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Research Report

European defence:: how to engage the UK after Brexit?

Anne Bakker
Margriet Drent
Dick Zandee
Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2017
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 27

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. (pp. [iii]-[iii])
  3. (pp. 1-2)

    The process of the United Kingdom exiting the EU is on its way. Although the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is not the most pressing or most eye-catching field that needs to be disentangled, it is nevertheless of great political importance. The insistence of various British officials that the UK brings a security surplus to the negotiations and is ready to use it has raised some hackles in the EU-27. The atmosphere did not lighten when the UK’s Defence Minister Michael Fallon pledged to carry on vetoing a number of proposals towards closer defence cooperation as long as Britain...

  4. (pp. 3-9)

    With the UK gone, one of Europe’s leading military powers is stepping out of the CSDP. Having a 52 billion dollar defence budget, the UK is the largest European defence spender and one of only five NATO member states to reach the 2% spending target. Brexit will take a huge chunk out of the EU’s overall capabilities, of which the UK owns about 20%. This includes key assets such as Northwood operational headquarters – one of the five military headquarters for commanding EU missions and operations – and high-end capabilities not owned by most other member states, such as Intelligence,...

  5. (pp. 10-17)

    The UK will leave the EU, and thereby the CSDP, but mutual security interests across the Channel will remain. Both parties have an interest in maintaining close security and defence relations. The EU needs the UK for its capabilities and political weight. The UK also has a vested interest in still being involved in EU security and defence policy. Especially in border security and the civil-military area (anti-piracy, anti-human trafficking, training, security sector reform, etc.) the CSDP puts something on the table that NATO cannot. These types of CSDP missions and operations are likely to get UK post-Brexit backing. Defence...

  6. (pp. 18-21)

    Brexit will undoubtedly lead to a weakening of the UK’s influence on the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. However, NATO membership will continue to provide the UK with another forum to play a key role in European defence. The UK Government has never left any doubt as to the importance of the Atlantic Alliance as the cornerstone of its defence. After Brexit. London is likely to further underline the role of NATO as a key contributor to Europe’s security. The UK’s active participation in the Alliance’s Enhanced Forward Presence measures is proof of the country’s NATO commitment. The UK...

  7. (pp. 22-23)

    It is clear that in numbers of capabilities, knowledge, experience and resources the EU will suffer a considerable diminished potential in defence. However, it has to be kept in mind that the UK “is leaving the EU, not Europe” and that these capabilities will still be available to European security in – more likely – NATO and coalitions-of-the-willing contexts. Nevertheless, the EU increasingly needs to fend for itself and has ambitions in the defence area, while the UK’s and the EU’s security interests converge to a large extent. Therefore, it is in the interest of both parties to find formulas...