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EU Permanent Structured Cooperation

Volume 735: debated on Monday 26 June 2023

The UK applied to join the permanent structured co-operation military mobility project to help shape EU military transport procedures and infrastructure, addressing impediments to moving military personnel and assets across Europe at pace.

We are negotiating the technical terms of our participation in the form of an administrative arrangement and have reached agreement on the majority of the text.

Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, has given evidence to House Committees on this issue and he questioned why we were joining this and who had authorised it. He also stated that membership of these European Union defence structures are not an à la carte menu where the UK can choose what it wants and reject what it does not. It is very much a take it or leave it, all or nothing, situation. Does the Minister agree with Sir Richard’s assessment?

Conspiracy is not as rife as the hon. Gentleman seems to think. We can indeed choose which parts of the permanent structured co-operation we wish to be in, and the mobility projects, which co-ordinate the development of infrastructure for the movements of NATO weapons and platforms across Europe, seem to be a pretty good thing on which the UK should seek to co-operate with the EU.

As my right hon. Friend has mentioned, the UK at the moment is considering acceding only to the military mobility element of PESCO. There are, however, more than 60 separate elements. Can my right hon. Friend indicate whether the Government are considering joining any of those other elements?

We will consider those elements on a case-by-case basis. Where there is merit and where it is in the UK interests to work with the European Union to the advantage of NATO and our own national interest, we will, of course, do so. However, we will do so not blindly out of habit, but only where it is in our interests.