A failure to compromise will see both the UK and EU lose outby Alexandra Hall, James Black / March 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Defence and security were not critical issues to those who voted for the UK to leave the European Union. Since the referendum, these topics have remained in the background, with trade and migration issues still dominating Brexit discussions. Nonetheless, the decision to leave the EU creates fresh challenges for UK and European security—deepening uncertainty at a time when little certainty exists.
Policymakers face the complicated task of untangling the UK from EU institutions, all while grappling with the resurgence of Russia, the Mediterranean migrant crisis and terrorism at home and abroad. Given these other challenges and the enduring common interest—even interdependence—of the UK and EU in defence and security matters, such issues warrant continued co-operation after Brexit.
RAND Europe’s recent report, Defence and Security after Brexit, outlines the range, scale and complexity of the issues that must be addressed. These include the potential impact on the defence capabilities of the UK, EU and Nato; the domestic implications, especially for Scotland and Northern Ireland; the resulting uncertainty about defence spending, industry, R&D and innovation; and new challenges for co-operation on transnational issues such as counterterrorism, space and cyber security.
The months since the referendum have already seen a flurry of developments. The EU has reinvigorated proposals for an operational headquarters for European training missions and a new €500m annual fund for defence research. The UK has renewed, for now at least, its membership in Europol, a crucial EU security body headed by a British official (40 per cent of its caseload involves the UK). The National Audit Office has warned that the UK Ministry of Defence faces a £6bn hole in its spending plans—on top of the £21bn of upcoming military spending that must be paid for with a weakened pound.
These are only some of the more obvious implications and uncertainties. There are a myriad of other important technical issues that will have to be resolved during and after Brexit negotiations.
Considering these many esoteric issues will no doubt cause Brexit negotiators many a sleepless night. How will border controls work in Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and Calais? Should the UK retain the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe role in Nato (given he or she theoretically commands EU operations, too)? What…