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Common Defence and Security Policy

Volume 627: debated on Monday 10 July 2017

4. What discussions he has had with his European counterparts on the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the UK’s participation in the Common Defence and Security Policy. (900296)

While still an EU member, we will maintain our contributions to CSDP missions and operations. The Prime Minister has made it clear that after Brexit we want a deep and special partnership with the European Union that encompasses economic and security co-operation. Europe remains our continent, and we will continue to play our part in its security, through NATO, through our bilateral relationships and through collaboration on defence and research programmes.

I thank the Secretary of State for that response. Last week, giving evidence in the Lords, Baroness Ashton, Lord Robertson and Lord Hague all expressed concern about the impact of Brexit on our influence in the world. Does the Secretary of State agree with Lord Hague that we should be seeking permanent membership of the EU’s Political and Security Committee to ensure that we can lead a united response on issues such as sanctions on Iran and that we have a united voice on the Falklands?

After Brexit, we will still have the largest defence budget and the largest navy in Europe. We have a range of assets and capabilities on which other countries in Europe will want to continue to work with us. So far as foreign policy is concerned, we have not yet got to the point in the negotiations of sorting out exactly what the relationship will be, but let me assure the hon. Lady that I expect to continue our co-operation with my fellow Defence Ministers.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be far better for our European friends to focus on their NATO membership and their commitment to defence spending of 2% of their GDP, rather than trying to create some sort of bogus EU defence force?

We all agreed—it was not just Britain—at the time of the Warsaw summit that the European Union and NATO needed to work together to avoid unnecessary duplication. We agreed to co-operate in areas where both could add value but to avoid the need to set up fancy new headquarters and duplicate what was already being done in NATO.

The European Defence Agency supports the improvement of defence capabilities and provides a forum for European co-operation on research and development. Will the Secretary of State be recommending that we remain a member of the EDA? If not, will he explain what our relationship with it will be, post-Brexit?

The European Defence Agency is an important forum, but it is not the only forum in which collaboration takes place. Some of that collaboration is outside the treaty, including some of the work that we have done together on Typhoon and on other major equipment projects. Obviously we expect to have some kind of relationship with the European Defence Agency after Brexit, and that will be discussed in the negotiating process that awaits us.

I am pleased to hear my right hon. Friend state that NATO is the cornerstone of our defence alliance. Will he assure me that the pan-European co-operation of defence contractors, such as Thales in my constituency, will continue?

Yes. Several important companies, such as Thales, Leonardo, Airbus and so on, are based both in Europe and in the United Kingdom, and it is important to ensure that their investment and employment here is fully taken into account after Brexit.