Our relationship with Europe is about defence more than produce. Security cooperation should be near the top of Cabinet’s priorities in contemplating our future relationship with Europeby Robert Cooper / December 21, 2017 / Leave a comment
When we think of security, we think first of police or armies, of how to deal with terrorists or wars in our neighbourhood. These are all important, but they miss the most important factor contributing to our security. That is, friendly relations with the countries that are important to us.
One of the things that no one explained to the British people—not in the referendum campaign, nor in forty years of membership of the European Union—is that while the primary purpose of the EU is political, its most important goal has always been security.
Two relationships matter above all else: first with the United States, the most powerful country in the world, the creator and guardian of the liberal international order.
Then there are relations with our neighbours. For the UK, that means the members of the European Union.
Neighbours matter: they don’t go away; historically they are the people most likely to be a threat; but if they are not, then they will share common interests.
The government tells us that we are “leaving the EU, but not leaving Europe,” and that we want “a deep and special relationship” with our (former) partners. This is idle talk.
Every day we see relations worsening. The preliminary phase of the exit negotiations has been unpleasant enough. After a Christmas truce, this will start again next year, and will probably run for several years after that.
Meanwhile, our European partners will bid for jobs and revenue from the City; they will see if they can get car plants moved from Sunderland to Slovakia, and pharmaceutical research from Cambridge to Amsterdam. All this is normal in international life.
What is not normal in international life are the good relationships created by the European Union. These come out of the daily business of negotiating with each other on everything from telephone roaming charges, to energy security, to aviation safety.
Sometimes the negotiations get nasty, as negotiations often do, but when this is within the EU, you know that tomorrow there will be a new negotiation, and you will need their help—so you maintain friendly relations.
When one member…