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UK could lose influence on EU security and defence policy post-Brexit, Lords EU committee warns

EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations contribute significantly to the UK's foreign policy priorities. Post-Brexit the UK may be able to continue participating in them, but it will not have the influence it currently enjoys in the development, planning and leadership of missions and operations.

This is the main conclusion of the House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee's Brexit: Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations report, published today.

Other report findings and recommendations include:

  • As an EU Member State, the UK has influenced the development and planning of all missions and operations, and has led the EU's flagship anti-piracy operation, EU NAVFOR Somalia (Operation Atalanta).
  • CSDP missions and operations have been an important channel of UK influence - from tackling piracy to promoting the rule of law to peacebuilding in post-conflict states. The highly successful Operation Atalanta, in which the UK plays a leading role, has brought together EU Member States and the wider international community in combating piracy in the Horn of Africa.
  • CSDP missions and operations focus on lower-intensity crisis management, such as capacity building, reform and training. Sometimes they have been slow to produce results. Their key advantage, however, is the EU's ability to use a comprehensive approach, drawing together military, political, diplomatic, economic and legal lines of operation.
  • The UK's main contribution has been strategic guidance during the planning and review of missions and operations. It has also provided assets, such as naval vessels and aircraft. The UK's contribution of personnel is very limited. To date it has accounted for just 2.3% of total Member State contributions.
  • The UK derives value from participation in CSDP missions and operations and should continue to participate in them after Brexit, particularly in the western Balkans (Operation Althea and EULEX Kosovo), and in the Horn of Africa (especially Operation Atalanta). However, the current model for third country participation offers a more limited role for the UK after Brexit than that envisaged by the Government.
  • The Committee strongly urges that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) develops and transmits to the EU detailed proposals for future co-operation in the area of foreign policy and defence. It should do this before the June 2018 European Council meeting.
  • The Government will need to decide whether to use the UK's significant military capabilities as leverage to modify the model for third country participation. The UK will also need to invest significant resources in Brussels and in Member States' capitals, to maintain influence from outside the structures of the EU.
  • CSDP missions and operations are a subset of wider foreign policy and engagement on security and defence with the EU. The UK should seek to negotiate observer status in the Political and Security Committee after Brexit.

Commenting on the report, Baroness Verma, Chair of the EU External Affairs Sub-Committee, said:

“CSDP missions and operations have contributed significantly to UK foreign policy and have benefited from the UK's participation. A good example is Operation Atalanta, the EU's flagship anti-piracy operation, which the UK has successfully led.

"Under the existing model for third country participation, the UK will lose influence over CSDP missions and operations. To maintain engagement with the EU on wider security and defence, the UK should seek to negotiate observer status in the EU's planning and decision-making bodies.”

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