The first essay of this pair painted a picture of the great opportunities that Brexit will bring both to enhance our national security and to reinforce the defence and security of the Free World – we must get used to this term once more – as the curtain falls on the era of fuzzy internationalism and as dark shadows return to the world order. The key alliances that we have in NATO, Five/Six Eyes, the wider Commonwealth and in the intelligence special relationship with the USA place us, after the USA, in a position of strong geo-political leadership. But to tack our well-found ship out to the open seas of our global future, we must first cut free from real and present dangers of continuing entanglement and subordination to the EU after Brexit. Precisely what those dangers are and precisely who is trying to keep us entangled, and how, is the subject before us here.
What we shouldn’t do
Under questioning before the Defence Select Committee, Earl Howe, a defence minister, recently said of the Government’s negotiating objective as we leave the EU “…the words ‘deep and special’ have been carefully chosen… we want to achieve an agreement [with the EU after Brexit] which facilitates a really deep partnership in, I think, three areas: first of all, meaningful discussion and consultation on foreign policy; co-ordination, where it is more effective to work side by side than alone; and in particular, in the area of defence co-operation, in areas like EU operations, industrial co-operation, research, capability development” (emphasis added).
This ambition, especially the third part, is the triumph of hope over hard experience during the past eighteen months. It is dangerously misguided. We need a ‘deep and special’ relationship in defence and security matters with the EU institutions like we need a really bad rash. Still more dangerous would be any attempt to hand-cuff defence to trade in a joint treaty in a futile attempt to buy a special ‘trade deal’ which, it is authoritatively rumoured, is favoured by civil servants close to the Prime Minister. The EU will never agree to this special trade deal, and the EU has been so telling us and demonstrating to us – repeatedly – if our government had cared to listen and look and believed what was being said and what it sees. The deliberate and remorseless ‘weaponisation’ of the Irish border by the EU, assisted unwisely by the Taoiseach and by the EU Commission’s ‘remainiac’ Fifth Columnists in Parliament and the Civil Service, leading to an entirely fabricated domestic crisis, is a pretty clear (and hostile) signal of this.
Basically, the EU has no business to be in the defence area at all. It is far more likely to rekindle some spark of affection for itself among its rebellious subjects by reducing its ramified complexity and sticking to its knitting in the internal market. But until it collapses, frankly it’s up to remaining member states to work out ways to work with us; and in the defence and security fields there are well established institutions and protocols to do so, through NATO, the Partnership for Peace and old fashioned bi-lateral statecraft. The onus is not upon Britain.
What should we not be doing? In December 2017, I gave evidence to the same Select Committee before which Lord Howe appeared, to explain the sudden and fierce acceleration since Brexit of EU plans for a Defence Union, which has been a long-standing ambition of the Federal visionaries since the failed Pleven Plan to create a European Armed Forces of 1950, dormant but never dead. In some detail I explained how every single element of the EU’s typically Byzantine plans is linked to every other in such a way that adherence to any one part places a third party under EU power and compromises sovereignty. It is like a fly touching any part of a spider’s web. Given that the UK is Europe’s major military and security power, I warned that the ambition for formal engagements in any of these structures is to fall into this trap. All the key documents show that the EU’s invitation is not to partnership or alliance but only to integration and therefore subordination under Brussels leadership. That is what the EU means by ‘third party’ relationship. The people did not vote for a ‘deeper than anyone else’s’ version of subordination.
So it was wise and correct that Britain did not subscribe to PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) on 13 November 2017 and it has been misguided and dangerous to seek a ‘deep and special partnership’ in Earl Howe’s terms, or even to discuss defence and security within the dirty mental fight that is accompanying our departure.
Speaking at a seminar in Brussels on 11 April 2018, Paul Johnston, a UK diplomat and current British Representative on the Political & Security Committee of the EU Council, candidly explained that “…the view we hear from the other side…” is that “…well ‘you don’t understand about third part relationships’.” His assessment of the EU position is correct. The EU is not going to contemplate any sort of harmonious, ‘deep and special’ relationship such as the Prime Minister vainly hopes for on anything for this departing member, unless it’s accompanied by an unacceptable set of EU controls. The EU offer is ‘integration and subordination on our terms or nothing’. The transcript of an exchange between a British questioner and Dirk Tielbuerger, Deputy Director and Head of Unit for the Preparatory Action for Defence Research (PADR) on 12 April confirmed that interpretation quite bluntly:
Question: “The future relationship between the UK and EU seems to hinge at the moment around a UK government proposal to extract some flexibility from the EU Commission. At the moment it’s difficult to see that happening, especially with the level of granular detail we are being shown.”
Answer: “So far there is nothing more than what is stated there and also on the Brexit and this can be it more or less and there’s no arguing about any flexibility or whatever you mean (emphasis added). So this regulations (sic) as they are in place, that’s what it is, (emphasis added), what you have to keep in mind.”
What we should stop doing – right now
To Einstein is attributed the wise insight that the first sign of madness is to go on doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Therefore in light of the facts given above, what the UK needs to do at once in the defence and security areas is to withdraw in entirety the DExEU Future Partnership paper of last September and also at once the new DExEU Defence proposal paper of May 2018 which repeats without any correction or cognisance of error or danger all the main mistakes of the first iteration. Its authors have learned nothing at all from the Defence Select Committee’s December Special Inquiry into the September paper.
These DExEU papers reflect the prevailing mind-set of the vast majority of civil servants (whose job is to serve – the clue is in the job title) who have been instructed by the people to take back control of everything from the EU to Britain. There are some few honourable exceptions, but most simply cannot imagine life beyond or without the EU, or that it wishes us ill.
One of the primary actors in this piece is Mr Angus Lapsley (who preceded Mr Johnston as UKREP, an Ambassadorial rank diplomat on the PSC). Mr Lapsley is now in charge of Defence matters within the FCO. At the 2016 European Forum Alpsbach, a convivial gathering that gilds the lily for busy diplomats, in an open source recording published by the Alpsbach Forum he observed with self-deprecating humour and to consoling giggles from the audience that he did not understand the referendum result (“honestly, ich verstehe nicht”): he thought it was possibly due to a crisis in social democracy.
But then, immediately, understanding nothing on his own admission, he assured his colleagues firmly that “interestingly” Brexit was not caused by foreign policy. He declared in the same remarks that EU foreign policy has always been “relatively popular” in the UK and that “we rather like the security strategy. We rather like the Global Strategy… we were part of the member states who helped shape it. We think it’s a good strategy.” Really? Is this the foreign policy which duplicates our embassies at great expense? The foreign policy which dictates UK action at the UN and aspects of defence policy and which the UK couldn’t get out of because we were locking into it by David Miliband and Gordon Brown in the Lisbon Treaty? But our Ambassador tells us that it’s all fine and ‘relatively popular’. This sounds a lot like institutional capture to me. Who, beyond Mr Lapsley and colleagues, are ‘we?’ It cannot be Ministers or MPs who have never ever debated these matters and it certainly isn’t the 17.4 million who composed the majority to leave.
Mr Lapsley, now back in Britain with a crucial post for Brexit at the FCO, continues to ‘tweet’ perversely unrealistic comments, hoping for EU flexibility (over GALILEO as recently as 9 May 2018). His colleague Dr Bryan Wells, head of international and strategic research in dstl (the rump defence science organisation in the MoD after Gordon Brown’s dismemberment of DERA), who has also had a recent career in EU institutions, has actively encouraged British companies to engage with the EU drive towards Defence Union. Lapsley has ‘tweeted’ that the EU “Commission [is] needed if we are to respond to modern threats in Europe.”
These civil servants are fundamentally misguided in their objectives because they are based on an incorrect assessment of the relative balance of power between Britain and the EU. There is an incorrect assessment widely held within Whitehall that the UK is the supplicant in a damage-limitation exercise, not the stronger party breaking free from a failing project, as is actually the case. Whitehall also assumes that a reasonable give and take is possible, which as we see on the evidence, it is not. The Future Partnership Paper wishes to offer and to obtain what it says on the cover – partnership. This may be good-hearted but is utterly naïve. Partnership as we might understand it is not on offer from the EU. Participation of any kind is structurally prescribed to be integration, not cooperation. This cannot be stressed too often.
So, thus misguided, the September paper advocates many forms of future structural attachment, notably CSDP (Common Security & Defence Policy) missions and operations under the MPCC (Military Planning and Conduct Capability – an ersatz EU Standing HQ). The September 2017 DExEU paper is the place where the ambition “to seek to develop a deep and special partnership with the EU that goes beyond existing third party arrangements” was stated. It proposes to pay into the EU defence pot and to subscribe to EU rules, structures and agreements. It proposes staying within “European Defence Agency projects and initiatives…European Defence Fund including both the European Defence Research Programme and the European Defence Industrial Development Programme…” With gusto, the fly is positively flinging itself into the spider’s web, begging to be paralysed and sucked dry.
The May 2018 repetition is, if anything, even worse. It introduces the supplicant hope for something called an “ambitious ‘administrative arrangement’” with the European Defence Agency and for “discussion on models for participation”. Translated from Bureaucratise, ‘ambitious’ means ‘it doesn’t exist now’ and ‘models’ is a word that sounds modishly business-like and concrete that means ‘as yet we have no idea what that might be.’ The paper asks for entry into the EDRP (European Defence Research Programme) and the EDIDP (European Defence Industrial Development Programme). Most alarmingly it asks the EU to “keep open the option for UK participation in PESCO projects”. I quote these specific phrases and ask the reader to hold them in mind: they are about to be heard again in another context (see the Appendix) which both gives a clue to authorship and displays the full extent of the civil service’s uncomprehending willingness to prostrate and compromise British Defence and Security before the EU.
Keep up now! Glossary of the EU Acronyms about to hit you.
CARD Co-ordinated Annual Review on Defence
CSDP Common Security & Defence Policy
EDA European Defence Agency
EDAP European Defence Action Plan
EDF European Defence Fund
EDIDP European Defence Industrial Development Programme
EDRP European Defence Research Programme
EDTIB European Defence Technology Industrial Base
EDU European Defence Union
EEAS European External Action Service (ersatz Foreign Service)
ESDIP European Security & Defence Implementation Plan
MPCC Military Planning & Conduct Capability (ersatz EU Standing HQ)
PADR Preparatory Action on Defence Research
PESCO Permanent Structured Co-operation
TEU Treaty of European Union
SFAEUA Society For the Abolition of European Union Acronyms – (that’s a joke..)
The primary enabling documents of EU Defence Union are the European Security and Defence Implementation Plan of 14 November 2016 and European Defence Action Plan of 30 November 2016. These two documents tie all emerging EU defence capabilities to the over-riding federal goal of EU ‘ever closer union’ and to the EU’s foreign policy objectives, many of which run contrary to our national interests. The first of the two is part of the foreign policy ‘EU Global Strategy’ that Mr Lapsley likes so much. The other, the European Defence Action Plan of 30 November 2016, states the EU’s ambitions. The ESDIP is the working plan to use EU finances and assets to deliver the EDAP. Worryingly Sir Alan Duncan, a Foreign Office Minister, has stated that the UK “agreed with much of the content” of ESDIP. With WHAT precisely does Sir Alan agree? This must be urgently clarified; for his statement is dead wrong.
We can visualise in a Venn diagram the threats from ESDIP and EADP which Sir Alan seems not to understand. Deep blue indicates ‘Obvious PESCO’, where the UK has not opted in and over which it therefore has no control. Light blue is the danger zone where elements of ambiguity and risk lurk. It is the spider’s web where an unsuspecting fly can become trapped and sucked dry of money, capabilities, power, because, while they also relate to other areas, decisions are owned and driven by PESCO. White are those areas where Brexit negotiators are discussing the UK’s end status. These are not all Defence-related, but ambiguity or uncertainty on the end result here may be clouding Whitehall judgements and hence clarity of threat assessment in the light blue areas which control the commanding heights of the issue.
SM = Single Market
In order to cut loose from all this entangling wreckage and take back control of the defence of the realm (which, do not forget, is the first duty of government), so that we can return to ‘offshore balancing’ as our strategic posture towards the Continent, as soon as possible and well before we leave the EU next April, Britain must:
- For the avoidance of all doubt in light of the May 2018 DExEU paper, re-state now the clear intention not to join PESCO originally declared on 17 November 2017
- Withdraw any present or proposed UK participation in the European Defence Action Plan (EDAP) and thereby cancel any Cabinet Office-EU Negotiator’s cooked-up proposal for a hasty defence deal, or any entanglement with trade issues during the transition.
- Withdraw the proposal to stay in the European Defence Fund (EDF)
- Withdraw from the Fund’s trial, (Mr Tielbuerger’s shop) called the ‘Preparatory Action on Defence Research’ (PADR)
- Withdraw from the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD)
- Withdraw from the proposal to enter the European Defence Research Programme (EDRP) and the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP)
- Block the use of UK money for EDAP via the European Investment Bank (EIB)
- Cancel agreements towards the Cooperative Financial Mechanism (CFM)
- Cancel UK participation in the proposed joint “own/procure/finance” of military assets of the EDF
- Leave the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) agreement and restrict defence liaison to NATO channels only
- Cancel any post-Brexit role in EU Battlegroups and make clear that our efforts go through NATO or bilateral relationships. Although the UK’s scheduled 2019 leadership role was cancelled, this merely reflected EU policy over non-EU leadership. In the ‘Kit Kat Tapes’ tapes of Whitehall officials (see below and Appendix), Alastair Brockbank, the Defence Adviser to Oliver Robbins, explains that the Cabinet Office has been eyeing future UK membership of EU Battlegroups on a non-leadership That would be intolerable because any such membership of EU Battlegroups places UK forces under EU authority and subjects the UK to a wider EU policy context. It utterly disrespects the vote to leave where it affects the most fundamental aspect of national sovereignty.
- Remove the assumption of any EU Commission authority from all future UK planning for any future UK-EU defence relationship, such as there may be
- Proceed at once with the Prime Minister’s reported intention to build an independent British GPS satellite system and, commensurately, withdraw co-operation and money from GALILEO. UK aero-space companies should be assured frictionless continuity of work transferring from GALILEO to the bespoke UK system (FLAMSTEED could be nice name, maybe, for the first Astronomer Royal? Or COOK for the first Endeavour voyage which observed the transit of Venus in Tahiti in 1769?) Dock the €1.4bn of British taxpayers’ money already spent on GALILEO from any final goodwill payment to the EU or, if there is no final payment because there is no deal, send in that bill for reimbursement.
In an earlier article, companion to this one, Sir Richard Dearlove, the former Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), and I have explained just why GALILEO poses such a threat to our national security within its own terms, specifically to our key security relationships. In our joint article for ‘Briefings for Brexit’ we strongly endorsed the PM’s reported intention to authorise an independent British GPS satellite network which will complement our usage of US GPS, provide redundancy and give our military and intelligence agencies fresh sovereign options which can, if we wish, be shared within Five Eyes. Without Great Britain’s pre-eminent expertise in this field – Glasgow is ‘satellite city,’ building more than any other European city – GALILEO will struggle to compete with us; and unlike the EU we possess the essential world-wide network of ground-stations in our Sovereign bases and Overseas Territories.
It is therefore in the light of the foregoing description of the commitments being made by officials that the report on 2 May 2018 that the Prime Minister is preparing to authorise breaking away from the EU’s satellite ambitions has a strategic importance that reaches far beyond this single issue.
I have deliberately listed above, and shown by diagram, the mind-numbing, acronymic cat’s-cradle of entangling structures to which civil servants have already committed us because it has long been an EU tactic to bore or befuddle people to death as cover for the forward march of Federal Union. Our officials had previously waved through all these arrangements on the express assumption that we would not be party to any of them. Given that the DExEU paper of September 2017 announced and that of May 2018 has now repeated wishes and intentions to adhere, it follows that it is now constitutionally improper that those approvals were given. Therefore they must be rescinded en bloc; for none of these agreements had Parliamentary scrutiny let alone voted approval. The entire subject was not raised in the Palace of Westminster until the Defence Select Committee’s special Inquiry of December 2017 into the DExEU Partnership Paper which, we now see, has been entirely ignored. I spell out the list to make clear the scale of real and present danger from which we must pull back.
The list also underlines vividly just how brave and vitally important is the Prime Minister’s reported decision to rebuff EU bullying and instead to break away from GALILEO. Just as GALILEO has reached an inevitable bust-up, as Sir Richard and I pointed out must be the case, the bust-up over the covert way in which officials have led ministers into subservience to EU power over defence and security matters after Brexit is likewise inevitable and it is high time to bring it on.
Hotel California – ‘we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’
So what on earth is really going on? Have we any clues? The now notorious ‘Kit Kat Tapes’ made secretly at a meeting at the LSE, parts of which were published by The Sun on 15 March 2018, enable us to hear a British official called Victoria Billing of DExEU chuckle as she describes how British officials go through the motions of making a shiny ‘Kit Kat wrapper’ superficially conforming to the Brexit mandate while actually engineering within the wrapper the sort of agreements listed above and now revealed in the May 2018 DExEU second paper. On the full tapes, Alastair Brockbank from the Cabinet Office who is the Defence Adviser to Oliver Robbins the PM’s principal Brexit adviser in No 10, makes extraordinary statements.
He says that “we are not falling out of CSDP on exit day.” He regrets our absence from PESCO and says that “we would see what we can contribute towards PESCO still,” as the EU moves it forward. Of the list of institutions above, EDF, EDRP, EDIDP etc, – specified in the May 2018 DExEU wish-list, he states that on “the capabilities side, um, we are interested in it all.” He wants to remain in CARD and even thinks that Britain can negotiate a seat on the PSC and suggests that the EEAS should have people inside UK Ministries after Brexit! Like Ms Billing, Mr Brockbank cynically boasts that it is civil servants who “are negotiating the detail of that at the same time as we are discussing the political high-level fluffy bits that will go into any declaration that gets made public.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP has called for an official inquiry into this meeting at the LSE and the conduct of these officials. As a matter of public interest which overrides the usual constraints of a university seminar, the full verbatim transcript of Mr Brockbank’s remarks in the Kit Kat Tapes is given in the Appendix to this article so that readers may judge for themselves what is going on. Ominously the May 2018 DExEU paper points towards an answer: for it is merely a slightly more literate repetition of Brockbank’s remarks which, on external evidence of the powerful position which he currently occupies and on internal evidence of the phrases and ambitions shared by the DExEU paper with his LSE remarks, suggest this official’s involvement in it.
There is something deeply, deeply amiss in the current conduct of the British withdrawal from the EU because such extraordinary ultra vires conduct by officials is plainly intended to keep Britain in a ‘Hotel California’ Brexit from Hell (“you can check out any time you like. But you can never leave”) in flagrant defiance of the peoples’ instruction to leave the EU. The provocations do not stop, of which this May 2018 repetition of all the uncorrected errors of the DExEU Partnership paper of September 2017 is only the latest and therefore the worst.
So let’s have that bust-up now. Then we can get on with cutting away the hooks and grapnels and fallen spars and rigging that foul our ship and, in a modest adaptation of Bismarck’s words in 1854 opposing closer Prussian association with Austria, “unbind our spruce and seaworthy frigate [from] the wormy old warship of the EU” and tack the well-found British ship of state back to the open seas of our global future.
The willingness to break away from GALILEO and to build a British GPS system contrasts starkly with the disreputable DExEU paper and Brockbank’s remarks. It suggests tensions within the civil service. Remarks by Lapsley, Wills, Brockbank, Billing et al would have Lord Hankey, that decorated former Royal Marine Artillery officer and the inventor of the modern Civil Service, rise from his grave to horse-whip such callow successors. But it is an auspicious indicator that finally the lesson is being learned in the highest executive circles that the EU is unable to negotiate anything because of the requirements of the acquis communautaire and the need for an improbable eventual unanimity of approval for any deal from the remaining member states and the ‘European Parliament’.
The Great Escape
There is one big lesson in all of this. From cock’s crow on the BBC’s flagship ‘Today’ programme, month after weary month, the country has awoken to a daily agenda-setting barrage of commentary whose smuggled assumption is that disengagement from the EU is a matter of extraordinary complexity. The truth is quite the opposite. Since the day that people voted to leave in June 2016, ‘no deal is better than any deal’ has always been the best case in general and it is certainly the only safe case over our defence and security after Brexit. The Downing St source which reported the PM’s inclination to proceed independently over satellites stated that “The PM is clear our collective security is too important to haggle over” (by which I take it is meant our collective national security). Mrs May is absolutely correct in this and should stick to her guns, regardless of naysayers around her.
With Russia resurgent and the unwise ‘peace dividend’ holiday over, other of our closest allies in Europe in the northern crescent, who look instinctively to Britain for leadership, should be answered. From The Netherlands (our closest spiritual ally and No 2 in global connectivity after Singapore), through Scandinavia and then along the spectral line of the deceased Iron Curtain from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic our friends may wish to join in a post EU or non EU British-led European defence relationship as an adjunct harmonious with NATO in order to strengthen genuinely once more the sinews of peace (which was Churchill’s own title for the Fulton speech): a true alliance of friends that is not a bureaucrat’s fly trap.
Kasbah du Toubkal 15 May 2018
Professor Gwythian Prins is Emeritus Research Professor at the LSE and Senior Academic Visiting Fellow at L’école Spéciale Militaire de St Cyr. He was Visiting Senior Fellow in the Defence Evaluation & Research Agency of the UK MoD and on the Chief of the Defence Staff’s Strategy Advisory Panel. He was a Fellow of Emmanuel College and taught history and politics at Cambridge for over twenty years and is the Academic Board Member of Veterans for Britain.
ALASTAIR BROCKBANK is Defence Adviser to Oliver Robbins, the Prime Minister’s Brexit Adviser in No 10 Downing St. This is Brockbank’s full statement at the LSE conference, made available in breach of the ‘Chatham House Rule’ as a matter of overriding public interest with thanks to Harry Cole, the Westminster Correspondent of The Sun newspaper.
Julia Himmrich (chair of LSE Dahrendorf Forum event): “Alastair…”
Alastair Brockbank (Cabinet Office, Defence Adviser to Oliver Robbins):
“Right I will first address the point on the legal aspects then I’ll do kind of general thoughts around operations, research, capabilities.
First on the kind of the legal ramifications and the implementation period has been the key thing keeping myself and colleagues very busy the past fortnight.
What is in the EU text is that and it’s the only phase within the text is that there is a future agreement on CFSP and CSDP that could be agreed during the implementation period.
So, unlike JHA and other areas where we would wait until 2021, we can bring this in at any point during the implementation period. Now, the question is the word ‘during’ uh which infers that before it does come in, what happens to the UK, do you follow CFSP title 5 chapter 2 of TEU, or do you fall out of that.
Um… and honestly speaking and off the record this has been for us some quite difficult political conversations for us in the UK.
Where we think things should be is that… and similar to what the EU has put out in their future guidelines is that there should be no gap on CFSP and CSDP. So as you rightly said if we were to fall out, that is when for example a mandate renewal comes up in a CSDP operation, we could fall out of that operation and we would no longer be party to the family decision of the European Defence Agency. So it’s in both our interests that there’s agreement between exit day this implementation period and before any future agreement comes in.
However, what we’re seeking is for that future agreement to come in as soon as possible and it makes things quite difficult as you know, there will be this future agreement and there will be this declaration around October when they’re going to the European Parliament.
But what will happen is that because we are seeking this future agreement during the IP, we are negotiating the detail of that at the same time as we are discussing the political high level fluffy bits that will go into any declaration that gets made public.
So there are some kind of handling issues around there, but I just wanted to stress that where we are at the moment between UK and Taskforce 50 is that we are not falling out of CSDP on exit day and we still have this mutual intent to bring a mutual agreement into effect as soon as possible in the implementation period.
So just to get that out of the way first.
Then more generally listening to what’s been said in the room.
When we sat down and were thinking about the Prime Minister’s Munich speech it was kind of framed and exactly as our French colleague said Europe will have to do more. We recognise there are some strategic shifts in the world, we still have Russia as a major threat in the East, there’s kind of cyber on the horizon, but also kind of preppy uncertainty around where the US are heading with regard to European security.
So when we sat down and were thinking ‘therefore what should our message be?’, we knew that going into Munich other countries would come with a pro-European / anti-US message, that actually It’s about all the partnerships you have that you need to leverage. So that includes NATO, it includes bilateral partnerships, the UK-France summit recently. It Includes small groups, Five Eyes our key five membership, Northern Group as our Dutch colleague said, Joint Expeditionary Force and things like the European Intervention Initiative which the UK would like to be a part of.
And then kind of fourthly, the elephant in the room is our partnership with the EU um and the Prime Minister’s speech, the simple message beyond ‘Europe’s security is our security’ and ‘unconditional commitment’ which you’ll have heard peddled by ministers countless times before, Is that ultimately we want something that will give us the best effect, where the UK and EU can work side by side and not be constrained by dogma, rigid institutions and frankly not let some of the ideology get in the way.
Now, we recognise that what we are asking for is beyond what existing third countries have and will be extremely difficult for EU member states to agree, but this is something which we want to at least entertain and force consideration of.
Now as I said there is mutual interest, both in the implementation period to bring things forward as soon as possible, the future guidelines to have no gap.
And there’s not as big a gap between slides put out by Taskforce 50 and kind of speeches by the Prime Minister and others as there are on most other areas of Brexit. So we are confident that this is somewhere that we can reach an agreement and one that is broadly positive.
When… If we are looking specifically at CSDP and looking through the three categories, we look at operations and missions first.
Now, the existing third countries with Framework Partnership Agreements – unless you are Switzerland who do them on a mission-by-mission basis and smuggle some dodgy terms into some of the financing bits – those agreements there’s… you have your decision to establish and decision to launch a mission.
What the UK… the position we’re coming from is that where we make a significant contribution to one of these operations, there should be some assurance and consultation prior to this decision to launch, between establishing and the decision to launch so the mandate shouldn’t say it’s been agreed and ‘by the way guys would you like to come along’.
If there is some kind of mutual development and some kind of consultation between establishing and launching a mission, then it’s far more likely you would get a demonstrable commitment from the UK.
Now, likewise for existing missions that might be amended or changed when things come up like strategic reviews, knowing that this mission is still in our interests, that things like Operation Sofia won’t be broadening its mandate or narrowing its mandate, but kind of stays in our interests, then we would also like to see some consultation there and we don’t think that is unreasonable.
I should also add that there’s lots of talk about protecting the decision-making autonomy of the union. I don’t, I think… honestly speaking… it would be completely unnegotiable for us to keep a seat at the PSC, EUMC and all the rest of it, we know where to draw the line.
So we are looking in the space of the decision-shaping, consultation, the information-sharing, the analysis and, like other people have said, secondees are so important for having both our people in Brussels but also having European External Action Service possibly in UK ministries to facilitate that exchange is something we are very interested in exploring.
So other things on operations and missions:
Atalanta, our position is… and the withdrawal text is that we cannot command whatsoever in the implementation period. Our position is actually if you want us to, we are open to consideration of that if it is for the sake of continuity. There’s talk of possible relocation from Northwood for Atalanta, but there is kind of no firm shutting of door from the UK. If the door gets shut it will be from the Commission side.
Althea is a different issue which some of you will know is commanded by a UK officer in NATO, DSACEUR. That ultimately it is not a decision for us to make, that is a bilateral decision between the EU and NATO, he is a NATO officer, he just so happens to be British, he is not a British officer.
Um, so operations and missions…
EU Battlegroup someone touched on, I think the 2nd half of 2019 we are on the roster to be on the EU Battlegroup. Um, obviously with this future agreement possibly coming in at some point during the implementation period we don’t really know if we’ll be coming or going or what our status will be at that stage, so we think it makes sense to notify that we will back off from that slot, but keep an option to kind of participate in the EU Battlegroups in the future, but the terms and precise arrangements for that will need to be discussed in more detail in the future.
So that’s kind of broadly the operations and missions stuff.
When it comes to the European Defence Fund, EDRP which will come in in the next MFF (EU budget Multiannual Financial Framework) and EDIDP on the capabilities side, um, we are interested in it all.
And the EDA they have precedents for admin arrangements with third countries Switzerland, Serbia, Ukraine I think and we see a similar model working for us and that’s not somewhere I think that will cause a massive fight.
Where things I think get more difficult is the European Defence Fund and with negotiations ongoing, how through ongoing business can ourselves and others ensure that arrangements for third countries to dock into the European Defence Fund are adequate and don’t kind of turn people off the idea of participating.
So that’s our objective to keep that as open and inclusive as possible and we think that’s in the Europe’s interests
There’s this nervousness against the US, there’s this idea that Europe wants to be more competitive. It would be very difficult for Europe to compete against the US and for Europe to be genuinely competitive if you were to say ‘no thank-you’ and shut the door to one of the biggest defence industrial actors in Europe. So I think having to look for a partnership for EDF would work for both sides.
The other point that often doesn’t get discussed is Britain as both a market and a salesman ultimately.
If it is quite narrow permission for third countries to participate, would it be easy to sell that kit elsewhere, would it just be Europeans to make that kit, Europeans to use, Europeans to buy, or would you be looking to make that kit that you developed an export success, that an area where the UK could have particular success in the European Defence Fund.
Then all the bits around the side, PESCO obviously we are not a participating member but want third country arrangements to be as flexible as possible and we want to demonstrate our intent and show that we’ll be a serious partner for capability projects we are interested in, and as kind of the different tranches come round we would see what we can contribute towards PESCO still.
CARD is the other thing where we are not sure, we are participating in the future round of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence… this is all getting a bit technical… We are participating in it at the moment and again we are not entirely certain of where it will go in terms of EDA governance, EDIDP and all the rest of it… the acronym soup all gets a bit messy.
But we still retain an interest in CARD if it does help us deliver the best effects and the best capability for Europe to meet its threats.
So that’s broadly the CSDP bit
The other bit, which gets missed at the minute is space which is in an odd position in the legal space, but the place that Space has in European defence is quite major.
So Galileo is the EU’s version of GPS and the secure signal of Galileo will be crucial for military and emergency services in the future.
Now, in both implementation period talks and some of the ongoing business there is difficulty between the UK and some of the member states in terms of our exclusion from secure aspects of that project. That makes it quite difficult for us, because if we are excluded from secure aspects, we have critical dependence then on GPS. However, ultimately Galileo doesn’t deliver for us what we need it to, it doesn’t give us a sovereign alternative should the US kind of turn off the switch. On the commercial side roughly 80% of Galileo have secure elements and the majority of those are going to the UK. This for some member states will be seen as ‘fantastic we can sense a lot of euros in the air here’. The downside is that a lot of the competence for secure areas of Galileo sits within the UK.
So the UK’s exclusion can delay the delivery of Galileo by two, three years, it can make it a lot more expensive and it also means that you have been a little bit frosty towards a country that could develop something of their own.
This is a dispute that is being had through ongoing business, but I think actually Galileo in terms of building crucial capability will be crucial for the UK-EU partnership in future.”
 Evidence Session 5 December 2017 TV https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/a7bf339e-251b-428a-afc9-6ad157b059c4; written evidence: Main Paper: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/defence-committee/the-dexeu-position-paper-foreign-policy-defence-and-development-a-future-partnership-paper/written/74792.pdf. Subsidiary Submission: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/defence-committee/the-dexeu-position-paper-foreign-policy-defence-and-development-a-future-partnership-paper/written/75925.html