Plugging in the British: completing the circuit

The UK and European Union would both benefit from co-operating closely on foreign policy, defence, and justice and home affairs (JHA) after Brexit. But although they share many of the same aims, it will be just as tricky to find agreement in these key areas as it is proving to be on the future trade relationship. That’s the key finding from an in depth report ‘Plugging in the British: Completing the circuit’ which examines how the EU co-operates with non-members in those areas and how those arrangements might inform how the UK could work with the bloc on foreign policy, defence, and JHA after Brexit. Britain wants to retain as many as possible of the arrangements it has as an EU member. But the EU is determined not to let a third country, albeit one that was a member of the bloc for several decades, have so much influence from outside. The over-arching problem is that the UK sees its relationship with the EU after Brexit as more special than the EU-27 think it will or should be. In many areas Britain wants a deal that goes beyond what other non-EU countries have, but it also wants to be able to pursue its own course when it chooses to. On foreign policy, the risk is that the UK will be more autonomous but less influential, while the EU will be more united but less active. On defence, if the EU excludes the UK from operations it would also potentially undermine its own efforts, while the future economic relationship will shape defence-industrial co-operation. On JHA, the UK stands to lose access to the efficient European Arrest Warrant and important criminal databases, but a data protection agreement could help underpin a new security deal.

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