Academic journal article National Institute Economic Review

The UK and EU Foreign, Security and Defence Policy after Brexit: Integrated, Associated or Detached?

Academic journal article National Institute Economic Review

The UK and EU Foreign, Security and Defence Policy after Brexit: Integrated, Associated or Detached?

Article excerpt

None of the existing models for the future trade policy relationship between the UK and the EU come with a predetermined foreign and security policy relationship. This article assesses how the future EU-UK foreign and security policy relationship might be organised post-Brexit. It provides evaluation of the current EU-UK interrelationship in the fields of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and assesses the degree to which the UK is presently integrated into EU decision-making and implementation. It highlights that the UK needs to determine the degree to which it wants autonomy or even divergence from existing EU policies. The article concludes by rehearsing the costs and benefits of three possible future relationships between the UK and EU foreign, security and defence policy: integrated, associated or detached.

Keywords: United Kingdom; security; defence; European Union; Brexit J EL Classifications: F5; F52; P16

In the aftermath of the June 2016 EU Referendum result the majority of attention has focused on what might be the future economic relationship between the UK and the EU and the prospects for the UK's trade relationships with third countries once outside the EU. None of the proposed models for the future trade policy relationship between the UK and the EU (for example, membership of the European Economic Area or a Free Trade agreement) come with a defined foreign and security policy relationship. Further, article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, providing for the exit of a member state from the EU, does not offer a roadmap to a new status of foreign, security and defence policy relationship between the EU and its exiting partner.

As a member of the EU, the UK's external relations, extending beyond foreign and security policy, and encompassing a wider variety of areas including trade, aid, environment, energy, development policy, immigration, border, asylum, cross-border policing, justice policies are all currently intertwined with EU policies. Establishing the broad panoply of UK national policies across all of these areas will be an extensive undertaking. This article focuses on the implications of Brexit for the UK's foreign, security and defence policy. Security and defence policy gives effects to the broader foreign policy aims and ambitions for a state. For the UK the EU has been a centrepiece of foreign policy since accession in 1973. Consequently exiting the EU presents the prospect of a major rethink in the aims and ambitions for Britain's place in the world and has implications for the conduct of British diplomacy and will impinge on security and defence policy (Whitman, 2016a, b). The British government has yet to outline a coherent assessment of Brexit's implications. As illustrative, neither Prime Minister Theresa May's UN General Assembly address in September nor Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's 2 October speech to the Conservative Party conference provide sufficient detail on the objectives of future UK foreign policy and so allow for a sufficiently solid basis to assess the country's future stance on security and defence policy (May, 2016; Johnson, 2016).

The June Referendum vote can be read as facilitating the acceleration of a trend that was already at work in government thinking. The two recent Conservative-led governments had already sought to re-calibrate Britain's place in the world to 'de-centre' the EU from the UK's foreign policy. In a response to the rise of 'emerging powers'--as well as to shifts in the global political economy giving a greater prominence to China and Asia--the UK government was already placing greater emphasis on the UK as a 'networked' foreign policy actor, for whom the EU is only one network of influence. The current government core strategy documents that guide the UK government's foreign, security and defence policy clearly demonstrate this position. The 2015 National Security Strategy (NSS) and Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) place the EU in a minor supporting role in the UK's defence and security (HM Govt, 2015). …

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