CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

6th REPORT OF 2017–19: 'THE GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS FOR A FUTURE SECURITY PARTNERSHIP WITH THE EUROPEAN UNION' (HC 594)

Plans for future Defence co-operation with EU need clarification

Defence Committee Press Notice – 8 June 2018

The Defence Select Committee calls for further clarity from the Government on how Britain will co-operate with the European Union on Defence issues during and after Brexit.

Its latest report, entitled The Government’s proposals for a future security partnership with the European Union, examines the EU's plans for Defence co-operation, the mechanisms being constructed to put this into practice and the circumstances under which the UK Government plans to engage with them after Brexit. It includes a timeline of the proposals and describes the intended shape of Permanent Structured Co-operation (PESCO), the European Defence Fund (EDF) and the Co-ordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD).

Questions for the Government

The Committee identifies sixteen key questions for the Government to answer, covering inter alia:

  • How future cooperation with EU Defence institutions will be different from the UK’s current Defence relationship with the EU.
  • Under what circumstances the UK would take part in a CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) operation or mission.
  • What model the Government is proposing to ensure that the Future Defence Partnership supports the effective co-operation of UK and EU Defence companies; does not disrupt complex supply chains; and does not disadvantage leading companies with EU-UK ownership.
  • What role the Government plans to play post-Brexit in the relationship between the EU and NATO.

[The full list of questions can be found in the Conclusion section below.]

Chairman's comments

Chairman of the Defence Committee, Dr Julian Lewis MP, says:

"It is vital that Parliament fully understands what the Government is proposing for its Future Defence Partnership with the EU after Brexit. Our Report sets out everything we can glean, so far, from the Government’s public statements and identifies key areas where more clarity is essential. These include whether the UK will decide to participate in future military missions with the EU only on a case-by-case basis and only if we are then able to participate fully in the planning and execution of such missions. We trust that the Government will use its formal response to our detailed questions as an opportunity to shed more light on its intentions."

[To read the full Report, click here.]

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REPORT SUMMARY

The future security partnership between the UK and the EU is yet to be determined. In this report we examine the EU’s plans for defence co-operation, the mechanisms being constructed to put co-operation into practice and how and where the UK Government plans to be engaged with them after Brexit. We have produced a timeline of the proposals and set out the intended shape of Permanent Structured Co-operation (PESCO), the European Defence Fund (EDF) and the Co-ordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD).

We then consider a number of the Government’s statements and publications which set out the UK’s proposals. We conclude that the Government ought to provide more opportunity for Parliamentary scrutiny, including a debate on the floor of the House, before it enters in to any binding commitment. We have also highlighted a number of areas in which the Government ought to provide clarification including on the Common Security and Defence Programme (CSDP), PESCO, the EDF, and involvement with pan-European complex supply chains and research funding.

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CONCLUSION

On the basis of the Government position as set out in the preceding chapters, we conclude and recommend that the Government answer each of the following sixteen questions in detail:

Timing and Nature of the Future Partnership

i)          Is it the Government’s intention to enter into Future Partnership with the European Union’s Defence institutions (a) before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019; (b) before the UK’s future economic relationship with the EU has been agreed; or (c) while the Implementation phase of the UK’s departure from the EU is still underway? What assessment has the Government made of the potential (i) advantages and (ii) disadvantages of each of these timings?

ii)          In what respects will the proposed Future Partnership with the European Union’s Defence institutions, if achieved as envisaged, differ from the UK’s current Defence relationship with the EU or from the continuing participation in those institutions by the remaining members of the EU?

CSDP

iii)         Will the Government make a commitment not to deploy UK troops as part of any CSDP operation or mission unless it has been fully consulted – from the time at which the decision to participate has been taken by the UK and agreed by the EU – about the operation’s or mission’s objectives, the military plans and their execution?

iv)         Is it the Government’s intention to participate in CSDP operations or missions (a) only on a case-by-case basis, and (b) only after a decision taken by the United Kingdom autonomously?

v)         In which EU exercises over the next 5 years has the UK made a commitment to take part?

vi)         Have UK personnel or equipment been withdrawn or reduced after previously being committed to any EU exercises in the last 2 years?

PESCO

vii)        Is it the Government’s intention to participate in any future PESCO projects (a) only on a case-by-case basis, and (b) only after a decision taken by the United Kingdom autonomously?

viii)       What would be the policy, financial, broader resources and legal implications of the UK taking part in the Dutch-led military mobility PESCO project; what are the outcomes expected to be; and when is it expected to conclude?

The European Defence Fund

ix)         If third countries are allowed to engage with the European Defence Fund, will the Government do so only on a “pay and play” basis, or would it be willing to pay an annual subscription?

x)         With which other EU Defence or other institutions, if any, would the UK have to be associated, if it participated in the European Defence Fund?

xi)         What discussions, if any, has the Government had to date with UK defence industry about the potential participation in the European Defence Fund?

Support for pan-European complex supply chains and research funding

xii)        What model is the Government proposing to ensure that the Future Defence Partnership supports the effective co-operation of UK and EU defence companies; does not disrupt complex supply chains; and does not disadvantage leading companies with EU-UK ownership?

xiii)       If European nations developed a proposal for collaboration on major defence projects (such as a sixth-generation fighter), on what basis would the Government decide whether or not to take part? Would the potential involvement of the European Defence Fund and the European Defence Agency make the proposition more, or less, attractive?

The EU and NATO

xiv)       For what reason is NATO barely referred to in the two most recent documents, namely the ‘Framework for the UK-EU Security Partnership’ and the ‘Technical Note: Consultation and Cooperation on External Security’, published on the proposed Future Defence Partnership between the UK and the EU after Brexit?

xv)        What role does the Government intend to play in the relationship between the EU and NATO, with special reference to any moves to (a) create integrated EU armed forces, and (b) issue security guarantees to non-NATO countries?

Parliamentary scrutiny

xvi)       The Government should make a commitment to holding a debate on the floor of the House before agreeing any binding document on a future EU-UK defence and security partnership. Will the Government additionally commit to holding this debate in Government time before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019?