent by US$24 billion, meaning it has missed the alliance’s spending target by 9%. At a time when the Government is in detailed financial negotiations with the EU, it would be a pertinent reminder to Brussels that the UK is unwavering in its commitment to European defence and has consistently footed the bill for security on the continent. Over this past five-year period, British defence spending – at US$285.5 billion – accounts for just under a third (32%) of spending by countries in both NATO and the EU, a sizeable figure that still conceals its true value, not least because many EU countries’ armed forces are unable to fight at the highest intensities, even in self-defence. When excluding the UK, the only states belonging both to NATO and the EU that consistently (2012-2016) spend more than 2% of their GDP on defence account for just 13% of the transatlantic alliance’s total European surplus, meaning that the UK contributes 87%. As a result, Britain has effectively subsidised the security and defence of the European mainland by an extra US$23.9 billion from 2012-2016.

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