Post-Brexit foreign, security and defence co-operation

This report from UK think tank the Centre for European Reform looks at what the UK wants and what the EU offers on foreign, security and defence co-operation.

Boris Johnson’s government has chosen not even to discuss an agreement with the EU on foreign, security and defence co-operation after Brexit, preferring to rely on bilateral contacts with its former EU partners. That may turn out to be a mistake, but the UK is not the only Western democracy that finds foreign policy co-operation with the EU frustrating. London and Brussels should both re-examine their positions. That’s the main conclusion of a new policy brief from the Centre for European Reform, ‘Post-Brexit foreign, security and defence co-operation: We don’t want to talk about it’, which examines what the UK wants, and what the EU offers its partners. Theresa May’s government was keen to have a substantial agreement with the EU on foreign, security and defence cooperation after Brexit. Boris Johnson, however, sees little added value in a contractual arrangement with the EU in these areas, and so far these matters have been sidelined in favour of discussing more pressing issues like the future trade relationship and the mechanisms for law enforcement and judicial cooperation. Boris Johnson’s government believes that the UK can instead work bilaterally with major EU member-states on foreign, security and defence co-operation, and they will then bring the rest of the member-states and the EU institutions into line. The lessons from the EU’s external security co-operation with other third countries like Canada, Norway or the US are that having a treaty-based relationship with the EU does not give a country any more influence over EU decision-making; and that countries that do not have such relationships can still benefit from EU foreign policy successes.

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