Brexit and defence: an agenda for constructive dialogue in support of European security

In the context of a so-far acrimonious British exit from the European Union, the security and defence portfolio should present positive opportunities for close cooperation between the United Kingdom and the Union. The UK is a power of great importance to European security and defence because of the experience and capabilities it brings to the table. At the same time, every significant security and defence challenge for EU member states will also be a concern for London. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London and the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin argued in February that, while challenging, it should be possible for the UK and the EU to find pragmatic solutions and policies to support a strong security and defence partnership, enabling the EU member states and the UK to work together for the security of their citizens post-Brexit. The reality of the debate so far is different. The EU is pursuing a mechanical approach to a post-Brexit security partnership with the UK, more concerned with the undiluted application of rules and preserving EU unity than with identifying pragmatic solutions. The UK, on the other hand, has outlined in broad strokes what it would like to achieve in security and defence, but has been light on specific proposals of how to get there, and has neglected to state what it would be willing to contribute to maintain privileged access to EU defence cooperation. Public spats about the future of the Galileo satellite project have been the most visible indicator that the terrain has become very rocky indeed, and have also driven home the potential security and defence-industrial disruption Brexit might bring about.

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