Motion to Take Note
My Lords, this is the second debate on this theme in three days, so the Minister will now be prepared for the questions that many of us will pose. The purpose of this debate is to ask the Government what their intentions are in terms of continuing participation in or withdrawal from European institutions, networks and exchanges of information and intelligence in foreign policy, defence, defence procurement, policing, counterterrorism and internal security after we leave the EU.
Posing these questions does not, as David Davis has suggested, amount to a demand to micromanage the Government’s negotiations; it asks the Government to set out their overall objectives—their negotiating guidelines, without which they can neither conduct a successful negotiation with others nor carry their domestic public and the interested parties with them. The Prime Minister’s repeated assurance that leaving the European Union does not mean that we are leaving Europe is as vacuous as her statement, “Brexit means Brexit”.
For the past 43 years, substantial aspects of British foreign policy have been conducted through the mechanisms of European political co-operation, now rather optimistically entitled “common foreign and security policy”. I remember Jim Callaghan’s enthusiasm, as Foreign Secretary, for the usefulness of regular meetings with European Foreign Ministers, and the contributions of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, to strengthening the mechanism and developing a secretariat.
British Ministers meet their European counterparts more often in such meetings than in any other multilateral forum. Co-ordination of policy with our most important neighbours—France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain—flows from such meetings and the conversations around them. Western negotiations on nuclear weapons with Iran, for example, were conducted by the E3, as we called it—France, Germany and the UK, ably assisted both formally and informally by the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, as the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy. Western responses to Russia on Ukraine have been managed through EU sanctions—though the British Government inexplicably opted out of the more active Normandy process, leaving it to Germany and France to handle the tough negotiations with Moscow. The EU caucus is one of the most effective groups within the UN General Assembly and its various committees, and in other global international organisations.
Do the Government propose to withdraw from the now extensive network of CFSP meetings, and to withdraw UK staff from the European External Action Service, as well as from the externally related directorates-general of the European Commission? If so, we will become an outsider, a marginal participant in multilateral discussions on approaches to Russia, the Middle East, north Africa and beyond.
Since the end of the Cold War, the subsequent transformation of European security and the withdrawal of most US forces from the European continent and the UK, the EU has also begun to develop a defence dimension, encouraged by the Americans and by NATO, as NATO lacks the range of military and civil options to respond to hybrid warfare, state collapse and non-state conflicts. The UK has played an active role in this, while at the same time insisting as far as possible on avoiding public commitments, first under the Blair Government, then under the coalition and now under the Conservatives. We signed a bilateral defence agreement with the French in 1998, intended to provide a lead for the reshaping of other EU forces towards operations outside NATO territory. Liam Fox, no less, signed a reinforced UK-French agreement in 2010. We led, with the French, in developing cross-national battalion groups for such potential deployments. While resisting French proposals for an autonomous European headquarters, we have provided the multilateral HQ for Operation Atalanta—the anti-piracy patrols off Somalia in the Indian Ocean—at Joint Forces Command HQ Northwood.
As a Liberal Democrat Minister, I worked hard to attract more attention to this successful multilateral operation. My Conservative colleagues agreed to invite EU ambassadors to visit Northwood, and even a small number of MPs, but not of course to allow the press in. We take part in Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean and in assisting local forces in Mali and elsewhere across the Sahel. We are also a member of the European Defence Agency, a body of active interest to UK defence manufacturers. Do we intend to withdraw from all this as being incompatible with British sovereignty, or do we want to negotiate some way of remaining associated, like Norway, in a weaker and subordinate marginal capacity?
Then there is multilateral co-operation in development, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, in Tuesday’s debate. Reviews of the European Development Fund have rated it as one of the most effective multilateral bodies in aid and development. It helps many poorer Commonwealth countries as well as others in Africa, the Caribbean and the Asia-Pacific. Do we intend to walk away from that as well and to spend UK development funds through less efficient multilateral bodies or to shoulder the additional administrative costs of managing our entire development spending ourselves, unco-ordinated with other states?
Then there is co-operation among police forces, intelligence services and border control. I remember my first introduction to this area of European co-operation when in early 1990 the Metropolitan Police approached Chatham House with a request for us to host a seminar with police and interior participants from continental countries. They understood that, with the steady increase in the numbers of British citizens crossing the Channel and EU citizens visiting Britain, closer co-operation was becoming essential and that the demolition of the Berlin Wall had made all European borders more porous. Eurosceptics should take note that this was in no way an attempt to build a mythical European superstate or to push powers away from Westminster to Brussels; it was a practical response by senior British police officers to changing patterns of cross-national movement. Those noble Lords who listened to the “Today” programme this morning will have heard a senior British police officer saying again how vital it is that we should remain a member of the European arrest warrant procedures.
British Ministers have led in pressing for exchanges of information on cross-border criminal networks, on passenger name information on travellers by air, while also asking for access to Schengen databases and playing a positive role within Europol. Do the Government now intend that we should withdraw from all of this when we leave the European Union, thus risking a deterioration in British security which tighter border controls will only partly mitigate? Or, again, will we try to find some way of hanging around the edge of the institutions and networks that the EU has established to manage common challenges, which any British Government must continue to deal with?
The leave campaign refused to address any of these issues before the referendum and the Government have said nothing substantial about them since then. Boris Johnson and Liam Fox are in effect security deniers, sweeping such concerns away with assurances that NATO will look after us and that the EU is irrelevant to UK security. However, if we are going to depend solely on the United States, let us hope that we do not get President Trump, although the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Trade would no doubt welcome him as a soulmate. The most curious speech in Tuesday’s debate came from the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, who mentioned neither peace nor security, let alone the complex threats facing the European region and the UK as part of that region. He spoke as if he was defending the sovereignty of Mauritius against imperial Britain, standing up for a little island secure from all threats in the middle of an ocean. Perhaps that is the image of England that grips hard Eurosceptics, obsessed with the fantasy that Brussels is the front for a German-dominated empire.
In Tuesday’s debate, both the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds quoted extensively from chapter 5 of the current Government’s own strategic defence and security review of 2015. The decision to leave the EU now makes much of that chapter redundant and requires, as the noble Baroness suggested, a new overseas strategy and SDSR for a non-European UK. Paragraph 5.40, for example, states bluntly:
“A secure and prosperous Europe is essential for a secure and prosperous UK. We want Europe to be dynamic, competitive and outwardly focused, delivering prosperity and security”.
Paragraph 5.42 continues:
“We will also continue to foster closer coordination and cooperation between the EU and other institutions, principally NATO, in ways which support our national priorities and build Euro-Atlantic security”.
Few Eurosceptics appear to have read, let alone understood, last year’s SDSR. When the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, repeated the uninformed comment in a debate some months ago that, “the EU has nothing to do with security”, I gave him a copy with marked-up sections in chapter 5, but he and others still seem to think that Britain needs a royal yacht sailing around the Gulf and the Indian Ocean rather more than close, continuing co-operation with our neighbours and allies.
If the Government are sincere in wanting to maintain mutually beneficial co-operation with our European neighbours after we leave the EU, which I think is the implication of what the Prime Minister is hinting at, they also need to pay more attention to the tone in which Conservative Ministers pitch their arguments. Several of us heard at a meeting earlier this morning from several contacts on the continent that willingness to offer the UK reasonable terms for continuing co-operation has lessened since they read or watched the nationalistic rhetoric of the Conservative Party conference. Playing to the Europhobe right may help to hold the Conservative Party together, but it loses the trust of those whose co-operation we will continue to need after we leave the EU.
Any effective foreign policy has to balance between domestic opinion and international diplomacy. We face a great many international challenges, from organised crime, cyberattacks, global migration and climate change to Russian hostility and instability across Africa, the Middle East and Asia. We will not make a constructive contribution to meeting these without working together with our European neighbours and allies. Outside these established European networks of co-operation, we will punch a long way below our weight.
So I have a final question to the Minister. When will the Government provide an outline of British foreign policy post-Brexit? We have heard nothing substantial from the Foreign Secretary in three months in office. The Government have not responded to the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy’s report of July, which urged that, “a detailed analysis” of the security implications of the UK leaving the European Union, “should begin immediately”. We all suspect that silence indicates confusion, that Ministers do not know what foreign policy priorities to pursue next, or with whom. They need to work that out soon and give Parliament and the British people an answer.
My Lords, it is very good that we are having this debate and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, certainly knows a very great deal about this subject, as he has just demonstrated. I will not unfairly describe him as an expert—we have to be rather careful with that phrase at the moment, but his knowledge is very extensive, as he has demonstrated. In slight contrast to the tone he has taken and what he has said, I have no hesitation in saying that we should regard the Brexit event, in the area of security and defence, as a golden opportunity for reform of our own and—just as important, of course—Europe’s security strategy in an age of entirely new threats and challenges. Europe’s stability and strategy has always been, remains and will always be our stability and our strategy as well.
I say that we should so regard it, but in practice we actually have no other choice. Some may look back and say that things should not have happened the way they have, but I believe that reform of the European Union as a whole is coming anyway, driven by enormous global forces and the immense power of the transforming digital age. Things could have been better handled on the British side, and possibly from within the EU, which I voted to remain in—although we lost, of course. But the decision is made and we can and certainly must make the very best of it. I see this all as part of the new European policy for which the Prime Minister has called, which we can get on and develop. I see no point at all in simply discarding it as vacuous. This is where we are going. This is the new European policy, which we now must build.
I liken this situation to the struggle we face in the wider Brexit debate against, for instance, the stupid polarisation of the argument between tighter immigration controls and trading in the single market, as though this was an either/or choice. I know this makes good copy for journalists and commentators but in the real world we have moved into, these facile absolutes do not apply. Free movement of labour, which was said to be a fundamental EU principle, turns out, in the age of vast migration into and across Europe, not to be fundamental at all, while the single market of yesterday has long been perforated and reshaped by new trade patterns and supply chains, which I fear a number of policymakers still do not understand.
To come to security, first we have what might be termed the American view—and, slightly, the view of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. I am afraid many Americans have never fully understood the European integration movement. Their view is that the UK stepping out of the EU means some vast detraction from European military and defensive strength. The contention is that since the UK contributes 24% of the EU’s total military spending—not just CSDP stuff—and 50% to 60% of its airborne, heavy transport, early warning and electronic capabilities, as well as having the fifth-largest defence budget in the world at $56.2 billion, and being one of its two nuclear powers, cutting out of the CSDP will somehow lead to European security loss all round, if indeed that is what we are going to do.
I take the opposite view. The common security and defence policy, from which the UK has anyway been walking away—rightly—for some years, is badly in need of shake-up. Transatlantic commentators never seem to grasp just how plain dysfunctional and in need of reform the whole European model is. With the euro currency in unending chaos, with Spain without a Government, with Italy going the same way, with Hungary linking up with Russia, with Brussels disliked in Poland and in Prague, and in every country a growing political discontent with the old doctrines of centralism, standardisation and uniformity, this is certainly a region that needs to pull together with a new defence approach. We are just as well placed to work for that outside the EU as inside—some might argue, probably better.
I will say a brief word on energy security, which was not mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace; he was concentrating on other things. But after all, our daily oxygen is really the key security requirement for this nation. Leaving the EU ought to enable us to tie up our physical links and interconnectors with the continent more quickly, to head off the prospect of future blackouts—so brilliantly imposed on us by previous energy and climate Secretaries of State—and to go for a cheaper low-carbon strategy. I confess that I am not hopeful, since the Government’s Committee on Climate Change seems to be pushing us fast in the opposite direction. However, if we have the nous we could combine much cheaper energy, more reliability and better and much less costly low-carbon progress, now that we can stand aside from the EU strategy. We shall see. Frankly, the Hinkley Point decision—the most costly and risky low-carbon project of all—hardly bodes well in this respect.
We can start building an effective and efficient security policy for Europe, based on a stronger NATO and close relationships with France and Germany but also leaving flexibility for developing our defences outside Europe, where our security is just as much at risk. With the Indian and Pacific Oceans lying at the centre of global affairs and dangers, some new thought should be given to Commonwealth military alliances, such as we had in the past, especially links with Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and India—all members of the Commonwealth family.
Finally, the surprising and maybe counterintuitive prospect flowing from Brexit is that we are going to find ourselves not less close but closer to our European neighbours in many respects, particularly those we are discussing. There is no need for this to be encased in a labyrinth of overarching treaty patterns. We will have to deal in all sorts of areas—policing, intelligence or many aspects of specific industrial sectors—where we will again and again come back to the point that the vast network elaborated in the European treaties, as amended and finalised in the Lisbon treaty, is not a necessary adjunct to the way in which we have to work.
If anyone doubts my proposition that there are forces which will draw us closer to Europe regardless of whether or not we are in the EU, they should note that our neighbours the French are busy vigorously buying up vineyards in southern England. Depending on your point of view, this could be regarded as an intolerable invasion by foreigners, or a chance to have still better wines and some nice imbibing at low prices. This, I agree, has nothing to do with Brexit or defence but it has everything to do with market forces—and larger forces than markets—which anyway usually operate about a year ahead of Governments and the political and media debate, the bubble in which most of us in our innocence and ignorance still reside.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, on introducing this very timely debate. There was not a word in his speech with which I would disagree. I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Collins on having introduced a debate on this subject earlier in the week. I am very sorry that I was not able to take part in that but it is a subject of vital importance.
I agree and have always agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that the EU needs substantial reform but it would have been a lot better for us to be doing that from the inside than from out. In the months of depression that I have suffered since 23 June, nothing has got me away from the terrible thought that this is the greatest foreign policy disaster that Britain has undergone since appeasement in the 1930s in terms of weakening our influence in the world. I hope that I live long enough to see the guilty men held to account.
The Brexiteers seem to live in a world of illusion about Britain’s role in the world. I would describe their position as one of attempting to revive the Anglosphere, rebuild a close special relationship with the United States and strengthen our relations in trading and other areas with the old dominions and the Commonwealth, along with a view that we can have enormous influence as a result of the power of the English-speaking world. I am extremely sceptical about this proposition of the Anglosphere. For me, the only conceivable role for Britain in the world is to continue to seek the closest possible working relationship with our allies in the European Union.
On Britain and the United States, Macmillan recognised 60 years ago that the only way to sustain the transatlantic relationship was through Britain becoming a member of the Common Market and having influence in the gathering process of European integration. When Dean Acheson said that we had lost an empire and not yet found a role, influence in Europe was the only conceivable role for Britain. I find it very difficult to believe that we can strengthen our relationship with the United States outside the EU. My old boss Tony Blair used to talk a lot about Britain being the transatlantic bridge. I always remember that at one meeting I attended, Gerhard Schroeder said, “The trouble with your bridge, Tony, is that the traffic is all one way”. Of course, there was truth in that. The lesson of Iraq was that the British public did not like the idea of playing second fiddle to US foreign policy because, regrettably, it was demonstrated that Britain had very little influence in securing a successful outcome of that operation.
In the US election, we see the United States withdrawing into itself, unable to address the failure of the West in the horrors of Syria. It is shameful that we are allowing all this to go on. Today Mrs May should be going to Europe to bang the Council table about the need for common action for common purposes in our common interest. Syria affects Europe far more than the United States, yet she is going to go to talk to people at the dinner about Brexit. This is shameful.
We need a united Europe to face up to the gathering menace of Putin. Some people in my own party have to face up to that as well. I would like to hear some critical words about Mr Putin’s actions from my party leader.
On the relationship with the wider Anglosphere outside the United States, the Commonwealth has very diverse economic and security interests nowadays. Liam Fox may be right that the Australians will be keen to do a trade deal with us if and when we are able to do a trade deal with them, but I remember that when I was in Brussels the Australians used to look to Britain’s presence in the European Union as the most effective way of protecting their economic interests. A British-Australian trade deal will be useful, but it will not play that central role.
All our international effort will clearly go into trying to negotiate trade agreements. This will be much more difficult than people think as there is a gathering protectionist mood in the world, and we will have to pay a price for trade agreements. There will be a loss of much of our agricultural industry as tariffs come down. If we are going to do a free trade agreement with India and have a closer relationship with it, we will have to accept far more free movement of Indians to Britain under mode 4 of the GATT services deal.
This brings me to the view of Britain as having lots of soft power. I take what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said about free movement. There is a lot of nonsense talked about the choice there, but you cannot be a global nation with global influence if you have as a firm policy objective reducing immigration to the tens of thousands. If we have that as our objective we will never be able to attract people to our universities and cultural institutions so that Britain will be a centre of global talent. If the Government are serious about a global vision, they have to rethink their immigration policy.
Using soft power depends on leverage. I remember the G8 summit in 2005, where Britain played a big role. How did we play that role? Because on subjects such as climate change and the development deal for Africa, we were able to mobilise our partners in the EU in order to exert influence. We will not be able to do that outside unless we have the closest relationship with our partners, and that is not going to be achieved by Boris Johnson insulting his way around the capitals of Europe. For that reason, we have to wake up and recognise that we are in a weak position as a result of Brexit, and form the closest possible partnership with our EU allies.
My Lords, it is both a pleasure and a privilege to participate in this debate, which has begun with three most excellent speeches—not all of which I agreed with—on an issue which is of fundamental importance. After all, the first obligation of any Government is the protection of their citizens.
I have changed my mind over Europe. Lest my noble friends on the Front Bench think this is a public declaration of apostasy, amid the chagrin and disappointment to which I was subject immediately after the decision, in the debate that followed in this House, I expressed a view, at least by implication, that there was little role for Parliament in the process which we were about to begin. However, this debate shows that there is more than such an opportunity, and I will spend a moment or two just putting this into what now seems to be the political context. It seems to me that the attitude of the present Government—Brexit means Brexit—is by implication creating a rather novel constitutional principle. We say here that Parliament is sovereign, and we know that no Parliament can bind its successor. That is why we can have a great repeal Act; that is why we can alter legislation. Yet the doctrine which appears to be emerging is that once there has been a referendum, Parliament is bound by it: there is no going back, even if Parliament is wholly opposed or has significant reservations. Even if there is a material change in circumstances, Brexit means Brexit. That seems to me to have an impact on our understanding of the sovereignty of Parliament—a novel understanding, with which we should clearly be concerned.
Supposing the decision had gone the other way and that by 2% the people of the United Kingdom had voted to remain. Do we imagine that the noble Lords, Lord Lawson and Lord Forsyth—unhappily, neither noble Lord is now in his place—would have heard the words, “Remain means Remain” from the lips of the Prime Minister, and packed their tents and silently stolen away? Of course not. They would have invoked the rights and sovereignty of Parliament to challenge that decision. That is why it is unfortunate that recourse has had to be made to the courts here in order to underline the sovereignty of Parliament and its right not only to be consulted but to have a part in the decision-making on an issue of such fundamental importance to the future of the United Kingdom.
I offer just this point, which I have made reference to previously. It is essential to understand that we are negotiating not just with the European Union but with 27 other countries, all of which will have individual national interests that they will be determined to promote. I just ask the following question, which has been brought to my attention in representations made by representatives of Gibraltar, who are much exercised about the consequences for Gibraltar of Brexit. Suppose the Spanish Government were to decline to sign an agreement that was in other respects accepted unless they were granted joint sovereignty over Gibraltar. What then? Who would sign that? Who would take the responsibility for something of that kind—the Government alone? I should have thought that an issue of that kind should be determined by Parliament.
Suppose—this is perhaps slightly less significant—the Spanish Government were to say, “Unless the present arrangements for fishing remain, we will not sign any agreement”? That would drive a horse and cart through the enthusiasm of the fishing community in this country. Yet, so far as I can understand, the Government have no intention of having a vote other than one to accept or reject, with no opportunity for making particular points or for suggesting an agreement containing different clauses.
I have never flinched from my view that the EU is both economic and political, just as NATO is both defensive and political. The political strength of Europe is an essential feature of European membership and an essential component of our security. I offer two contributions made by Europe to our security. The first is the extraordinary part played by the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, in helping to forge the agreement over nuclear issues with Iran, and the second, although again perhaps less significant, is the EU’s contribution to civilian policing in the Balkans. Had the UK sought to achieve either of those on its own, I doubt very much that we would have had any success. I believe, too, that our security is best to be found in the successful application of soft power, in political alliances and in asserting the common values and the respect for human rights that lie at the very heart of our political system. All these are dimensions that we can more effectively conduct through the opportunity provided by the EU. It has already been pointed out that there was very little discussion of these issues in the course of the debate prior to the referendum, and hardly any since then either.
It is said that NATO is sufficient. NATO most certainly provides hard power—not enough, some would argue, because of the failure of its members to meet even the minimum obligation of 2% expenditure of GDP on defence budgets—but hard and soft power are not alternatives; they are complementary. The EU and NATO are complementary, too; if they are not, why does President Putin set out with such enthusiasm to undermine the one and destabilise the other?
I am not starry-eyed about defence and Europe. I think there are risks in the notion being advanced by some, not that there should be greater European co-operation but that somehow there should be a European army, with a separate circumstance—command and control, for example—from that already in place in NATO. Indeed, a senior general told me that he would vote to leave the EU because of the proposal for a European army. The paradox is that by withdrawing, we will no longer have a veto on something that we would regard as contrary to our interests and contrary to NATO. I will avoid the totally vulgar comment of Lyndon Baines Johnson but I shall put it this way: it is much better to be inside the tent than outside it.
My Lords, amid the cacophony of public debate about hard and soft Brexit, the relative priority to be given to immigration controls and remaining in the single market, barely a word has been spoken by the Government or anyone else about the subject we are debating today: foreign and security policy co-operation with the European states following the referendum. All the more praise, therefore, to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for bringing this matter forward, because it is an important issue which merits full and careful consideration before the Article 50 process is invoked. It is good, too, that this debate will enable the noble Baroness to fill in part of that otherwise blank piece of paper which so far contains nothing except the words “Brexit means Brexit”—for all the world like the examination paper of a student who discovers that he or she has not got any of the answers.
Why is the matter important? Because the EU’s CFSP is a living, working, policy-making network which makes itself felt in every part of the world and in every international organisation; because it has enabled the UK to extend its foreign policy influence, ever since the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, helped to set it up in 1980; and because it has some notable successes to its credit—pointing the way to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis in the face of early US resistance, making progress on the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo, responding with economic sanctions to Russia’s aggressive actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and combating piracy off the Horn of Africa.
All this will be at risk if we simply sit here and allow Brexit to sweep us out of the EU foreign and security policy co-operation with nothing put in its place. Not only will we have sharply reduced influence on foreign policy decisions taken in Brussels and in Washington, where our voice has so far been amplified by our seat at the EU table; we will become what I would describe as a “me, too” country, falling in with decisions reached by others—by the US and the EU, by the US and China, and by the EU and its many developing country partners, who will find it more useful to work with the EU than with the UK living on its own. If we stand up on our own against human rights abuses, for example, we will now be that much more vulnerable to retaliation—and alas, I fear, therefore that much more timid about raising those issues.
So what needs to be done? First, I suggest, we need to make it clear straight away that we will be aiming to achieve the closest, most intimate external relationship with the EU’s common foreign and security policy that can be agreed, something more far-reaching than the EU has ever had before with a third country. Is that realistic? I believe it is. After all, we come to the table with important assets—a worldwide diplomatic network and a permanent seat on the UN Security Council —and we are one of the two most effective member states in Europe in projecting power. We should make it clear that the EU and the US will remain our partners of choice, whose values and interests we share.
A positive approach like that will also be of value in demonstrating that we are not just cherry-picking, and in balancing other parts of the forthcoming negotiations, where more adversarial considerations will necessarily come into play. What, then, should this new external relationship with the EU’s CFSP look like? Here, we should not, I suggest, be too prescriptive. There will be plenty of institutional ayatollahs on both sides, in Brussels and in Whitehall and Westminster, who will be drawing red lines and saying that this or that form of co-operation is inconceivable on ideological grounds. We should surely regain some of that pragmatism on which we pride ourselves, and have only one criterion: will it work? If it requires a proportionate financial contribution or needs us to co-operate with the sort of Brussels-centred military planning and headquarters arrangements that are clearly in the offing, we should not jib at that.
Other issues of great importance will of course be at stake in the Brexit negotiations, but we should not let them overwhelm the importance of the sector that we are discussing today. If we do so, we will live to regret it.
My Lords, one reason why we owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for this debate is that it gives us the opportunity to reflect on why we are where we are and, therefore, perhaps see more clearly possible ways forward.
The year 2016 will go down as the year of the great revolt against the powers that be. So widespread is this revolt that I would liken it to 1848, the year of revolution in Europe. For the British, the vote on 23 June reflected a desire to cut off the shackles which were holding us ever tighter and closer to the EU. But that is not as easy as it seems. Big companies sometimes try to retain their key executives with golden handcuffs. Now the EU high command is seeking to warn us that cutting off the shackles will mean cutting our flesh if not our limbs, and reminding us that the shackles are made of gold—although I suspect it is more like a thin layer of gold leaf. My own hope is that our departure will free us so we can once again play our own role on the world stage. I just hope that our wings, for so long pinioned, are still strong enough to fly.
Foreign policy depends as much on diplomats as on politicians. We are aware that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been woefully short of staff to do what we want. We have had to produce quite a number of diplomats for the European External Action Service—the EEAS—which came into operation at the start of 2011 and now has 139 delegations round the world. I do not think it has been a success. As of April 2015, there were a total of 133 British diplomats working in the EEAS. It is therefore not surprising that while the UK had 224 overseas diplomatic posts in 2000-1, by 2015-16 there were only 211. So there is a resource to be freed up for better use by the Foreign Office.
I turn to the UN, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, so rightly and knowledgably referred. For years, the EU has been pointing out the lack of balance in the Security Council, whereby the permanent five represent the victors in 1945. Understandably, the Germans in particular have resented this. A year ago, the European Parliament produced a report pointing out that, while France and the UK hold two of the seats,
“according to the Treaty the EU Member States are obliged to coordinate their action in all international forums”.
The report recommended having comprehensive reform of the UN system, and especially the Security Council, to work towards,
“the EU having a seat on an enlarged Security Council”.
I wonder how long we, and for that matter France, would be able to resist backing that reform, and whether the European Court might not find some pretext to order us to do so. At any rate, our P5 seat is a jewel in our crown and we should make full and proper use of it.
That brings me to my third point. Noble Lords may remember that I have twice put forward a plan to deal on a global basis with the migration crisis. In this, the EU Commission demonstrated an astonishing insensitivity when it presumed to propose quotas for individual countries to resolve the crisis. Such an insensitive intrusion into national sovereignty was not well received—indeed, it was defied and has apparently been abandoned.
My plan involved getting a Security Council mandate to set up in Libya—with generous financial inducement to the Libyans to agree—a holding area to which all refugees could be transferred to be properly catered and cared for, with some going where they wanted, some being returned home and the remainder forming a new state, which I named “Refugia”. I did not advocate this as the best answer, but I hoped that it would provoke a better one than the cruel chaos of the present. Sadly, my suggestion fell on deaf ears as far as Her Majesty’s Government were concerned. However, I was delighted that a fresh-thinking voice came this week from the heart of the EU. The German Interior Minister, De Maizière, stated:
“People who are rescued in the Mediterranean should be brought back to safe accommodation facilities in northern Africa. Their need for protection would be verified and we would put into place a resettlement to Europe with generous quotas, fairly divided between the European countries. The others have to go back to their home countries”.
I have one more point. The continuing attempts to set up an independent European army, clearly at the expense of NATO, to which the UK is the second largest contributor, would be a disaster. Once outside the EU, we could speak with a new confidence to the United States, which all too often has used its military might to reduce its world influence. As a military power we are of course the junior partner but, as a sagacious adviser on the ways of the world, we are an equal partner to the United States.
The basic reason for the revolt of which I have spoken is the alienation of people in many EU countries, as well as the United States, from the powers that be. They feel that their national interest, with which they can and do identify, is being ignored. Revealingly, on Tuesday this week, I heard the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Richards, say that when he, as Chief of the Defence Staff, attended the meetings of our National Security Council, he never once heard any member refer to our national interest.
I end by reminding your Lordships of the declaration of Lord Palmerston, in 1848— that earlier year of world chaos:
“We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow”.
My Lords, I had better start with a confession: I think that I made a mistake—I do not think that I was alone in making it, but I think it was a serious mistake. A number of us who campaigned for the remain cause in the referendum campaign were quite excessively optimistic about what the result might be of our losing that contest and of the country voting to leave the European Union. Though I raised several times, both in the House and in meetings outside the House, the possibility that it could theoretically happen if we lost the Brexit vote, I never really believed that it was likely that any British Government would actually decide to deliver devastating, perhaps crippling, blows to the major assets of our economy—such as the City of London—by planning to leave the single market. That is exactly what we now hear the Government propose to do. It was extraordinary to hear the other day the Prime Minister, in exchange for half an hour’s popularity, fan the flames of Eurosceptic populism in her speech at the party conference, which led to sterling losing 6% of its value in the course of a few minutes and every person in this country finding himself or herself 6% worse off as a result of that irresponsible action. The question we have to ask today which is germane to this debate—a question to which we urgently need an answer from the Minister, so I hope we get one—is will this same spirit of frivolity, irrationality and self-destructiveness be applied also to our foreign and security policy?
A very important aspect of security policy that affects the lives or deaths of people in this country concerns our defences against terrorism, which depend fundamentally—not a single professional policeman or member of the security services would not say this—on our co-operation with our EU partners and co-operation between our police forces and the police forces of our EU partners. That is not ex post, ad hoc co-operation—that, of course, could exist if we were part of the EU or not—but permanent structured co-operation so that we exchange information in advance of any incident occurring for which that information might be relevant. That is what is important. The common arrest warrant, Europol—these things are vital. Are we going to throw them away for applause at a speech in which we make a xenophobic attack on the EU, immigrants, refugees and other foreigners coming to this country? Is that the real order of priorities on which the Government intend to conduct the nation’s business over the coming months? That is a very serious question to which we want a very serious answer.
I listen with horror to statements by the Government that we are now going to adopt a completely new set of foreign policies and that we are going to be much better off dealing with countries outside the EU because we have left the EU. On what possible basis is that statement made? It is quite extraordinary. What is more, it is quite contrary to the message we have been getting from those countries themselves. In the months before the referendum, all our major trade partners, including Shinzo Abe in Japan, Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping, all said, “Don’t leave the European Union. We don’t want you to leave the European Union”. There is absolutely no way at all that we are more interesting or valuable as partners for any of those countries, or any other country in the world, outside the EU than we are inside the EU. The Government have never come up with any concrete specific suggestions why we should be more interesting and valuable as a partner of those countries than we currently are. On the contrary, we are less interesting and less valuable; that is the terrible truth.
What in the world is the point of setting up a new ministry designed to negotiate foreign trade agreements and starting off the process by destroying 35 foreign trade agreements which we have with about 45 countries as a member of the European Union? Which rational person would proceed in that way in any other context? When it comes to negotiating foreign trade agreements the Government display extraordinary naivety. They say, “Wonderful, the Chinese want to talk to us. The Australians want to talk to us”. Of course they do. I say to the Government that people want to sell things in this world. When someone comes along and says “foreign trade agreement”, immediately people think, “Ah, we can sell them something which we could not otherwise sell them”. With the Chinese it is steel. They would love to sell us some cheap steel. Are we going to buy it? Are we going to close down the Port Talbot works? Are we going to get rid of the British steel industry? If the Government are prepared to do that—there may well be a free-market argument for doing that—perhaps that is what we should do, but are the Government prepared to do that? If not, what is the point of the policy? The Australians want to sell us a lot of meat. That is fine. They can sell us the meat, I am sure it is fine, but that would be at the expense of the British livestock industry. Has that been taken into account? No, not at all; so when you go into the talks, and they actually say, “Right, we’d like to sign this agreement and sell you the steel and sell you the meat”, we are going to have the problems then. How will they be resolved? It is an extraordinary way to conduct the business of this country. It is really quite horrifying. I hope the Government will think again and that the Minister will give us some straightforward and honest answers to absolutely critical questions about our future, here and now in the House this afternoon.
My Lords, I want to follow up the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, but unfortunately—based on the Government’s track record—I suspect that we will not get any answers at all today. I hope I will be proved wrong, because the two mantras we have already heard are that there will be no running commentary and the Government do not want Parliament to micromanage this process of Brexit. Parliament has no intention of micromanaging it; Parliament wants to “macro-check” the policy to ensure there is accountability. I would like to say a couple of things in that area, and then come on to defence.
The Government will not get through this process if they do not properly consult Parliament. They will not get through to the end. They have a relatively small majority in the other House, but even among their own party and among Brexiteers, if they do not actually lay out what they are trying to achieve and give some information, they will fail in this process. There will be a crisis at some point and it will not work, and that will not be in the national interest.
As for the ongoing commentary, we seem to have forgotten that there is another side in this negotiation. There are 27 other member states as well as the European Parliament and the European Commission. The Commission will keep the European Parliament in touch, and the European Parliament will be fully involved in the process. If there is no comment from the Government, there will certainly be comment from the other side of the argument. If there is a vacuum of information here in the UK, the press will make up information and everyone else will pile in with opinions. It is not a strategy that will work and it is not in the national interest.
Perhaps I may briefly return to the referendum campaign. On the whole, the campaign was about trade, economics and migration. However, one bit of the defence argument came in—it was mentioned particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford—namely setting up an EU army. Outside of the migration and trade areas, an EU army was the one threat being made. I have looked at all aspects of the issue and, as far as I can see, it is a myth, and I described it as such in the campaign. President Juncker rightly focused on defence in his annual address to the European Parliament after the Brexit vote, but his speech was about strengthening the co-ordination of defence in Europe; it was not about setting up a European army. Any of us who have had any involvement whatever in Europe—as I have, to a degree, had as a chair of Select Committees here and as a Member of the European Parliament—will know that there is no way that a European army could happen within the EU. I suspect that the German constitution would make it impossible for such a thing to happen. Furthermore, the French—who, like us, are very proud of their operational capability, and who are our only equivalent in the European Union in terms of not only defence expenditure but the ability to operate outside their own territory—would never seek the outcome of a European army. So we do not have to worry about that in terms of us leaving the EU.
The common security and defence policy is very important and I would like us to remain a key part of it. It is possible to participate in those operations from outside the EU. As has been said, the CSDP and EU defence strategies are absolutely complementary to NATO. NATO makes that very clear and the European Union does as well. They do not conflict. Long ago, the Petersberg tasks clearly laid out the defence objectives for what was then the Western European Union but is now, under the Lisbon treaty, the European Union. The objectives do not cover hard territorial defence as that is clearly a NATO and not an EU mandate. The Petersberg tasks cover peacemaking, peacekeeping, and joint civilian-military operations—perhaps going into areas, particularly in Africa, where NATO involvement would not be appropriate. It is pretty clear that one is not a substitute for the other. They are complementary organisations.
What has struck me even more strongly is that of the 27—currently 28—EU member states, 21 have joint EU and NATO membership. The challenge is not that there will be a waste of resources if one organisation is stronger than another. The real challenge, as we all know, is to get the other countries—countries other than the United States, France and the UK; Greece is an outlier because of its problems with Turkey—to provide sufficient resources to make Europe resilient in its own defence. We know—not just because of Trump but even under Obama—that there has been a pivot to Asia, with issues in the South China Sea and East China Sea. America is focusing now on Russia because of Syria and Ukraine, but that is not the future. It is absolutely clear that Europe has to take far more responsibility for its own defence. I am convinced that Britain within the European Union, with our NATO membership as well, would have a much stronger influence in maintaining the pressure to increase capability to contribute to European defence. We still have that influence to a degree in NATO but we should remember that some important military states, particularly Sweden, are outside NATO and are therefore important within the European defence context.
One of the other things that impressed me about the CSDP and the External Action Service was that most of the EAS delegations were European Commission officers anyway and not a new burgeoning. In fact, where European citizens need help in countries where their country does not have an embassy, they can use another European Union embassy to get help. I suspect that that is another feature that will disappear when we stop being a member. CSDP announcements on foreign policy often led to a perception that Europe was divided. However, although some of its opinions may have been weak, the EU was united on many of the statements on foreign affairs internationally. The great thing has been that it has not been just the 28 member states, as 10 other countries—including Ukraine, countries in the Balkans, Iceland and Norway—usually came along as well. We were there as a European bloc. I very much hope that as we move to Brexit we will remain a part of that wider bloc. But what a humiliation to us that we will be there as an addendum to that list rather than there in the core, having an influence and changing policies.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, introduces this subject at an opportune moment, because strangely, in the Brexit debate foreign policy issues of the EU are often overlooked alongside the economy, trade and immigration. I was not sure, when I first heard the referendum result, whether the people who gave us Brexit were fools or clowns. I then remembered that they were rogue politicians using smoke and mirrors to mislead the public and pretending to represent the people. They were a minority in Parliament and certainly not democrats, because no true democrat would wish to determine a constitutional principle by means of a first past the post majority. And no democratic Government would create a new policy without consulting almost half of the population on a matter of such significance. So I hope that the court case goes in favour of Parliament as soon as possible.
This was not even a manifesto for a general election; it was simply an indication of a new direction, and we are still waiting for the Government’s instructions. Brexit is not Brexit; it is something quite different. The decision to leave Europe is of huge magnitude. I do not dispute the result of the vote but I regret the failure of the Brexit Ministers to see that half the nation, and probably many so-called “Regrexits”, value that relationship because it sits on a deep foundation. In cultural and historical terms, it is the legacy of Dante and Petrarch, of Heine and Schumann, of Lorca and Brecht, and many, many others from the great historical past of Europe.
Without drawing too much on sentiment, I am one of those who grew up during and after the war convinced that our future belonged with all those European neighbours we had either fought for or with, or indeed against, chiefly across the countries of the Loire and the Rhine. I was never one for closer union, and I see why many people were put off the EU after successive treaties which contained that idea. But I was and remain certain, like the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, that, rather than going offshore, we need to find a new form of close association, and I believe that some Ministers, including those in other EU countries, are becoming certain of that too.
I can also see why people are attracted to so-called independence on the basis of geostrategic rea1ity. They quote our Security Council membership, our friendship with the US and our membership of NATO and the Commonwealth. Indeed, Boris Johnson talks of “our own distinctive voice”. Does he mean his own voice? But, although we retain important powers in the world, our insular independence is outdated. For years we have enjoyed interdependence—a network binding us in different directions and for specific purposes. Europe is central to that interdependence. We are not a mere offshore little England; we are Great Britain, belonging to the family of nations.
With Brexit, therefore, we have a new opportunity. We need to cultivate a new British identity in the world which, I would argue, is still closely aligned with Europe, even though it cannot be a part of it as before. This is not just about us; we also have to look across the channel and understand the effects of Brexit on our fellow members of the EU, and indeed of Europe at large. France and Germany, our important neighbours, would be sorry to see us go because we are rocking the boat and the boat could easily tip over. Yet we know that nothing will really change: we were argumentative before and we will be just as difficult as associates, fighting our own corner.
There are quite a few other countries, especially in eastern Europe, that feel like us on certain issues. Poland and Hungary were already pleased to see our negative attitude to immigration, in contrast to countries such as Italy, which must be exasperated by our failure to take responsibility for so many Syrians and Afghans. We are still failing in that department.
Further south are the Balkans—the new and aspiring EU members—which have been badly let down. We were, after all, the champions of enlargement—that concept of support for countries emerging from the Cold War. Of course, that had and still has its political objectives. Will the Minister agree that these objectives must remain?
To me, enlargement, which can also be seen as conflict prevention, has been perhaps the most effective arm of European foreign policy. The agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, which has already been mentioned, was only one shining example of this, but it is an ongoing project in which we have played a leading role, and we should continue to do so.
Our Library has skilfully set out the mosaic of our current foreign and security relationship, and it is bewildering how interconnected we are and could remain in our many arrangements for defence and diplomacy, policing and even immigration. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, says that we will be even closer to Europe. I hope he is right, because I forecast that we will not, in the end, want to give up many of these connections; nor, in the context of anti-terrorism, as was pointed out just now, will we be able to afford to do so.
A good example is our participation in the CSDP, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, which supports a range of 17 civilian and military missions in countries such as Somalia and Mali, including the great Operation Sophia. Perhaps the Minister will confirm what the Defence Secretary has already implied—that we will want to continue with these missions even beyond Brexit. Neither the European Defence Agency, on the other hand, nor the Battlegroup concept are likely to be priorities.
Of course, we can criticise the effectiveness of the EU’s foreign policy in various departments—for example, towards Ukraine and Russia, and the European Neighbourhood Policy—and we have done so through our EU Committee reports. Neither the EEAS nor the UK was properly equipped to anticipate or influence the events in Ukraine. Syria, despite Mrs Mogherini’s strenuous efforts, is looking like a continuing foreign policy failure for the EU and for the world.
In conclusion, I strongly feel that Europe will continue to dominate our economic and political life far into the future and that in some form or other we shall remain part of it. I sincerely hope that the Minister, while no doubt unable to respond to us fully today, will at least show her understanding and sympathy with the arguments.
My Lords, on this matter I should like to refer to the words of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. After our vote to leave the European Union some months ago, he wrote in his regular column:
“Britain is and always will be a great European power, offering top-table opinions and giving leadership on everything from foreign policy to defence to counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing—all the things we need to do together to make our world safer”.
Even though we campaigned on different sides of the referendum, I could not feel more secure with this man as Foreign Secretary. The country voted to leave the EU, and this is not a mandate to be fudged or dodged. However, I strongly doubt that any of the Brexiteers would like to see our role in promoting western values diminished. We work together with 27 nation states to promote our strategic goals, and that is something to be safeguarded and cherished, especially in a world where the geopolitics grow more fractious.
Along with our European allies, the UK levies significant sanctions on Russia. Indeed, those sanctions may well mount as Russia bombs Aleppo to rubble to prop up its client dictator, Bashar al-Assad. I happen to be very much in favour of these sanctions as a way of applying outside pressure on Russia. However, Brexit has thrown the ability of the EU to apply sanctions into some doubt. There are officials, currently split between the Foreign Office, the Treasury and the Department for International Trade, whose job it is to do the hard and technical work behind our sanctions policy. This is not easy, and the expertise required will be hard to find, should we disengage from the programme. It would be in both our interests to maintain a unified face in the wake of further Russian aggression. Will the Minister make sure that the continuation of this programme is a priority in the relevant department that she represents?
The aggression is, of course, not confined to the Middle East but is also on the eastern flank of Europe. It is depressing to see some of the nation states in that region slip back into the Russian sphere of influence, but it is hardly surprising. More ominous is the build-up of forces along the Ukraine-Russia border. The UK possesses one of only two serious fighting forces capable of countering this threat in Europe and it would be a serious dereliction of duty for us to disengage from continental geopolitics at this critical time. We must continue to support close relations between the EU and Ukraine, as well as realise that Russian aggression undermines our aim to spread the values of democracy and freedom to all countries.
As we have already heard, we should refuse to be part of a European army, as the Commission President has suggested, but we should certainly work in close co-ordination with it to bolster stability in eastern Europe. Key to all this is a need to make sure that NATO is not displaced or sidelined by future developments. The alliance has created peace in Europe and we must remind the current generation of politicians of this.
Finally, I want to talk about intelligence sharing. Our membership of Europol is partly linked with our EU membership. I heard so many leave campaigners protesting that the two were totally separate, but that is patently nonsense. The head of strategy, Mr. Amann, has been clear that non-EU countries do not have the same access to certain datasets and services as EU countries, which is a risk to the UK. These are not trivial datasets. For example, the Europol Information System will not be available once we leave—the system has been a huge asset for our security services and there is a sad irony to the situation, as we pushed for it and launched it while holding the Council presidency in 2005. However, we have an opportunity to show our constructive intentions. Europol will be getting a new legal framework in May 2017, in which we will be provided with an opt-in service. Treating this constructively will send the correct signals that, while we are leaving, we have every intention of being good allies and collaborating in the spirit of shared reward. I would be grateful if the Minister took these points on board.
My Lords, a spectre is haunting Europe: the spectre of acrimony. Today, we are told that the Prime Minister, having made the big shift before the Conservative Party conference, says not only is there no going back but that any of the partial proposals people were attempting to put forward in our last debate, in July—and which were given a fair hearing at that time—have been ruled out. We are told that we cannot now think about a, b and c—I do not know whether that includes the single market and the customs union—or many of the things that were being seriously discussed in the context of Norway-plus or minus. All these options now seem to have been ruled out.
We might get into the position where, on hearing reports of the negotiations in Brussels, almost every newspaper—certainly those such as the Mail and the Telegraph; those controlled by Murdoch—will the next day say that Britain has been treated with contempt. That will be the headline in the tabloids every other week for the next two years. How can that have a happy ending?
At the same time, the Prime Minister has said that we want to be friends with everybody. If that is what we want to achieve, we will have to think about the criteria by which we are able to do so, rather than saying, “We are not going in for a new version of an even more special deal, we are out. We will have a different relationship and you can get on with your lives without us. We’ve always been probably the most difficult partner inside the EU. We are not a brake on you”.
Then, we come to a practical question: can we have an EU agreement on the next phase of our interface with the Russians in relation to Syria? That is the most practical thing in the world—we have RAF planes there and we want to be there, and indeed in other parts of the Middle East. There are many other examples around the world where we of course have to be part of an EU group. For example, when looking at criteria for distributing aid around Africa, in small countries with hardly any professional resources—we cannot have 10 different countries giving 10 different sets of criteria to one trained civil servant in Burundi, Mozambique or Madagascar. Also, I am sorry to disagree with my friend the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, but the weekly EU meetings in these capitals are some of the most constructive of the meetings in many parts of Latin America and Africa. They work very well and pragmatically.
So instead of, “Let’s fight them on the beaches—never surrender”, how are we going to recoup following the seriously mistaken and premature decision by the Prime Minister to make this sudden announcement on the eve of the Conservative Party conference? The first thing that should happen following the change in tone from the Government is to remove the narrative that it is we remainers who are in denial. That is not the case: it is we who are pointing out that there are issues with the customs union, et cetera. The people in denial are those in favour of Brexit who deny that these questions even exist. They were not put to the people in the referendum. There was no prospectus—apart from the fraudulent prospectus about taking back control.
It is a globalised world of multinational corporations. The trade unions have learned pragmatically that, in European works councils, you have to co-operate with people. That is where our interest lies. But now, we are in the ludicrous position whereby we are told that there will be a rule of omerta and that Parliament will not know anything that is going on because it would show our negotiating hand. Who believes that? The reason for that, in large part, is that we do not have a road map. The Bus Services Bill gets more attention than this, times 10—we have an impact assessment, a Green Paper, a White Paper and every other sort of paper giving the case and setting up the pros and cons of the different approaches.
This is the biggest decision, and the most serious position we have been in internationally, certainly since Suez. Indeed, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Liddle—I think it was him who said so—that this is the most serious position we have been in since before the war. Yet somehow, we are saying that we should take an oath of omerta.
What we have to do now is to nail the lie that, somehow, the British people decided on a plan and we have to fulfil that plan without any more discussion because the plan is out. There is no such plan. The British people were misled. I do not want to sound like Mr Trump, who says that democracy is not working because the people were misled—but goodness gracious, did the people think that a devaluation of 15% was what they were voting for? How many would have voted for that if they had been told? Ten per cent? I do not know, but not a lot more than that.
The narrative has to change. We will be at a crisis point if things go on like this. Little Englanders will have taken control of our destiny. I say that advisedly: it was not Little Scotlanders, Little Walesians or Little Northern Irelanders—or whatever the correct form of those terms is. There will be a break-up of a lot of processes in Ireland, and of a lot of relationships between England and Scotland. That is what Brexit would mean. I therefore ask the Minister whether she agrees that that is a message to which her colleagues should give very urgent consideration.
My Lords, I thank my colleague for initiating this debate on a subject vital to our future. During the campaign for Brexit, the indications were not clear at all. On one occasion, the former Prime Minister David Cameron mentioned the fact that we had had 71 years of peace in Western Europe, but it was largely a debate about migration. That was false and misleading.
The present Prime Minister has indicated that she wants to co-operate with the European Union after Brexit; she does not want to abandon Europe on security and defence. That message has also been delivered by Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary. But I fear that the hostility to Britain will make it difficult for us to influence the common security and defence policy. Initiatives can be taken only if there is universal support within the Council of the 28 members —or rather, 27 members, as it might be. We will be on the outside of this influence, and I fear that we will have to come in on the act. The divide between member countries will not necessarily help us to influence outcomes.
Since 2003, we have been participating in supporting naval operations in the Mediterranean. That will be less certain in the future. Our defence operation is the second largest—second only to the United States—and if we cannot marry our defence operations with those of the rest of Europe it will be a catastrophe.
The United Kingdom has promoted, and participated in, intelligence sharing. How will we be able to do this after Brexit? The message we get from the other member countries will be one of anger, and about the insufficiency of common ground; that will be very unfortunate. We have enjoyed the sharing of intelligence up to this point, but although intergovernmental co-operation has worked with Norway, I think that the anger of the other European Union member countries will make it very difficult for us to co-operate. Consequently, the United States will feel less that we are their partner and more that we are going it alone.
In the United Nations, similarly, we will have to recognise that our voice is diminished. In the past, we have been able to exercise influence through the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. The noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, was wonderful in her efforts to restore commonality. We also exercised influence through the European External Action Service, which is represented in 139 delegations worldwide—but that is going to be cut off, too.
We influenced the sanctions against Russia, which was a very important initiative for us. We were able to gain the support of other European countries. Now that will not happen again. The manpower input into the common security and defence policy has been considerable, and we have done work in countering piracy off Somalia, which was also very important. However, I fear that unless the Prime Minister takes over this negotiation herself, we will not see an opportunity for this country to lead the way in foreign affairs and defence.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for introducing this important debate, which is being held at an important time. I agree with him that, over the years, Britain has been fundamental in developing the European foreign and security policy that acts increasingly coherently across the globe. Of course, it has its failings and it cannot force togetherness, as Iraq showed clearly enough. But where there is a common will, there is a common way. As other speakers have said, we need only look at the constructive and often leading role of the EU during, for example, the Iran nuclear negotiations, or look at the success of Operation Atalanta with its headquarters at Northwood, which I was privileged to visit, in curbing piracy in the Indian Ocean.
Outside the EU, we will cease to have that influence on developing the foreign and security policy of the European Union, and I regret that. In my view, it will be to the detriment both of the EU and of the UK, and therefore of a coherent European voice in world affairs. The question now is how we compensate for that. Let me underline just one or two points.
As other noble Lords have said, our membership of NATO will be key, as will be the commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence and to continue to encourage other NATO states to do the same. Fundamental to effective western security and defence policy will be effective co-operation between NATO, including the UK, and the European Union, excluding the UK. Perhaps I may gently suggest that Ministers should stop playing the old tune that they will not allow the creation of any European Union structures that could compete with NATO. Alas, we have effectively opted out of that debate. Our job now will be to ensure that NATO, as it evolves, and the European Union’s foreign, security and defence policy, as it evolves—and it will not always evolve as we would like it to—will reinforce each other. That will require argument, persuasion, constructive relationships and even, dare I say, diplomacy. I hope that the Minister can give an assurance that that will indeed be our objective.
We must work in particular with France. I was in Paris yesterday on behalf of your Lordships’ European Union Committee giving evidence to the Brexit committee of the French Senate. It is clear to me that whatever are the French concerns about Brexit, and there are many, there is a clear sense in Paris that Franco-British co-operation on security and defence transcends the European Union. I agree with that. Whether we are in the European Union or not, I find it hard to imagine any effective European security and defence policy in, say, the Middle East or north Africa without Franco-British co-operation at its core. I hope that the Minister can confirm the importance of that relationship as well.
I will make one final point. This debate is about foreign and security policy, but counterterrorism is a key component of our security policy. Our membership of Europol, the European arrest warrant and other justice and home affairs instruments are key components of our counterterrorism strategy. Recent evidence to the EU Sub-Committee on Home Affairs reinforced that. The crucial importance of our membership of Europol and participation in the European arrest warrant was borne in forcefully on members of the sub-committee during our visits this week to Belfast and Dublin. They are absolutely fundamental to countering the risk of terrorism on both sides of the border. We simply cannot afford to take risks with peace and security in Ireland, whether north or south. I hope finally that the Minister can confirm that British security and the Irish dimension of Brexit will be at the top of the Government’s concerns as the negotiations get under way.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for introducing this debate about foreign and security policy. If I had the onerous duty of being a Foreign Office or defence Minister, I would certainly make sure that I touched base at least weekly with the noble Lord, not least because I am confident that he would tell me something I did not want to hear.
I think that it would be helpful to the House if I give some indication of where I am coming from in the Brexit debate. While I am deeply Eurosceptic, I voted remain. We have had more than 60 years of grand strategic stability in western Europe with all the international chess pieces carefully laid out in relative harmony. Yes, of course the EU is seriously defective and needs reform and a rethink. Perhaps reform is inevitable, as my noble friend Lord Howell said, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, that it would have been easier if we were inside the tent. But why would one want to bang the table really hard and send all the chess pieces airborne without any idea of where they will come down, although in the certain knowledge that it is Mr Putin’s most favoured outcome? That is why I voted remain.
I am pleased that the Prime Minister has made it clear that Brexit means Brexit and that she will accept the will of the people. But divorces can get messy, especially if you involve the lawyers and the courts. What I am not so happy about is the total and abject failure of the Government to hold out any form of olive branch to other EU states. In particular, we could say that any EU citizen with a legal national insurance number on 23 June 2016 has absolutely nothing to fear and can continue working in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, we could say that there would be no question of a work permit for EU-EEA citizens with well-paid professional jobs. Finally, there would be no question of EU-EEA citizens needing a visa to visit the UK. Why on earth would we want to do anything different? What we need to do is to regulate but not stop the flow of unskilled and artisan workers from the EU accession states. If the Government made some helpful statements about these issues it would show that we are not giving up on Europe, and that in turn would be beneficial for the defence and security of the UK and our EU friends.
It does not need to be anywhere near as painful as some in the remain camp seem to wish. Noble Lords who have spoken in favour of the remain camp have painted a very pessimistic picture of the future, but I do not see it that way at all. We have had dire predictions of what will happen if we cannot share intelligence with other EU states. My understanding is that many EU states are poor at sharing data with each other. On the other hand, I understand that we are quite good at sharing information about suspects, threats and intelligence with the French and there is no reason why that should not continue after Brexit. If there was anything that we could do to prevent a terrorist attack in France or any other EU state, why would we not want to do so? Why would other EU states not want to reciprocate, given that there are hundreds of thousands of EU citizens in the UK who are welcome?
Some noble Lords have called into question the European arrest warrant. Why on earth would one not want to have some successor system that has the same effect but uses a slightly different vehicle? I am not aware of any difficulties with the current system— indeed, I have more anxieties about the US legal system and that country’s addiction to extraterritorial jurisdiction.
When it comes to hard military power there are only two EU states that have the will and the capability to provide significant levels of combat power—the UK and France. Other noble Lords have already made this point. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, worries about what influence the UK will have in the future on military matters. If we can deploy a carrier battle group we will always have influence. Indeed, there are very few states in the world that can deploy at least one armoured or mechanised brigade out of area. They are the US, Russia, France and the UK. Our aspiration is to be able to deploy at divisional level against a peer opponent. As long as we can do this we will always be of importance to the United States. I think that, in the current situation, allocating only 2% of GDP as defence expenditure is seriously insufficient, especially when we do not appear to have any intention to undertake a deployment exercise demonstrating the ability to deploy at brigade level.
However, if we are not doing enough, most of our EU partners are pathetic. To be blunt, they are relying upon the UK and France to provide the military muscle to keep them safe and not the other way around. My noble friend Lord Howell gave us some statistics and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made some very important points. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jay, about the importance of Franco-British military co-operation. That is never going to stop and even had we stayed in the EU I am sure that it would have been stronger than other EU arrangements.
In conclusion, the remain camp paints a picture of doom and gloom, with other EU states trying to almost bankrupt the UK or at least make it significantly poorer. As I have said, I do not see it that way. Ironically, it is those very same, mainly accession states that are adjacent to the Russian land-mass which are most reliant on a prosperous and economically fit UK, so that we can maintain a high-intensity war-fighting capability to deter any border incursion into an EU or NATO state.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, most warmly for having introduced this debate and having introduced it so effectively. I shall pick out one speech almost every sentence of which I found myself applauding and that was the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell. I confess that it is not the first time I have felt like that when he has been speaking.
To pick out one recent comment in the debate, I was greatly cheered by what the noble Lord, Lord Jay, said about his conversation with the president of the French Senate. I really am cheered to hear that the French believe that close co-operation in defence matters will be there whatever the outcome of the current situation.
It is very important to look at the issues that we face and that we will face in the future and to ask the Government specifically to put forward clearly to Parliament and the British people what their position is on these issues and how they intend to meet the challenges in the context of what has happened.
I start with Ireland. Ireland is a time bomb ticking away on our own doorstep. When we think of the effort that went into the Good Friday agreement and the central importance of the membership of the European Union to that agreement, we must ask what is now going to happen. We cannot just leave it; we need to know very clearly and precisely what the Government propose.
Russia is clearly in an aggressive mode of expansionism, in influence and, I think, territorially. How do the Government propose to meet this challenge from Russia if they are not closely involved with their European colleagues within the European Union? What are they actually proposing to do?
The same sort of questions arise, of course, in the Middle East and on the general issue of terrorism. Terrorism is globalised and highly sophisticated. Speak to anyone operationally involved in this area of policy, as I have had the privilege of doing in the Select Committee, and they highly value the co-operation that was there within the European Union. How do the Government intend to preserve this essential element in our security policy?
Crime is internationalised. Again, there is Interpol and the rest. We have been working to recognise that crime is internationalised and globalised and that we cannot simply look for our protection against global crime on an insular basis; we have to work with others. How are the Government going to do this?
The same applies, of course, on issues such as drugs and in other spheres, such as health. We have all seen the constant threat of pandemics in recent years and the easy spread of alarming new diseases. We know that when we were responding to what happened in Sierra Leone, one of the first things that the Government emphasised was their co-operation with Europe in meeting the challenge. What specific arrangements are going to be in place?
There is the huge issue of climate change. Anyone with any sense knows that the challenges and the events that are already occurring in the context of climate change cannot be dealt with on an insular basis. We cannot meet those challenges on our own, floating on a raft in the Atlantic; we have to work with others. How are the Government proposing to do that? How are they proposing to strengthen the role of relevant, constructive policy in meeting those challenges?
In the remaining moments, I want to concentrate on the issue of refugees. We have been terribly preoccupied in this House about how many child refugees we can have, how fast this is happening and how secure they will be, but look at the global reality. I have just double-checked with our excellent Library this morning, so I am going to get my statistics right. There are currently 65.3 million refugees and displaced people in the world, of whom 21.3 million are refugees; displaced people are very often in exactly the same predicament as refugees, but they do not have the status because they have not crossed a border. Lebanon has 1.1 million refugees; Turkey has 2.5 million; Jordan has nearly 0.7 million. We should look not only at the numbers but at the proportion of the total populations of those countries that the refugee population represents. How will we have stability in those regions unless we work together in finding strategic solutions to the issues that face us?
As we fuss about the hundreds or thousands who may come to Britain, I am appalled to see the headlines that are going out to the world about whether or not children should be tested and whether there is any breaching of the regulations about age. For nine years, I was president of the YMCA in England, which does terrific work with the young. One thing we discovered was that 17 to 21 year-olds are every bit as vulnerable as children in many respects. What on earth is this neurosis that has overtaken us? Why is the message that is going out from Britain not one that says, “We are determined to be a warm, welcoming, compassionate nation”? That is not the message that is going out at the moment. How do we begin to meet those challenges unless that message goes out?
The point is that the refugee problem will not go away. Look at the size of it. It has immense implications for peace and security. How are we going to work with our European neighbours to ensure that we make a constructive contribution to the strategic issues that lie behind the numbers that are pressing on us at the moment?
My Lords, in Tuesday’s debate the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, quoted John Donne’s marvellous words:
“No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main”,
in support of her contention that we have a “mutuality of interest” with other countries, including those in the EU. I could not agree more, in common with most speakers today. But I am afraid she did not give any reassurance that those interests could be sufficiently nurtured, supported and organised outside the EU or how that could be done. I hope we get those answers today.
For instance, in relation to enlargement, the Minister said that,
“we continue to support countries committed to the accession process as a way of embedding stability and addressing challenges through reform, particularly in the western Balkans”.
How will we do that if we can no longer influence EU policy? She stressed that leaving the EU,
“does not mean that we fracture the relationships or various objectives that we have negotiated over the years on a bilateral level with individual countries in the EU”.—[Official Report, 18/10/16; col. 2314.]
That is fine but bilateral relationships cannot substitute fully for a set of multilateral networks and capabilities.
On Tuesday, colleagues, notably the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds, rightly asked what would happen to the 2015 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review, which was predicated on the EU being as central to our country’s security as NATO, with the EU being, as my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire also said,
“the essential partner of NATO in meeting these threats and challenges”.—[Official Report, 18/10/16; col. 2306.]
Indeed, that review said, as my noble friend Lord Campbell of Pittenweem did, that the EU is “complementary” to NATO. One can see that clearly in areas such as cybersecurity and combating terrorism.
We really do need concrete answers today on how UK foreign and defence policy, and the safeguarding of our security, can possibly be as effective in the future on our own as they are now with the multiplying effect of participation in the co-operative structures of the EU to complement NATO. Even if we were, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, suggested, as well placed to contribute to European defence outside the EU as inside—with which I do not agree—we are not well placed to contribute as strongly to EU security in its widest sense if we are outside the EU. Not only is the EU this essential partner and complementary to NATO but in its Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union, the coalition Government—or the Conservative-led Government, as we more often hear it described on the other side these days—noted that action under the CFSP is,
“intertwined with external action under non-CFSP competences”,
such as development assistance and trade; that is, the competences of the EU itself rather than the intergovernmental format of the CFSP. The EU Select Committee of this House made a similar point in its February report, Europe in the World: Towards a More Effective EU Foreign and Security Strategy. Even though the prospective transatlantic trade agreement—TTIP—is controversial, I hope it will succeed, but if the UK is not there, the chance to establish a transatlantic sphere of standards, rather than a Chinese sphere of standards, which is the alternative, will be undermined by our absence. In my opinion, this affects security.
We need to know how the co-operative process on sanctions as well as on a host of other issues will be replaced after Brexit and, crucially, how we will avoid lessening the impact of sanctions on countries such as Russia or Iran and on terrorists, which would weaken the security not only of the UK and the EU but of the entire western world. The Foreign Secretary asserted in his Conservative Party conference speech that in future the UK would be able to,
“speak up more powerfully with our own distinctive voice”,
outside the EU. But as my noble friend Lord Maclennan said, our voice will be diminished. How will that strengthen a common transatlantic and European defence and security effort?
A point made today by the National Crime Agency’s deputy director-general is that the UK’s withdrawal from Europol would damage our other “Five Eyes” allies because they rely on the UK to get information for them from Europol. Are not those, like Ian Bond of the Centre for European Reform, who warn that outside the EU the UK would be less able,
“to influence EU foreign policy priorities”,
absolutely right? Is it not also true that our absence from the EU will weaken and undermine its powers as well as our own and thus those of the entire western alliance? This fragmentation does not help anybody.
At present, the UK can veto CFSP decisions, but in future we will have only the choice of supporting them or not. We will have to be a “me, too” country, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, put it. It is not just a question of replacing the CFSP structures, mechanisms and instruments but of replacing the way that those currently mesh with the policies and functions of the EU itself in which we have hitherto played a leading role—not only enlargement and the neighbourhood policy but the whole justice and home affairs field, to which I will return shortly. I am sure that the former Prime Minister was thinking of all of these dimensions when he said last year that the EU was,
“vital to the UK’s security”.
The new Prime Minister, when she was Home Secretary, was cognisant of the importance of EU law enforcement measures to British security needs, which is why she played a major role in supporting the Liberal Democrats in government and the efforts of both Houses of Parliament in our staying a party to the famous 35 justice and home affairs measures, which include: Europol; Eurojust—the club of prosecutors; the European arrest warrant; the Schengen information system database; the Prüm exchanges of criminal data such as DNA and fingerprints; and the ECRIS system of exchange on criminal convictions. We have heard today from the National Crime Agency how it is urging the UK to opt into the updated Europol regulation and stay in the European arrest warrant. This is not some kind of kneejerk Europhilia; this is senior police telling us that, to catch criminals, it is essential that we stay plugged into these instruments.
It is through no random accident that Europol has a British director, in the person of Rob Wainwright or that Eurojust has had several British presidents, any more than it was an accident that the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, was the first High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. These appointments have been in recognition of the strong UK record, on the one hand, in policing and fighting crime and, on the other, on foreign and defence policy. Despite everything, this sort of record also motivated the bestowal on the new British Commissioner, Sir Julian King, of the security portfolio. We also have in Labour MEP Claude Moraes the chairman of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, LIBE, which I used to serve on. It does not strengthen any of those positions for the UK to fail to say how we will support European security in future. The Government welcomed Mr Juncker’s decision to confer the security portfolio on Sir Julian. How will they make that welcome more than an empty and meaningless word?
I confess that it is only because of the Library’s briefing that I came across a very useful background paper from May on the co-operation that we enjoy on justice and home affairs, as well as on CFSP. It pointed out—and was making the point positively at the time—that among non-EU countries it is only the Schengen states, such as Norway and Iceland, which are members of the Schengen information system, Prüm and the European arrest warrant. In fact, no non-EU countries are members of ECRIS, the criminal records measure. How are we to plug into those justice and home affairs measures as a non-EU member?
It is not only on law enforcement and anti-terrorism aspects of security that the UK adds value to the EU’s effectiveness. We also do so by our strong reputation for upholding the rule of law. It has been to my eternal regret that the UK has not opted into all the defence measures, such as on fair trials, which go alongside the law enforcement measures because, frankly, we have the gold standard there.
Finally, given that we have been a leader in reinforcing European security through all the mechanisms mentioned today—CFSP, EU measures and justice and home affairs, even if we are not fully engaged on those—it is vital for our own country’s security and that of our friends and partners that we get some answers today as to how we will carry on contributing once we exclude ourselves from the EU. I ask that the noble Baroness really gives us some detail in her reply.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for enabling us to continue the debate we started on Tuesday. As the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, rightly said on Tuesday,
“none of us has a crystal ball to predict the future with certainty”.
While acknowledging that we face significant challenges to peace and stability ahead, she asserted then,
“that they are not ones brought about by the UK’s decision to leave the EU”,—[Official Report, 18/10/16; col. 2312.]
and that they will not be exacerbated by our leaving. That is the crux of what noble Lords have raised today and what this debate is fundamentally about. I think what all noble Lords seek is an assurance from the Government that they will undertake, or have undertaken, a full and proper assessment of the impact Brexit will have on the United Kingdom. We need to be satisfied that the negotiations will be governed by one overriding principle: to fully protect the interests of the United Kingdom and its people.
I totally agree with your Lordships’ EU Committee, as highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that there is a middle way between micromanagement and the exclusion of Parliament. That is the role of constructive and timely comment on both the process and the substance of the negotiations. As your Lordships’ committee said, that will contribute to a greater sense of parliamentary ownership of the process, strengthening the Government’s negotiating position and increasing the likelihood that the final agreement will enjoy parliamentary and public support.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, emphasised in his introduction the development of the common foreign and security policy. In addressing our ability to maintain the UK’s influence in the development of that EU policy after Brexit, the Minister on Tuesday stressed the importance of bilateral relations. In particular, she emphasised the agreements we have with France that other noble Lords have mentioned, particularly on joint defence initiatives. But the Government could use a range of options to pursue their stated aim of a continued,
“commitment to the security of our continent”:
through NATO; through continued participation in EU structures and operations as a third-country nation; and, as was mentioned, through bilateral relationships with EU partners. Will the Minister confirm today that no option has been ruled out in the conduct of our Brexit negotiations? That is what we need to hear in terms of effective scrutiny of those negotiations.
In the debate today, noble Lords have mentioned joint operations through the common security and defence policy. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government intend to maintain the UK’s participation in such initiatives and joint operations under the umbrella of that policy, after Britain leaves the EU? These are long-term plans and initiatives. We need to understand that nothing is being ruled out. I raised on Tuesday the European Defence Agency, which helps to facilitate collaboration in the defence industry and carries out research to promote the EU’s defence capabilities. In response to a question in the other place the Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, did not comment on whether the UK would seek to participate in such areas as the EDA and EU Battlegroups after leaving the EU. Again, I think noble Lords would want to know that these matters are not being ruled out.
The first chief executive of the EDA, Nick Witney, has said regarding the future that,
“some sort of privileged partnership between the UK and EU looks like a reasonable goal",
but that the difficulties of defining it, embodying it in a treaty change and its relatively low priority, compared to untangling economic and migration issues, mean that such a partnership might not be achieved “for many years”. Can the Minister tell us today what priority will be given in the negotiations to enabling the UK to continue participating in the EDA’s research, even over the period that it takes to negotiate some more formal relationship?
Turning to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I fear that he underestimates the problem with the EU developing its own distinct foreign and security policies without Britain’s influence. That could put it at odds with the objectives of NATO, the UK and the USA, potentially destabilising the one organisation in which we are all putting much faith and impeding its ability to perform its defence role, the policy towards Russia being a particular concern in that respect. As noble Lords have said, most of the foreign policy risks faced by the UK, such as international terrorism, Russian aggression and climate change, will continue to require international action. One issue we have not addressed much today is cross-border cybercrime.
A very useful report was published this week by London First, which represents the views of a wide range of business and public sector stakeholders. It set out key issues that may affect the UK’s security and, in particular, those that may arise from repeated terrorist attacks not just in the UK but against UK interests abroad. It welcomed the Government’s commitment to continue co-operation on law enforcement and counterterrorism in the negotiations, which was confirmed by the Prime Minister on her arrival in Brussels today—but by what means?
Like noble Lords, London First argues strongly that the UK Government should pursue as far as possible continued involvement with EU security institutions, especially Europol. No doubt many noble Lords have seen the briefing from the Law Society recommending that we continue our involvement in Europol and agencies which focus on intelligence analysis to support the operations of national law enforcement agencies in member states. An example of the options we may consider in negotiations is Norway, which has a relationship with Europol through a co-operation agreement with the EU. Any loss of Europol’s security resources and connectivity will make the UK more reliant on bilateral collaboration with member states. That would undoubtedly be more complex and time-consuming, which would increase the threat to our nation. The Minister cannot give us the definitive answer on the outcome of the negotiations, but will she confirm that no option will be ruled out? UK business benefits from the police intelligence and information that flows from participation in the umbrella organisation. The irony is that, to date, the UK has arguably been the leading contributor in the development of pan-European, non-military security policies through the EU, exerting its influence to ensure that Europe’s civilian security responses are as effective as possible. Successful UK security depends upon a successful economy, and thus the safety and security of UK business is critical to the overall UK national interest. Does the Minister agree that the UK public and private sectors should develop a national debate, especially incorporating business representatives, on the future of UK security?
This will be an ongoing debate. We have had two such debates this week. The most important principle is to ensure that the Government fully engage Parliament in the process so that we can ensure that negotiations are successful.
My Lords, I thank all the noble Lords who contributed to this important and constructive debate. Many illuminating points have emerged.
The Government have made it clear that, as we leave the EU, we will not turn our back on the world. The UK remains a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the second-largest contributor to NATO and a leading member of the G7, the G20 and the Commonwealth. We take these responsibilities seriously. That underpins the fact that we will continue to be a strong and influential European voice on the world stage, promoting and defending global peace and security.
Nor will we be leaving Europe. We cannot geographically. We are part of Europe. There are a great many areas in which our interests and those of our European neighbours will continue to coincide. Foreign and security policy is one of these areas. We share the same challenges, and it is in all our interests to continue co-operating on them as closely as possible.
It is important to stress that the UK has constructive relationships with all EU states on a bilateral level, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned. That is a very healthy situation. We also have important relationships throughout the EU. France is a particularly good example. I referred to it earlier in the week and make no apology to referring to it again as it illustrates the point well. We work with France in a wide range of fields, not just on foreign and security policy, but also on defence, energy, migration, transport and trade. We also have strong relationships with European states which are not members of the EU, such as Norway and Switzerland. When we leave the EU, we will not step back from these relationships or from the co-operative relations we have with existing EU states, EU enlargement states and other countries in Europe, such as Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia. It will be in our mutual interest to strengthen them.
The UK is currently a major contributor to EU foreign and security policy. Our input ranges from the political expertise of our diplomatic network to our military engagement in CSDP missions and from our support for EU development aid to our contributions to the EU’s intelligence and situation centre. I remind noble Lords that our defence budget is the second-largest in NATO after that of the US and the largest in Europe, and we have committed to maintain defence spending at 2% of GDP. Our assets are used to great effect to support EU activity. Some noble Lords mentioned Operation Sophia, which has been successful and is helping to tackle illegal migration and to stem the flow of weapons to terrorists, particularly Daesh, in Libya.
Our contribution to the strategic direction of the EU’s foreign and security policy is also important. A number of noble Lords rightly raised this because our shared security challenges, together with the UK’s strong contribution to EU foreign and security policy, mean that it would be in all our interests for the UK to maintain close security co-operation with the EU after we leave. Defining the way we co-operate with EU partners and the EU as an institution on this issue in future will be an important element to be considered as we exit. This will include defining how the UK will interact with the EU’s common foreign and security policy and common security and defence policy.
There are many other specific questions we need to consider, such as our future interaction with the EU on sanctions policy and overseas development. This area of policy is a topic of great interest to EU member states, as well as other key partners around the world, and we will therefore need to have detailed discussions with EU partners in due course to understand what kind of relationship would meet our mutual interests. A range of options could be envisaged, from ceasing work with the EU as a foreign and security policy actor entirely, to retaining a close and influential relationship with the EU’s CFSP and CSDP. A close relationship would be possible in principle—provided it can be achieved in a way that delivers mutual benefits.
I will now try to deal with the contributions made today, and in the time available see whether I can make some effort to respond to them. I will deal first with the very eloquent contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, when he opened the debate. He raised a number of important points, and the ones I particularly noted down related specifically to the CFSP and CSDP. He posed the question of whether, if we withdraw, we become an outsider—I think that was the word used. I would very much hope that the mutuality of interest, because of the challenges confronting Europe, means anything but that. We have that big defence budget and are right at the heart of defence, which is why we will constructively explore ways in which we might work with the EU in the future to mutual benefit and advantage. Our role in defence and international diplomacy, to which the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, referred, is of course cemented and underpinned by one of the largest and most influential diplomatic networks in the world. You can never disconnect defence from diplomatic endeavour and activity.
My noble friend Lord Howell, in a very thoughtful speech, deployed a most welcome element of pragmatism and insight. Although alert to the challenges, he identified opportunities for the United Kingdom to work outside of but with the EU to improve the EU approach to defence, given the challenges currently emerging within the EU itself.
The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, referred to his anxiety about an “Anglosphere” emerging. As a proud Scot who voted to remain in the EU, I do not want an Anglosphere—it sounds absolutely ghastly to me—but as a proud citizen of the United Kingdom, I want our global influence in terms of diplomacy, defence and economic reach to be the building block for new relationships both with countries in the EU and with those outside it.
My compatriot, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, to whom it is always a pleasure to listen, graciously acknowledged the importance of this debate in demonstrating the role that Parliament can play, which was a very important point to make. He raised a number of interesting hypotheses on which I cannot comment in detail. I see him reaching forward in his seat with anticipation, and although it is not my desire to disappoint him, I am bound to, because the comment that he seeks would be premature at this stage, and if I tried to make it I should get into very hot water—not a prospect I relish. The noble Lord also mentioned Gibraltar. We will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their wishes. I can give him that assurance.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, expressed a concern about the UK becoming, I think, a “me, too” country. I observe that we were an influential power before we entered the EU, we remained such as a member of the EU and all the evidence suggests that that influence will continue when we leave the EU. I do not think that the title of “me, too” would be apposite, as I anticipate a role for the United Kingdom post-leaving the EU where we are forging relationships and are a global leader.
My noble friend Lord Marlesford also helpfully alluded to the opportunities. I understand the concerns about our diplomatic global reach, but I reassure him that our diplomatic network is hugely influential, and represented in over 85% of the world’s countries. Some of the delegations to which he referred are, in my understanding, EU-funded, so that does not come out of the UK budget. Our overall diplomatic reach is significant and highly effective.
The noble Lord, Lord Davies, raised issues about defence capability and was worried about approaching the negotiations on matters of defence in a spirit of “frivolity”, I think he said. Those fears are unfounded. He rightly underlined the importance of intelligence relationships. It is fully acknowledged that global intelligence is a matter of singular importance. For example, the noble Lord will be aware that our “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing partnership with the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand is just part of the existing framework of intelligence infrastructure which is out there. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, referred to this, but of course we will have before us, as we enter into these vital negotiations for leaving the EU, the importance of doing everything we can to maintain intelligence-sharing relationships. That is made all the more significant because of the shared and joint interests we have with EU countries.
I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for her remarks and for giving way. Just to be absolutely clear, will it be the intention of the Government in conducting these negotiations with our EU partners that if we leave the EU, we remain nevertheless as part of Europol, of the European arrest warrant and of the arrangements for exchange of information between police forces, as at present?
The noble Lord will appreciate that I cannot give specific answers to these questions. I can merely reaffirm what I have said, which is that we underline the principle of recognising the importance of what we currently have in terms of these structures and arrangements. The noble Lord is quite right to remind us of that importance. We will do everything we can within our negotiating process to ensure that the best achievements to safeguard the security of the United Kingdom are obtained.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, in a very reflective contribution, raised the issue of a British identity which is inclusive and amenable to building relationships outwith the UK. I totally agree with that. After leaving the EU, we need relationships with Europe—that goes without saying. It will be the spirit, I am certain, of the negotiations to both respect and deliver on that spirit.
My noble friend Lord Suri engaged in some optimism about our direction of travel, for which I thank him. He mentioned Ukraine specifically. I confirm the UK continues to play a full role within the EU in supporting sanctions. The Ukrainian people have indicated a clear commitment to broader European values, and we certainly continue to uphold their position.
The noble Lord, Lord Lea, expressed frustration with the process. Although I cannot dispel his angst, I can reassure him that there is a process, that there is hope and that there are opportunities. Indeed, this debate itself has identified many strengths and many such opportunities.
The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, raised the important matter of the influence of the UK, and the attitude to the UK, in the negotiations. He is correct. Like any negotiation, the parties must identify strengths, needs, and mutual influence and opportunities, which I am sure will prove to be a positive and fertile basis for discussion. If the noble Lord’s personal model of courtesy were a template for all negotiations, that would be a very good omen for the future.
The noble Lord, Lord Jay, raised an interesting issue about developing a new European voice and argued that we will require diplomacy and constructive relationships. I agree that discussing how we maintain positive and cordial relationships with the EU once we are out of it is vital. He also alluded to the position of Ireland. There is a broad range of north/south issues on which the UK’s exit from the EU could have an impact, from energy to agriculture, but there are opportunities for both countries too. There is no reason to think that the outcome of the referendum will do anything to undermine the rock-solid commitment of the UK Government and the people of Northern Ireland to the settlement set out in the Belfast agreement.
My noble friend Lord Attlee rightly and wisely called for calm conduct rather than banging tables and throwing chess pieces in the air. I agree with that, and I hope some of the points I have made in my speech and my more detailed responses will go some way towards reassuring him.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, also raised the question of Ireland, and I hope my response to the noble Lord, Lord Jay, addresses the matter. He also raised the challenging and disturbing plight of refugees, specifically in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. The UK has played a leading role globally in responding to the crisis. We have committed £2.3 billion in response to the conflict in Syria and £70 million for the humanitarian response to the crisis in Europe, north Africa and Turkey, making the UK the largest bilateral contributor.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, credited me with poetic skills. I have to give the credit to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop who commenced the quotation, and all I had to do was finish it. The noble Baroness raised a number of significant security-related issues. On the 2015 strategic defence and security review, we do not agree that a new security review is needed. That review was based on a full analysis of the national security challenges facing the UK, and it had a clear national security vision underpinned by three enduring national security objectives. Those objectives and challenges remain valid.
The noble Baroness also raised important matters of intelligence-sharing and the reciprocity of legal process and procedures. These will be on the radar screen, but I observe that we maintain relationships with non-EU countries on such matters. Again, these relationships are born out of practical need and expediency within the framework of international law, so there is no reason to think that such matters cannot be negotiated sensibly.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, spoke on the broad front of defence. I hope I have indicated in some of my remarks how defence will be at the heart of our negotiations and how in principle we will seek to see how we can achieve a close relationship that delivers mutual benefits. On the issues of security and law enforcement, the importance of law enforcement and co-operation with EU and global allies remains unchanged, and exploring options for once we have left means that we will have to do whatever is necessary to keep people safe. It would be wrong to set out a unilateral position on specific measures now, but we will continue to value co-operation on the matters that have been raised, including Europol, European law and Schengen.
In conclusion, foreign and security policy is an extremely important and complex element of our relationship with the EU and its member states. Although we are leaving the EU, we will remain a key European power and we will continue to co-operate with European partners to tackle shared challenges. The eventual shape of that relationship and the way in which it functions will need to be developed through detailed discussions with all the relevant parties.
Once again, I thank noble Lords for their contributions. I have found this an interesting debate. A number of issues have been highlighted and thrown into sharp relief, and I think the aggregate contribution from this House will in turn make a very important contribution to informing the negotiation process as we look ahead and seek to ensure that the matters so important to your Lordships, as identified today, remain at the forefront of the negotiating process.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for taking part in this debate. The debate demonstrates how far Parliament needs to be allowed to ask questions about the implications of Brexit in one area after another. Unless one takes the Bernard Jenkin approach to Brexit, which is that we simply abrogate unilaterally all our obligations and re-establish absolute British sovereignty, the simple decision to leave has all sorts of knock-on effects. If we wish to continue to be engaged in co-operation with our neighbours, we have to work out ways to do so.
Some of those here are just old enough to remember a very odd organisation called the Western European Union in the 1950s and 1960s, which the British did our utmost to keep alive when it served virtually no other purpose than that it was the one area in which we could discuss security and defence policy with the then six members of the European Union. We are going to have to try to invent things like that again. I recall talking in strong terms to a senior official who was the British permanent representative to the WEU, who told me that his major objective was to abolish it so that he did not have to go to the meetings.
Leaving the EU has real costs in terms of influence and access. Those who say we can simply go back to the Common Market that we had in the 1970s simply do not appreciate how much more complicated the international agenda has become. We did not have cyberattacks in the 1970s because we did not have computers. Heathrow was a relatively small airport in those days because people did not travel so much. The extent to which the world has become so much more interconnected, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, reminds us so regularly, requires this sort of complicated response.
I say to the Minister that the complacency with which the Government insist that we are the largest spender on defence in Europe will not survive a further fall in the value of the pound. We spend money on defence in pounds but buy defence equipment largely in dollars, and that is going to get harder and harder as we go on. I expect part of the trigger for the next SDSR will be that we are running into another spending gap in our defence budget and are forced yet again to cut.
So there is a great deal more to discuss, and we will need to return to this topic. Few of us are yet persuaded that the Government have begun to have answers to some of the questions we have raised, and they need to develop them before they trigger Article 50.