Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the Report from the European Union Committee Brexit: Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations (16th Report, HL Paper 132).
My Lords, I rise to move the Motion at the request of my noble friend Lady Verma, who sadly cannot be with us today and in whose name the original Motion stood. In doing so, I place on record my thanks to her for her thoughtful and inclusive chairmanship of our committee, as well as to my committee colleagues and our invariably excellent and conscientious staff.
Our report focused on the UK’s role in the European Union’s common security and defence policy—CSDP—post Brexit. The report was published no less than a year ago but, like a good wine, it has matured satisfactorily in the past 12 months. In any case, defence and security are always front-page news, and rightly so. The European Union deploys these overseas missions and operations in support of peacekeeping and conflict prevention, with the aim of strengthening international security. Currently, there are no less than 16 such missions; six are classified as military and 10 as civilian. Despite this difference of nomenclature, their value by comparison with a typical NATO or UN mission is in their comprehensiveness: they bring together military, political, diplomatic, economic and legal expertise, which the UN and NATO are sometimes unable to do.
The UK has played a significant role in many of these missions. A particularly good example is Operation Atalanta, the anti-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa. Some Members may have seen “Captain Phillips”, in which a Maersk container ship was stopped by a small piratical boat packed with Somalis. The hero was played by Tom Hanks who, of course, managed to beat off the attack. The film is fascinating, for anyone who has not seen it, to see exactly how it all worked and how a small boat could literally stop in its tracks and invade or attack a large container ship. Being a US film, no Brits are mentioned in the episode but the fact of the matter is that our naval forces deployed off the Horn of Africa have led to a dramatic drop in the amount of piracy in those waters. We did not think it wise necessarily to go to the Horn of Africa—we thought about expenditure as well—but we went to our services HQ in Northwood and how it had all been done was demonstrated to us.
The amount of seaborne traffic travelling off the Horn of Africa is enormous, frankly; it is adjacent to the Strait of Hormuz, with its equally huge amount of seaborne traffic. A high proportion of the world’s seaborne traffic goes through those waters; it is therefore extremely important that it is safe. In fact, I believe that the US Navy now contributes a huge proportion of its assets to defending the Strait of Hormuz. I will not take that point any further; otherwise, President Trump will no doubt ask us to contribute more to the cost. It is important that we remain involved with that sort of task. It is very much in our interests as both a trading nation and a good international neighbour.
We made three recommendations in the report for the post-Brexit situation. The first is that the Government should develop and submit “detailed proposals” for the future CSDP consultation. Secondly, they should,
“seek to negotiate observer status in the EU’s planning and decision-making bodies, such as the Political and Security Committee”.
Thirdly, they should invest extra resources in Brussels and the other European Union capitals.
On the first point—proposals for consultation—the political declaration which was endorsed by the Government and the 27 other nations of Europe last November allows the UK to participate in the CSDP on a case-by-case basis. That will be formalised in a so-called framework participation agreement. It also envisages that if the UK does contribute to a specific CSDP mission, it will participate in the force generation conference, the call for contributions and the Committee of Contributors. I ask my noble friend: is this the sort of arrangement that third countries get automatically when they contribute to European Union operations or is it special, different or enhanced in any way beyond what has been the standard procedure so far? I ask this in the light of the fact that in the Government’s own White Paper last year, it was said that the UK should deploy its forces subject to contingent agreements about how it will be involved in the planning process. Obviously, the earlier we can be involved in the planning process, the better. If we can be involved from day one, that is good. Is that going to be the standard pattern that the Government are trying to arrive at with the European Union?
On the second point about observer status, the Government’s response to our report said that there will be “regular dialogue” and ad hoc meetings with the EU Political and Security Committee in informal sessions. That is fine, but it is certainly not about trying to get observer status. Is it still the Government’s objective to try to get that status on the EU Political and Security Committee? On resources, I welcome the fact that seven ambassadorial posts inside the EU have been upgraded and no fewer than 50 new diplomatic post have been created. Can my noble friend update us on that very welcome situation?
Finally, we believe—and intend—that we are going to have a new political relationship with the European Union, but the geography has not changed. We are small. We are a group of islands off the coast of continental Europe and it is therefore absolutely in our interests on security and defence grounds that we co-operate as much as we possibly can, and we have important assets to bring to the game. That is the burden of our report. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank our chair, the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, in her absence, and the secretariat of the committee for producing such an excellent and comprehensive report on Brexit and the common security and defence policy. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Horam, on introducing the report so well. I am afraid that many of the points that I am going to raise are rather similar, but that may be because we are fellow members of the committee dealing with this inquiry.
This report was based on an inquiry carried out in 2017-18 and which was adopted exactly a year ago, as the noble Lord, Lord Horam, has said, by the European Union Committee. Yet, one year since the report was adopted, it is still far from clear how the Government envisage our future relationship with the CSDP should we actually leave the European Union. This debate therefore provides a useful opportunity to try to seek some answers and more information from the Government on this matter.
One of the most interesting elements of taking part in this inquiry, as the noble Lord, Lord Horam, said, was our visit in February last year to Northwood and the operational headquarters of Operation Atalanta. Since its creation in 2008, Operation Atalanta has been one of the most successful CSDP missions. It has been protecting vulnerable shipping off the coast of Somalia, including vessels from the World Food Programme and the African Union Mission in Somalia. It has deterred piracy and armed robbery at sea and has strengthened maritime security and capacity in the region. Being based in the UK’s principal military HQ at Northwood made strategic and operational sense, and anyone who has had the opportunity to meet Major-General Charles Stickland will know that as commander of Operation Atalanta, his personal drive and commitment have played a significant role in making the mission such a success. Yet in March this year, because of Brexit and because the withdrawal agreement precludes the UK from hosting operational headquarters once we have left the EU, Operation Atalanta and its command moved to Rota in Spain. This is a very real example of the diminishing influence that will be faced by the UK in European defence missions following Brexit. We will no longer be in a position to give the operational drive to such missions; nor, most probably, will we be able to engage directly at the planning stages of future EU missions, allowing us to provide our very great historical and geographical experience to these missions. I do not believe this to be in the best interests of either the UK or the European Union.
It is to be welcomed that the Government have provided a detailed response to this report, and because some time has now passed since the responses were published, I will use the remainder of my remarks to ask the Minister for some additional information. In their response, the Government state that the UK will seek to achieve its objectives,
“through a new form of engagement with CSDP or enhanced bilateral activity”.
Can the Minister say a little more about how the Government envisage this new form of engagement with the CSDP? Current third-country engagement with the CSDP has been encouraged since its creation, but does the Minister regard the current Committee of Contributors mechanisms as being satisfactory and how would he imagine greater involvement for the United Kingdom at the planning stages? Does he believe that our European partners are open to such a “tailored partnership” with the EU post Brexit, including proposals such as ad hoc attendance at the Political and Security Committee meetings in informal sessions? Can he also say a little about the ongoing financial contributions from this country should such an arrangement be possible?
Finally, in their response to paragraph 263, the Government state:
“Since 2017, the FCO has upgraded seven Ambassador posts and created 50 new diplomatic positions in Embassies in Europe”.
Although this is much to be welcomed, as the noble Lord, Lord Horam, said, can the Minister say a little more about how the Government intend to strengthen the role of the UK permanent representation in Brussels to ensure British influence? Can he also confirm that UKRep has recruited 40 new members of staff in Brussels? How many of these people will be specifically assigned to the security and defence brief?
I appreciate that I have asked rather a lot of questions and that the Minister will probably not be in a position to provide comprehensive answers to many of them, in which case I would appreciate a written response. I also appreciate that given the current stalemate on the Brexit negotiations, it is particularly difficult for him to respond fully, but as we approach the elections to the European Parliament next week, it is important that the realities of UK influence in matters of European security and defence are discussed as openly as possible.
The United Kingdom and France have been the EU’s strongest military powers in recent years and as we discuss the potential arrangements for future relations and UK influence, it is difficult not to reflect that any future arrangements are going to be vastly inferior to those which we currently enjoy.
My Lords, I congratulate the members of the European Union External Affairs Sub-Committee for their most interesting and informative report, which is now the subject of this short debate. Notwithstanding its publication a year ago, as has already been mentioned, the strategic context of our impending departure from the European Union remains as valid today as it was on the date of publication.
Last year or this year, our future security and defence relationship with our European friends, partners and allies remains a most significant topic, and our departure from the European Union should in no way be seen as a lessening of our commitment to the security of all the peoples of Europe, nor of the role that we as Europeans can play in overall world security. That said, the report highlights that historically the United Kingdom has played only a modest part in EU common security policy missions and operations, contributing only 2.3% in manpower terms, but believes that we have played a more significant role in the formulation of strategic guidance at the planning stage of many of these missions and operations. Our national concern, well expressed in chapter 4 of the report, is that as only a “third country”, as it is termed, our influence will be diminished. This may indeed be right in the narrow context of EU membership, but I believe that, in the overall context of security and defence, this view is too narrow.
More broadly, within the EU or outside it, the facts remain that the United Kingdom is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a significant player within the G7 and G20 and the leading European military member of NATO, which, after all, is our highest-priority defence and co-ordinating alliance—an alliance that not only secured the peace in Europe during the Cold War but has played a significant part in securing peace and prosperity in a number of parts of the world in the 30 years since the end of the Cold War. The role of the United Kingdom in NATO and in coalitions of the willing under United States leadership must not be overlooked or played down. That role stands proud as a major contribution, especially when compared with the modest UK contributions to EU missions and operations.
But this contribution stands proud only as a result of the quality, experience and determination of the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces. I stress “quality”, because sadly quantity has been diminished in the successive rounds of cuts to the defence budget since the end of the Cold War. The 2% of GDP now spent on defence—the smallest amount in modern history—has bought us the smallest Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force in modern history. I suggest that it is the diminution of our capability, rather than our exit from the European Union, that diminishes our influence in international defence fora.
This therefore is the challenge that we face in the context of overall security and defence policy. If the United Kingdom wishes to continue to play the significant role in international security and defence that we have in the past—and I sense no great appetite for strategic shrinkage—the fighting power of the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces must be restored. This fighting power underpins both soft and hard power and is made up of a balance of physical, moral and conceptual components. It is not acceptable to offer ideas and strategic guidance to missions and operations unless we are prepared to make significant force contributions manned by well-trained and motivated individuals.
With this in mind, I am pleased to note two most welcome public statements in recent days—one from the Foreign Secretary, who wishes to double defence expenditure to 4% of GDP, and the other from the new Defence Secretary, who wishes to bring forward legislation to stop the undermining of service and veteran morale and motivation by controlling retrospective inquiries years after operations have ended.
On the former point, 4% of GDP spent on defence would merely return us to the spend of the 1990s—the decade when commentators thought that war as we had known it was over and Francis Fukuyama announced “the end of history”. How wrong they were, but how different things might have been had we maintained a higher level of defence spending for the benefit of not only our own security but that of Europe and the world more widely. Whether Mr Hunt, should he become Prime Minister, can find an extra £35 billion for defence I do not know but strongly doubt. Nevertheless, his highlighting of the insecurity of the world today and our ideal response to it is to be welcomed.
On the latter point, people are at the heart of our Armed Forces, and the debilitating inquiries that have been going on for years after operations have ended drive a dagger through that heart, potentially fatally damaging our fighting power. While I welcome the Defence Secretary’s announcement today, the initiative must be extended to include the hundreds of thousands of service men and women who took part in the 38 years of Operation Banner in Northern Ireland. I believe that many in your Lordships’ House, in the other place and among the general public are very much of this view.
I am conscious that I have strayed away from the narrow confines of EU missions and operations, but my final comment is to repeat something that I and others have said in this House—that an increase in our defence budget would send a strong signal not only to those who wish us harm but, more importantly, to our friends and allies in Europe that, although we may be leaving the European Union, we are not walking away from our collective responsibilities to the security of Europe and will not do so in future. Seventy-five years on from leading the largest military operation in history to secure the peace of Europe, beginning on 6 June 1944, the United Kingdom remains fully mindful not only of our history but of our continuing responsibilities to our friends and allies in Europe and more widely across the world.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, has just reminded us that none of us participating in this debate can forget that we will shortly mark the 75th anniversary of what must surely be the most defining day in Europe in living memory: D-day. That has special significance for the city of Portsmouth, and indeed the whole diocese I serve. As a result, we will have the pleasure—I think—of welcoming the President of the United States into our midst as part of the commemorations.
Memories of D-day are long in Portsmouth, and these are memories of which we can all be justly proud. Perhaps the most powerful memory is of those young men who crossed the channel in a storm to face another storm. It was a mighty army; a staggering 156,000 men were landed on D-day itself. That represents a force just under double the size of the British Army today. It is instructive to dig into that number, because the army that crossed the channel to France consisted of men from no fewer than 12 nations. The logistics of such an endeavour rather boggle the mind, but those people made it work. It is a powerful reminder of what can be done when, despite difference, we work in concert with partners and allies for the common good—the good not just of the United Kingdom but for a more united world. More than that, it reminds us of a moment when Britain incontrovertibly acted as a force for good and accumulated colossal moral authority for decades thereafter. With considerable regret I worry that we risk squandering such moral authority as we currently enjoy.
I turn to the CSDP and the committee’s excellent report. Of course, it does not consider interventions on the scale of the Normandy landings, but it shows the good that can be achieved by deploying British expertise and know-how in, as paragraph 90 says,
“lower-intensity crisis management, such as capacity building, reform and training”.
The committee rightly draws attention, as others have, to the important success of Operation Atalanta, a signal success in suppressing piracy using Type 23 frigates well known to Portsmouth. This has seen a reduction in reported pirate attacks from 176 in 2011 to just nine in the past three years, according to the Government’s response to the committee.
The tragedy—and it is a tragedy—is that we might be willing and able to participate in future operations, but our leverage in planning them will be more limited. We risk looking from the outside in. That is something on which the committee rightly focused, not least in noting that the Government’s aspirations for their co-operation with the EU on the CSDP is some distance beyond the current third-country model. The Government’s response acknowledged that the model allows operational but not strategic involvement, and goes on to note that the overall initiative to strengthen strategic partnerships with third countries is “ongoing”. I would be interested to hear the noble Earl’s analysis of how it has gone on and how such aspirations will become reality.
That we even have to ask such questions is a source of sadness. It would be a tragedy for the influence we have to be lost. We have perhaps punched above our weight; we now risk punching below it. Our soft power risks being that much softer. But “soft power” is perhaps a misnomer. The CSDP is not about projecting power: it is about doing good and doing the right thing. Limiting our capacity—indeed self-limiting it—above all risks those whom we seek to serve: those at risk from instability, those subject to violence or those who live in fear of violence. It risks ordinary people who just want to get on with their lives.
Recently, someone told me that they were “Brexited out”. It is a new verb, in increasingly common usage, and I am wholly in sympathy with those who suffer from the debilitating effects of the syndrome. But Brexit, or being “Brexited out”, does not provide a reason to turn away. We must engage and serve the wider world. We must not let Brexit dilute our moral purpose.
Lest we forget, our moral purpose is lived out in the nitty-gritty of how we participate in endeavours such as the CSDP. Lest we forget, deploying British expertise and know-how within a multinational enterprise can be a tremendous force for good. Lest we forget, we have a duty as a developed, affluent nation to be a force for good.
My Lords, I agree with absolutely every word of what the right reverend Prelate said. He reminds us of what is at stake when we speak of defence, but also of the value of alliances.
I draw attention to my interests declared on the register, particularly the fact that I am chairman of the advisory board of Thales UK and chairman of the Information Assurance Advisory Council, a cybersecurity and resilience not-for-profit organisation.
I thank the committee for this report. It is good to be able to debate it; it is realistic, informative and sober. I am able to say that, not having served on the committee. The report makes important points about, for example, the excellence of some of the UK’s contributions to the CSDP and what it describes as “the particular success” of Operation Atalanta, to which we contributed the headquarters at Northwood. One of the witnesses in front of the committee described that headquarters as,
“Really significant, both intellectually and in terms of military capability”.
However, a thread running through the entire report is that we do not do as much as we could or should, given the importance of the CSDP missions and operations to the UK’s own foreign policy objectives. One of the witnesses described the provision of the HQ at Northwood as an important exception to the UK’s otherwise limited role in military missions and operations. The noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, thought that the other member states “think we are slackers”.
There are various reasons suggested for this. One is that our Armed Forces have been busy elsewhere, which of course is true. Another reason is that they are better suited to high-intensity operations than some of the low-intensity ones which form the bulk of what the CSDP does. I am not sure about that. But the third reason is that the UK has been ambivalent politically about the very existence of the CSDP, ostensibly because it runs the risk of duplicating what NATO does—and in terms of duplicating headquarters, there is a good point made there. The reality, however, is that the issue of duplication was really only an excuse. We can see the Conservative Party, in its current manifestation, becoming more suspicious of everything to do with Europe.
I think this detachment from the CSDP is both a shame and a mistake, for two reasons. The first reason is that we are good at defence and security, and that generates real respect for our country. The more we can operate alongside other countries and put our shoulder to the wheel, the greater the respect for ourselves that we can generate—at a time when, God knows, we could do with it.
The second reason is that we should recognise that the nature of war is changing. In the past, wars tended to be won by those who could put more tanks, aircraft, ships and men into the field and deploy them well with a winning argument that took the moral and physical high ground. Those remain important issues, but nowadays we also have to consider other things. What is the cybersecurity of our Armed Forces? A US Government report by the Government Accountability Office found mission-critical cyber vulnerabilities in nearly all weapons systems tested between 2012 and 2017, including the F-35 and missile systems.
More than that, what is the cybersecurity of our critical national infrastructure? How is general news reaching the people of our country? Is it accurate or is it fake? In the last US presidential election, fake news from only six Russian sources was viewed on Facebook over 250 million times. That must have had an effect. We are more likely, it seems, to share fake news than real news. In other words, while military capability is important to our defence and security—and I would argue that we spend too little of our GDP on that capability, and that the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, was quite right in what he said—so too are other aspects of our society; aspects involving the civilian population and a comprehensive approach for which the CSDP is ideally suited.
What can we learn from the conflict in Ukraine? We can learn that Russia switched off its power grid. Have we in the UK learned that lesson? No, because Russia made sure that the consequences for Ukraine were not as utterly catastrophic as they could have been, and so we paid little attention. Russia has been able to exercise its concepts of war without the West taking the precautions necessary to defend against those concepts.
If we in the UK suffered a prolonged, widespread power outage, what would happen? Our communications would go down: mobile telephones, which need the aerials to have power, would not work. There would be no more money: not only would the ATMs stop working but so would the tills in the shops and the computers in the banks. The water which we take for granted, pumped by electricity, would stop, and so would the sewage removal. The sewage in the pipes would solidify within a week. There would be no more Facebook—you see how serious things would become.
In these circumstances, it is right for the UK to fashion its defence and security based as much around the new threats as around the old, and around mobilising our civilian population as much as our distressingly small military forces. What a pity it is that we seem to be doing our best to diminish our own influence with the decision-making process that is so important to our own policies and our own future. The right reverend Prelate spoke of the risk that we are squandering the moral authority we currently have. He was quite right.
My Lords, the noble Lord speaks with tremendous knowledge and wisdom, not least from his time on the Defence Select Committee, and I am delighted to follow him in this debate. I agree with much of what he said. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Horam, and the sub-committee, to which I once belonged and look forward to re-joining in the next Session.
I am enthusiastic about the UK’s involvement in CSDP missions. As we clamber offshore into uncharted waters, they seem to be among the most sensible and stalwart pillars of our defence system alongside NATO. The right reverend Prelate used the phrase, “They are doing good”. They may be for the most part limited and narrow in scope, but it is precisely that focused activity on which the UK will concentrate from now on in its defence policy, possibly as a third nation. As the noble Lord, Lord Arbuthnot, said, “The nature of war is changing”.
The Government’s political declaration—which is still somewhat beyond the horizon—makes it quite clear that we intend, as the noble Lord, Lord Horam, said, to retain the fullest co-operation with our European allies on security and defence. In her Munich speech of February last year, the Prime Minister said,
“the UK is just as committed to Europe’s security in the future as we have been in the past”.
That is how it should be. Even the purist Brexiteers in the ERG would agree with that, although by leaving the EU they make it almost impossible to achieve, as previous speakers have feared.
The US has been complaining this week on NATO’s behalf about the EU’s defence strategy through the EDF and PESCO, and I have some sympathy with that. There has always been opposition here to a European army as such and, in or out of Europe, we will have nothing to do with it. However, closer co-operation on defence and intelligence is quite different: it will be vital.
One area where the UK will—and must—continue to-operate with the EU alongside NATO is the western Balkans, and I look forward to hearing to hearing what the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, has to say this evening. Our commitment began with the conflicts of the 1990s—not so long ago—and was reinforced by our membership of the Berlin process and at the western Balkans summit in London last year. It is also underlined by our military contributions to EUFOR, KFOR, Kosovo’s security force and the CSDP. All of these, including Operation Althea in Bosnia, have helped the western Balkans states to stand up to the continuing threats and dirty tricks from the Russian President.
I had direct experience of a CSDP mission when I visited the EULEX project in Kosovo a few years ago. The largest EU project in Europe, EULEX has had a significant impact on the rule of law but it has also been cumbersome and bureaucratic, as the report also outlines. It has since learned from criticism and, partly thanks to UK pressure, has scaled down considerably, both in numbers and ambition. However, while it remains part of the judicial system and is vital to the economy and the legal position of the country, it is not popular in Kosovo and has had little effect on war crime prosecutions. Can the Minister forecast what direction EULEX will now take and confirm that the UK will continue its support? I hope he can because the UK retains a good reputation in Kosovo and I know it intends to maintain its development programme there.
Kosovo, Serbia and their neighbours still want to join the EU but they are increasingly impatient with the lack of progress, which is one reason for the desperate land swap idea that Brussels has rightly dismissed. However, the EU has not yet succeeded in bringing the Ashton plan to fruition. It still needs to design institutions that are more appropriate to the needs of the Balkans, and this where CSDP should be able to help by avoiding grand projects in the future and redesigning EULEX.
The great strength of the CSDP missions, as both the report and the response emphasise, is the combination of skills that you cannot find in the average defence and foreign policy configuration. In their response to paragraph 94, the Government confirm that through the CSDP the EU can combine at least five lines of operation,
“in a comprehensive approach”,
and can draw on,
“a wide range of technical expertise”.
The CSDP can tiptoe in where the UN and OSCE are unable to agree, such as in the civilian mission in Georgia, which has also proved its value in one of Europe’s most dangerous flashpoints. Incidentally, Georgia has made an outstanding contribution to an OSCE mission in the Central African Republic.
The Ukraine advisory mission got off to a good start, but can the Minister say whether there has been tangible security sector reform in Ukraine under this programme, as the Government response on this is muted? Atalanta, which has been mentioned and which we discussed in this committee before, has been another important success. By the way, I have seen the Tom Hanks’ film, which was excellent.
In the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia, on the other hand, may have run out of steam because of the uncertainties of migration and the continuing and inexorable civil war in Libya.
There are important challenges for the CSDP in Africa, especially in the more discreet French-led operations in the Sahel. Terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali continue. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, reassured me in a recent Written Answer, HL15192, that we are committed to supporting the EU training mission in Mali with IED training and other expertise. I hope that will continue. However, the committee’s report is reticent about the EU missions in Africa and I hope the Minister will confirm that we intend to offer our support beyond Brexit, if he can see that far.
The CSDP projects as a whole make a good story. This would be a matter for rejoicing, if not for the fact that it is all held up by the Government’s inaction and Parliament’s inability to take decisions. There is a real risk that the EU will simply reject some of these vital partnerships in the future.
The evidence of the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, is that we cannot set up one system for the transitional phase only to find that it has to be revised afterwards. Our future relationship must be established now.
I have noticed that the evidence coming in to the sub-committee’s separate inquiry on international co-operation post Brexit is, if analysed, an overwhelming statement of support for the work of the European Union. Indeed, it is a thinly disguised call for our continuing membership of the EU and some of us regret that even now, it may be too late to maintain the status quo that so many people, perhaps a majority, wish for. However, I must not relapse into wishful thinking.
One problem with Brexit is that we are saturated with reports and recommendations, as we are today, but we are left with a pile of papers and without direction or, indeed, any certainty about the way forward. The previous EU debate this afternoon suffered similarly. The tired phrase “post-Brexit” seems to demand certainty, but it is simply not there.
My Lords, I congratulate the committee on this excellent report and welcome the opportunity to debate it. I am honoured to follow the speeches given by noble Lords.
British and European security have been intertwined for centuries. There has hardly been a single major European event, from the Congress of Vienna to the two World Wars, the Cold War and the Balkan wars, in which Britain has not played a major role. In modern history Britain has had more of its interests served and protected on the European continent than anywhere else in the world. What distinguished Britain from other European countries is that it had the fortune and the judgment to be on the right side of that history. When some were exploring unholy alliances, accepting Anschluss and carving up the lands of their neighbours, Britain stood firm, and now, as Britain’s fundamental future relationship with the EU is debated, and whatever emerges as our country’s stance on this issue, British engagement is essential for the future security of Europe.
That is why, regardless of the form of our withdrawal from the EU, I believe we must seek the strongest possible security relationship with our continental partners and allies, in particular and whenever possible through NATO. We may no longer share a common security and defence policy, but we will certainly share common interests, from counterterrorism to the rise of China, Russia’s aggressive actions in Europe and in cyberspace. I therefore welcome the Select Committee’s report and, in particular, its call for the Foreign Office to develop detailed proposals for future security and defence co-operation with the EU and for the United Kingdom to be more ambitious.
Many trends frame this discussion, and there are two on which I shall focus. The first is the slow but steady corrosion of democratic institutions in some parts of Europe as a result of Russian interference, particularly in the former Soviet satellite states that are now members of the EU and NATO. This comes at the same time as a populist surge in parts of the EU calling into question certain fundamental democratic values.
The second issue of concern is the sore wound on the outskirts of the EU represented by the western Balkans, Europe’s most volatile and vulnerable region. We hoped we had seen the end of Balkan nationalism and secessionism, but today there are open discussions about the redrawing of borders and so-called population swaps. There is rearmament in Serbia on a scale unprecedented since the 1990s. Last week’s May victory military parade in Serbia featured not only the latest tanks, rockets, planes and helicopters but the participation of a recently released convicted war criminal and Russian paramilitaries.
In neighbouring Bosnia, the smaller entity of RS is recruiting its own paramilitaries, militarising the police and deepening security links with the Kremlin. The argument that we have heard in recent years, including from our own Foreign Office, that this is all simply rhetoric and political posturing no longer holds any water, if it ever did. It is a stark illustration of what is at stake when we consider the future of UK-EU defence and security co-operation. I therefore welcome the Government’s undertaking that the UK’s foreign policy priorities in this area will not change significantly on leaving European Union. I hope this will be matched by continued leadership.
The committee concluded that there is a lack of clarity over how we will work with our EU allies in the post-Brexit era. I hope the Minister will be able to reassure us that the Government are looking into all options available to us. In particular, I hope they are studying the model presented by EU-NATO co-operation in the Berlin Plus arrangements. As we know, the EU-led military Operation Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a case in point. The operation was set up under the Berlin Plus arrangements agreed in 2003. It has been a separable but not separate European capability under the NATO umbrella. NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander, currently a UK four-star general, is the operational commander. He is answerable solely to the EU for this function, but his actual military capacity flows from NATO. Under the Berlin Plus arrangements, the EU may request NATO to make its assets and capabilities available to the EU for an EU-led and directed operation, if needed. I suggest that this model, which has been somewhat neglected and sidelined in recent years, would offer a better standard of co-operation than that available through third-party status.
The committee’s report also offers a stark warning about the potential consequences of leaving the EU without a deal. Can the Minister shed some light on what the position of UK personnel serving on EU missions would be in that eventuality, how many personnel would be likely to be affected, and what arrangements are being put in place now to try to prevent such a disruptive scenario? I fully recognise that it is the Government’s intention to pass the withdrawal agreement and leave the EU on an agreed basis, but have the Government had any indication that European partners would step in to fill any breach created by a no-deal scenario?
Of all the precious things we care about, nothing is as precious or as important as peace. Whatever happens over the coming months, I hope we will be conscious of the importance of security and defence co-operation with the European Union as an aspect of our national security; that we will leave nothing to chance and will clarify now the basis on which that co-operation can continue; and that, whatever our views on Brexit, we will be concerned about the prospect of the loss of any UK influence in this area and work determinedly to prevent that worst-case scenario.
My Lords, the 26-page political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, published in November last year, starts with platitudes and continues with platitudes, including in “Part III: Security Partnership”, under the heading “Objectives and principles”:
“With a view to Europe’s security and the safety of their respective citizens, the Parties should establish a broad, comprehensive and balanced security partnership”.
Under “Foreign policy security and defence” it mentions the UN, NATO, the common foreign and security policy and the common security and defence policy. It states:
“The future relationship should therefore enable the United Kingdom to participate on a case by case basis in CSDP missions and operations through a Framework Participation Agreement”,
and that we,
“should consider appropriate arrangements for cooperation on space”.
I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, the noble Lord, Lord Horam, and the committee on the report Brexit: Common Security and Defence Policy Missions and Operations. How do we co-operate under the CSDP? To summarise:
“EU member states pool funding and resources to achieve agreed common goals, including: humanitarian and rescue missions … conflict prevention and peacekeeping … joint disarmament operations … military advice and assistance … crisis management … post-conflict stabilisation”.
The majority of missions,
“carried out through the CSDP are civilian, as opposed to military missions”.
We have heard that such EU missions include Operation Althea, Operation Atalanta and Operation Sophia.
The UK is without doubt the EU’s strongest defence power and has a huge amount of influence. On the other hand, right up front in these negotiations the EU has already said that UK contractors will not be able to participate in the military element of the Galileo satellite system. The report clearly states:
“The UK’s departure from the EU places a question mark over its future participation in Common Security and Defence Policy … missions and operations. As an EU Member State, the UK has influenced the development and planning of all missions and operations … After Brexit, the framework for the UK … is unclear”.
Will the Minister give us some clarification?
As we have seen, the political declaration is so far the square root of diddly-squat. To date:
“The UK’s principal contribution on CSDP has been strategic guidance … The UK’s contribution of personnel … has been limited … The UK has also provided assets … The UK will almost certainly continue to derive value from participation in current CSDP missions”,
but if it becomes a third country it will not have a role in the planning and decision-making, which,
“would not give the UK the influence that it currently enjoys”.
The report very clearly states that we lose our influence. It further states:
“The level of influence the Government seeks goes well beyond the scope of the existing model for third country participation”.
Again there is a wish list:
“Prospects for changes to this model are uncertain”.
The report states that the committee is concerned about the Government’s high level of aspiration, and:
“Whatever agreement on CSDP missions and operations is reached with the EU, the Government will also need to invest significant resources in Brussels and in Member States’ capitals, to maintain influence from outside the structures of the EU”.
My noble friend Lord Dannatt said very clearly that, as a third country, our influence will be diminished. However, he also said, rightly, that we will continue to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a leading power in NATO, whose 70th anniversary we are celebrating this year—we thank NATO for bringing peace to the world. My noble friend also said that our Armed Forces are respected around the world for their fine quality, but he added that their quantity has been diminished. SDSR 2010 under Defence Secretary Liam Fox was a disaster. In my noble friend’s words, it was a “diminution of our capability”. I completely agree with him that spending 2% of GDP is not enough. As I have said many times before, it should be 3%. The United States spends 4% and, quite frankly, with the threats that we face, we should go back to what we spent in the 1990s and also spend 4%.
Will the Minister confirm what RUSI has said—that if we come out of the CSDP, it will mean,
“the relocation of EU’s anti-piracy headquarters at Northwood”,
“the relocation of the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre”,
to another EU state? Following the publication of this report, a headline from Reuters said:
“UK could lose influence on EU security and defence policy”.
That was the message from the report. The noble Baroness, Lady Helic, referred to the threats that we face. They come from Russia, China, Iran, the far right, Islamic terrorism, jihadi fighters, cyberwarfare, and AI from China. We face all that with reduced defence spending and a loss of co-operation with Europe. Our former Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, talked about how leaving the EU would,
“maximise our influence around the world in the … years ahead”.
Which world is he dreaming in? Frankly, that is absolute rubbish, but of course he is no longer the Defence Secretary. While he was in that role, he asked our Army officers to write 1,000-word essays. That was the influence that he had.
The really important point is security in general. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin is leading police preparations for leaving the EU, particularly in a no-deal scenario. He says very clearly that we would lose access to Europe-wide databases such as SIS II—a database of convictions and wanted suspects. We would also lose access to the European arrest warrant, which speeds up extradition and allows arrests if someone is wanted overseas. A loss of these powers would greatly diminish our security. It would mean officers having to go to magistrates and checks taking up to 66 days. All that would threaten our citizens’ security. Richard Martin said:
“There is a tool behind any that we might lose but it’s not a one-for-one capability. Every fallback we have is more bureaucratic, it is slower … We go back to a slower, clunkier place”.
That would impact the rest of the criminal justice system. Without any doubt, all that would leave Britain less safe. He added:
“If you haven’t got access to some of those really critical systems like SIS-2, you probably won’t know what their convictions are”.
Michel Barnier has said:
“I don’t want a no deal but we are prepared for it and we need to be prepared for the implications of a no deal for our security partnership”.
In conclusion, by leaving the EU, even if we go down the EEA/Norway route, we might maintain frictionless trade and it might be good for business, tourists and students but it will mean that we are no longer at the table. We will no longer be at the European Council table or in the European Parliament or have representation in the European Commission. We will no longer have our veto or a say on major items. We will not be at the top table of the largest trading bloc in the world—a bloc of 500 million people. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth put it very well: our country, with 1% of the world’s population, has always punched above its weight. Our soft power is unbeatable, but now we will be punching below our weight. I would go one step further—we will be punching ourselves.
During the referendum, we were scared by the concept of the creation of an EU army, but what we have been debating is not the creation of any EU army, and we have the veto rights never to join an EU army if we do not want to do so. We are part of NATO, which, as I said, is celebrating its 70th anniversary, and we prevented the Cold War succeeding. Peace in the European Union has been brought about not just by NATO but by the EU and NATO.
With the PM’s deal, nothing has been agreed. It is simply uncertainty that continues, regardless of the backstop. Northern Ireland is the Achilles heel of Brexit. The political declaration is absolute waffle and a wish list. Whichever way we look at it, from a security point of view there is no question but that the safest thing for our country and our citizens is to remain in the European Union.
My Lords, I welcome the useful report by the European Union Committee on the common security and defence policy. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Horam, for introducing the report and am grateful for the contributions of other noble Lords.
The CSDP dates back to 1948, when five countries, including the UK, signed the Brussels Treaty, which envisioned a collective defence effort to keep the continent safe after the Second World War. It is also seen as a proud achievement on this side of the House, because it was one of the steps pursued by Ernest Bevin to provide the security on which the reconstruction of Europe could be built. Since then, the Labour Party, along with EU partners, has played a defining role in establishing the framework for EU peacekeeping, crisis management and conflict-prevention missions.
When I read the committee’s report, I was reminded of how, during and after the EU referendum, the leave campaign often claimed that collective EU defence policy undermined the UK’s priorities. Defence was toxified during the debate, and fears of an EU army were enhanced to question whether the UK’s sovereignty would survive further co-operation. The EU was blamed for sapping our military might.
Helpfully, the committee’s conclusions, as well as to some extent the Government’s response, allow us to debunk such myths. The report found that CSDP missions and operations have made a significant contribution to a number of UK foreign policy priorities, including tackling piracy, promoting the rule of law, and peacekeeping in post-conflict situations. For example, the UK-led Operation Atalanta contributed to a dramatic fall in piracy in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, and was overseen here in Northwood.
The Government’s response to the report highlights Operation Althea in the western Balkans as supporting,
“the UK’s foreign policy priorities”,
by bringing security and stability to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It also states that, even after Brexit,
“UK priorities for European security are unlikely to change”.
This, of course, reveals the great Brexiteer myth of EU defence—that it has somehow been imposed upon Britain.
The report also shows how the UK was only a modest contributor to EU crisis management and missions overseas. It states that UK personnel contributions have been “very limited” and equal 2.3% of total member state contributions. Of the 35 past or current CSDP missions, the UK has provided 25, with an average of 16 personnel per mission—hardly a great drain on our resources. Britain’s main contribution was strategic guidance during the planning and review of missions and operations. Claims that the EU, rather than government cuts, was to blame for the UK’s diminishing Armed Forces are shown to be unfounded.
Since the report was published last May, we now have the withdrawal agreement, which has been defeated in Parliament three times, and the political declaration, which confirms how the UK faces a new future as a third country in terms of defence co-operation. It may participate in CSDP operations and missions, but without any leading capacity; the UK’s Defence Minister will no longer be able to take part in meetings; and the UK has the possibility of participating in the European Defence Agency, but without any decision-making role.
Perhaps one of the biggest failures of the Government’s botched negotiations is the fact that the UK will no longer have access to the Galileo satellite navigation system. The political declaration is incredibly vague on this point, stating:
“The Parties should consider appropriate arrangements for cooperation on space”.
It appears that the Government are lost in space. Why have they failed to secure continued participation in Galileo? Can the Minister confirm the Government’s plan for influencing the shape of EU defence and security policy after we leave the EU? This report also called for the UK to continue to sit on the Political and Security Committee, but this is not included in the political declaration. Does the Minister believe that observer status for the committee can be achieved?
As the Government continue to bring forward no-deal SIs, we can assume that they believe no deal remains a possibility, perhaps if the country is faced with a Boris Johnson Brexit. This would be disastrous for our collective security. We would have to withdraw from all common security and defence policy missions, we would be permanently shut out of the European Defence Agency, and our defence industry would be hit by crippling tariffs and delays at the border. When will the Government see that no deal is not an option?
Labour supports continued UK-EU co-operation on defence, and our priorities remain peacekeeping, crisis management and conflict-prevention missions. We will also continue to champion EU-NATO collaboration to promote and support European and global security effectively, especially on cyber warfare and artificial intelligence.
However, austerity has badly damaged our ability to co-operate internationally on defence. Budget cuts have led to sharp reductions in troops, equipment and investment. The Ministry of Defence faces an affordability gap of between £7 billion and £15 billion, and recruitment across the board is in free fall, with the Army standing at 75,880, well below the Government’s target of 82,000. Uncertainties over the UK defence budget could erode our standing, not only in Europe but with NATO and other key allies.
As the report shows, our modest contribution to the common security and defence policy acted as a significant force multiplier for the UK. Close defence co-operation between the EU and the UK makes us all safer, and I hope the UK will continue to participate in CSDP missions after we leave—whenever that may be. But the Government still have many questions to answer about post-Brexit defence co-operation with our closest partners.
My Lords, let me begin by congratulating the members of the EU External Affairs Sub-Committee on their report, and by thanking my noble friend Lord Horam for his excellent introduction. I am equally grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken for sharing their knowledge and experience of defence and security policy in what has been a very useful debate.
As noble Lords are aware, the sub-committee’s report was published in May 2018. Since then, there have been significant changes resulting from the negotiations on our exit from the European Union. Notably, the terms of the withdrawal agreement explicitly rule out the UK commanding missions during the implementation period that would follow our exit. Accordingly, as pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, we have handed over the operational headquarters of Operation Atalanta—the counter-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa—from Northwood, just north of here, to Rota in Spain. Likewise, the operational command of Operation Althea has transferred from NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Sir James Everard, to a French three-star general.
In May 2018, when the sub-committee’s report was published, there were around 120 UK personnel deployed to CSDP operations and missions. A year later, due to the conditions set out in the withdrawal agreement and the withdrawal of HMS “Echo” from Operation Sophia, we find ourselves with a much smaller footprint: today, the UK deploys 33 personnel. While the number of UK personnel in operations and missions is small, I need hardly say that the quality of their input is high, and they provide significant contributions in their roles.
The report makes clear, as have a number of speakers today, that our participation in CSDP operations and missions makes a significant contribution to a number of the UK’s foreign policy priorities, from the Horn of Africa to the western Balkans. CSDP missions and operations utilise member states’ considerable expertise to carry out long-term activities in complex circumstances, often to support the host nation to deliver a critical part of government. With these difficulties in mind, member states recognise that concrete results cannot be achieved overnight.
Europe’s security is our security and the Government have made clear their commitment to maintain it. Therefore, once the UK has left the EU, and in the event of a deal and therefore an implementation period, we intend to maintain a presence in those CSDP missions and operations where it is in our mutual interests to do so.
With a longer-term view, we have set out proposals for a new security partnership with the European Union, as a third country. The political declaration agreed alongside the withdrawal agreement in November last year provides the basis for a flexible and scalable future security partnership. This would allow for UK contributions to CSDP missions and operations on a case-by-case basis, building on existing frameworks for third-country participation.
I welcomed a good deal of the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, who correctly drew attention to the valuable contribution that the UK has made to EU missions and operations over the years. I agree with him that not only have we played a useful part in such missions but the missions themselves have supported some key UK policy priorities. Where I depart from him, and other noble Lords, is over the criticisms of the EU withdrawal agreement and the political declaration in terms of what may lie ahead for our future defence relationship.
The deal the UK has reached with the EU will provide for the broadest and most comprehensive security relationship the EU has ever had with another country. On defence, the political declaration is quite explicit in setting out that the UK and the EU welcome close co-operation in operations and missions, both civilian and military, in the future relationship. This co-operation would enable the UK to tailor its contributions and participate on a case-by-case basis through a framework participation agreement. The detail of such an agreement will need to be negotiated, but there is no dissent over its key elements. The UK and the EU would be able to exchange information.
As a contributor to a specific CSDP mission or operation, the UK would be there at the very start. As my noble friend Lord Horam made clear, the UK would participate in the force generation conference, the call for contributions and the Committee of Contributors meeting to enable information sharing about the implementation of the mission or operation. It should also have the possibility to second staff to the designated operation’s headquarters, proportionate to the level of its contribution. All this is recognition by the Commission that a perfectly reasonable quid pro quo for our involvement in an EU mission or operation is to be closely involved in the planning stages. Therefore, I do not share the view of the right reverend Prelate that our leverage will somehow be reduced.
My noble friend Lord Horam asked whether what we are asking for is in line with what third countries have achieved in similar circumstances or is a special set of arrangements. The current involvement of third countries in force generation, planning and oversight of operations is simply not adequate to enable the kind of deep co-operation we seek. The political declaration envisages a better-than-standard third-country relationship on the CSDP. In particular, it sets out in broad terms arrangements whereby the level of involvement in operational planning would be commensurate with the level of our contribution. We would not envisage being involved in the planning of operations we were not involved in, but we should be able to scale up our co-operation when our input to an operation is significant.
My noble friend Lord Horam and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked about UK observer status on the Political and Security Committee. Given that the detail of our future partnership has yet to be agreed, my best response to them is to quote from the political declaration, which says that,
“the future relationship should provide for appropriate dialogue, consultation, coordination, exchange of information and cooperation mechanisms”.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, also took the Government to task over the negotiations relating to Galileo. The Commission took a very hard line on this. We made it clear that we would continue to participate in the Galileo programme only on a basis that would enable us to rely on Galileo for our national security and allow UK companies to compete fairly and openly for all Galileo contracts. We felt that, given the UK’s contribution to Galileo to date, which has been significant, this was a perfectly reasonable ask. Unfortunately, the offer on the table from the European Commission does not meet our requirements for participation. That is not a failure of negotiation on our part. The Commission decided that this was not a matter on which negotiation was possible.
In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, and other noble Lords, we are absolutely clear what our future partnership with the EU should look like. It should be centred on three pillars. At the diplomatic level, we should have in place structured consultation on strategic priorities, underpinned by regular dialogue with the EU and member states on thematic and geographic issues so that we can tackle global issues together. We should also have the means to co-ordinate activity and action. That could mean the UK contributing to EU operations or missions, as I said, or to EU development programmes, as well as co-ordinating the implementation of sanctions. There is also a clear benefit to facilitating a collaborative and inclusive approach to European capability development and planning, including R&D. This is about being able, where we choose, to combine our efforts to best effect in pursuit of our mutual interests. Any agreement we reach must therefore be flexible, allowing the UK and the EU to respond effectively to situations as they arise. It is especially important that the partnership respects the sovereignty of the UK and the autonomy of the EU.
The noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, asked whether we thought the Committee of Contributors was a satisfactory set of arrangements. We do not feel that it is, as currently figured. While it provides information and a degree of oversight of operations, it does not allow third-country involvement in planning processes where that will be necessary to enable that country to contribute significantly. That is why we secured provision in the political declaration to intensify co-operation in the planning of a mission, proportionate to our level of contribution, as I said.
The noble Baroness also referred to the strength of UKRep. We will continue to play a leading role alongside EU partners in buttressing and promoting European security and influence around the world, as I have said. We aim to enhance our strong bilateral relationships with our European partners and beyond. To that end, I can confirm that UKRep will see its staff numbers increase from 130 to 180 personnel. Of that uplift, I am afraid I cannot confirm at the moment how many will be working on CSDP or security more broadly because that is yet to be agreed.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Helic for her powerful speech. I endorse her main point that Europe’s security is our security. The UK, the EU and its member states share the same values and interests. The UK will remain a committed partner, deploying our significant assets, expertise, intelligence and capabilities to protect and promote them as a leading NATO ally and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. However, the CSDP is just one part of a suite of tools the UK uses in, for instance, the western Balkans, the Sahel or the Horn of Africa, or against illegal migration piracy. For instance, last summer the Prime Minister announced a 95% increase of funding to the western Balkans, up to £80 million, and doubled the number of staff working in the region on security issues.
My noble friend asked what would happen in the event of no deal. As she is aware, the sub-committee’s report did not consider the impact of a no-deal Brexit, but in such an event a separate agreement would be needed for UK troops to continue as part of EU missions and operations, such as Operation Althea. We have made clear to the EU that we are open to reaching such an agreement to ensure continuity of the UK’s contribution to the operation. We have made contingency plans for UK military personnel taking part in Operation Althea. The UK’s other commitments in the western Balkans, including our support to NATO’s KFOR in Kosovo, will not be affected by any EU exit scenario.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, referred to Kosovo, and in particular the future direction of EULEX. EULEX’s monitoring and operational mandate will continue until June 2020. The UK remains strongly supportive of EULEX’s work and the Kosovo Specialist Chambers & Specialist Prosecutor’s Office. Leaving the EU does not change the importance that the UK places on delivering justice for victims and ensuring that war criminals are held accountable. Strengthening the rule of law in Kosovo is important to the UK’s national interests. This is one of the key areas addressed by the Government’s commitment of £80 million in programme funds for the western Balkans this financial year.
The noble Earl also referred to Operation Sophia. Its current mandate expires on 30 September this year. Member states will continue to discuss a way forward towards a sustainable disembarkation solution, as well as the future of the operation. Until then, the operation continues to perform its tasks. Coastguard training modules are now planned for later in the year to take place in Italy, Croatia and Greece. All training provisions are subject to the security situation in Libya, which at the moment does not allow trainees to transit in and out of the country.
The noble Earl referred to our assistance to the Government of Ukraine. EU exit does not change the UK’s commitment to Ukraine. The UK will remain a major global actor and permanent member of the UN Security Council, continuing to collaborate closely with European and global partners to achieve our shared objectives. I am sure he will be reassured to know that, in this financial year, the UK is providing over £35 million to Ukraine to support a range of areas, including governance reform, anti-corruption, accountability in communications, conflict stability and security, humanitarian issues, human rights, and education and culture.
The noble Lords, Lord Dannatt and Lord Tunnicliffe, returned to a theme familiar to our debates: the size of the defence budget and, by extension, our Armed Forces. I cannot add materially to the comments I made in our recent debate on the 70th anniversary of NATO, but I gently point out that our defence budget is not reducing; it is growing. We did not spend just 2% of GDP on defence in the last financial year; we spent appreciably more than that. We also met our NATO commitment to spend 20% of our budget on equipment and research. The cornerstone—indeed, the bulwark—of our defence is NATO. The EU certainly can and does complement NATO’s role, but I cannot agree with the right reverend Prelate that the political declaration leaves the UK punching below our weight in defence terms. We remain the most significant European member of NATO. We are determined that our growing bilateral relationships with friends and allies, both in Europe and globally, will ensure no diminution in our soft power or the levers we use to exercise it. We are the only G20 nation to meet the NATO 2% target on defence spending and the UN target of 0.7% on development. Our commitment to European and global security as a leading global actor is every bit as great as it has always been.
I shall of course write to those noble Lords whose questions I have not addressed, but I conclude by saying that I am, as ever, reassured by the depth of expertise on these subjects that exists in your Lordships’ House. As the UK leaves the EU, I can only stress once again the UK’s commitment to maintaining and enhancing European security and continuing our co-operation with the EU on all aspects of our security relationship, including the main focus of this debate: the missions and operations that fall under the banner of the common security and defence policy.
My Lords, I will wind up briefly by thanking all noble Lords who made contributions to this debate. It has been a genuinely interesting and well-informed session. I also thank my noble friend the Minister for the clarifications he was able to bring on a number of subjects. The theme throughout, endorsed by everybody, was that as we leave the European Union it is absolutely in the UK’s interests that we continue to play a significant part in common security and defence operations. As the Minister himself just said, Europe’s security is our security. It is in our interests and, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth said, it is also the right thing to do.