The United Kingdom will lose its decision-making powers, says Michel Barnier

The United Kingdom will lose many of the decision making powers it currently enjoys in the field European defence and security after the country leaves the European Union in March 2019, the union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said last week, speaking at the Berlin Security Conference.


U.K. will become a third country when it comes to defence with its legal and operational consequences

“After its exit from the Union, the United Kingdom will lose its decision-making powers at the European level, and some levers for wielding influence,” Barnier said. As a matter of fact, the U.K. will no longer take part in meetings of EU Defence Ministers, no longer be a member of the European Defence Agency or Europol, and will not be able to benefit from the European Defence Fund the same way Member States will.

But bilateral cooperation and partnership with NATO will continue

Despite this analysis, the United Kingdom will remain important to Europe as a member of the UN Security Council and of NATO. “It will remain a diplomatic, nuclear, and military power” Barnier noted. Insisting there must be no « horse-trading » over security in the Brexit negotiations, he said common interests and values dictated the UK and EU would continue to work together, with the U.K. participating in selective EU operations on a voluntarily basis.

Thus, London’s withdrawal will not affect bilateral cooperation between certain Member States and the United Kingdom, particularly at operational level. The U.K. will for example continue to play a part in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia and Poland.

A broad, beneficial and balanced partnership with U.K. in defence sector

According to Barnier, a future defense and foreign policy partnership with the U.K., while not granting the latter decision-making powers, should “enable” the U.K.’s “voluntary partnership” in EU missions and operations, participation in joint armaments programs, and exchanges between EU and U.K. intelligence services.

Barnier added that “cooperation is also vital in areas such as cyber-security, procurement, research and development”. 

« This partnership will be in our best interests, since it is what the European citizens expect and it will contribute to the stability and security of our continent and our neighbourhood” Barnier highlights.

The partnership will comply with three principles laid down by the Heads of State or Government:

  1. A third country, however close it may be to the Union, may not lay claim to a status that is equivalent or superior to that of a Member of the Union
  2. The Union’s decision-making autonomy must be respected: the U.K. may not decide on the use of certain capacities under the European flag.
  3. Any voluntary participation of the U.K. in European defense will confer rights and obligations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May commented, saying « we’ve been clear that we want to play a full part in the security of the EU and Europe after we leave, and we think that’s in the interests of both Britain and the European Union. »


Photo credit : © European Union/ Anthony Dehez

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