I thank Members on both sides of the House for their warm welcome. I should also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor for the work that she has done in this role for the past two years. Ministerial colleagues and I regularly discuss defence co-operation with our European partners. The Government are clear that they are seeking a deep and special partnership with the EU, including on security matters. It is important that UK and European industry can continue to work together to deliver the capabilities we need to keep us safe, and we look forward to discussing options for future co-operation during the next phase of the negotiations.
I thank the Minister for that response, although he does not make it clear whether we will still be part of the European defence fund or whether that is our ambition. He will be aware that negotiations on the next stage of the European defence industrial development programme, which is part of the EDF, are taking place, so what assessment has he made of the impact on jobs in our aerospace, defence and security industries if we do leave?
The impact would be significant, and everybody would recognise that. However, going back to my previous point, the Government’s intention is to ensure that, despite leaving the European Union, our relationship with our European partners on security and defence is enhanced and strengthened.
The Minister surely knows of the deep concern among our friends and allies across Europe, not just about the European defence fund, but about the fact that this country is running down its defence capacity. Our support for NATO is under threat from our leaving the European Union, and people believe that we will soon lose our seat on the UN Security Council. What does he say to our friends in Europe?
The hon. Gentleman is making a statement that I do not recognise. This country is still one of the largest defence spenders in the world and still meets its obligations within NATO, and our European partners are well aware that the United Kingdom has a huge amount to offer them moving forward. The picture painted by the hon. Gentleman does not reflect the reality.