In a vote today MEPs agreed on “the need for the EU to ensure a close security and defence relationship with the United Kingdom after Brexit”. The call, contained in a report on EU-NATO relations, was welcomed by Conservative Defence and Security spokesman Geoffrey Van Orden, who commented:
“We can agree with much in this report, in particular the final paragraph which recognises the need for the EU to ensure a close security and defence partnership with the UK after Brexit, acknowledging that the UK will remain a lead contributor to European defence as both a NATO member and European nation, while no longer being a member of the EU.
“It is also right that due attention is given to the ease of mobility of allied forces across Europe, not just in time of tension, but for exercise purposes when necessary, in order to ensure the rapid and efficient reinforcement of the continent from the UK, the United States, and Canada, and the ability to sustain operations.
Mr Van Orden, a former senior British Army officer whose last military appointment was at NATO, continued: “Particularly at a time when there is some friction in transatlantic relations, and as we approach July’s NATO Summit, it is doubly important that European nations signal to the United States our willingness to bear more of the defence burden. The US, after all, has increased its European Reassurance Initiative - which confirms US resolve to defend Europe - by 40% to $4.8bn. This local increase by the US is more than the total defence spending of at least 10 European countries.
“The European burden sharing is not improved by the creation of separate defence structures, by the exclusion of major third countries from defence industrial projects, or from pursuit of an elusive and ill-defined EU 'strategic autonomy'. This is all about European political integration, not defence, and is the central flaw in EU defence ambitions.
“The danger is that it will lead to division between Europe and the United States, particularly if those pressing for removal of national vetoes in the EU on defence and foreign policy were to be successful once the UK is no longer at the EU Council table. The vulnerability of the continental nations, if they were to face a determined and aggressive power such as Russia without the backing of the United States, would quickly be exposed.
“Our first priority must, therefore, be the coherence and revitalisation of NATO. There may indeed be fields where the EU can contribute but these should be clearly defined and complementary to, not duplicative of, the NATO alliance."