Posts Tagged ‘Security’

UK and EU test limits of security partnership after Brexit

LONDON — When it comes to security, both Brussels and London would love to remain best friends after Brexit — but breakups rarely work that way.

International events since the U.K.’s June 2016 referendum have only served to highlight that on foreign policy, defense and internal security, the U.K. and the EU are on the same page and intend to remain there. Amid fears of increasing terrorist threats and with transatlantic relations strained by a less predictable American president, the interests of those on both sides of the Channel appear increasingly closely aligned.

“Our world is in a state of chaos and in the midst of such confusion the EU and the U.K. need one another,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Monday. As if to underline the point, she spoke alongside Michel Barnier, the EU27’s chief Brexit negotiator, at the EU Institute for Security Studies.

A few hours earlier, in Berlin, the U.K. delivered exactly the same message, via Andrew Parker, director general of MI5, the U.K. security service. Hailing the collaboration between British and European security agencies — joint working which he said he could “confidently” assert had saved European lives — Parker added: “In today’s uncertain world we all need that shared strength more than ever.”

But despite the warm rhetoric, talks over a future security partnership have already become difficult, notably over the depth of U.K. access to and involvement with the EU’s satellite navigation system Galileo, which has quickly become a litmus test for how deep a security partnership can really be.

“Solidarity is not to be negotiated” — Michel Barnier

Even as both sides publicly stressed their shared interests, the UK Space Agency wrote to British companies working on the Galileo system to remind them they needed U.K. government security clearance for any future work, the department of business said Monday.

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, both Barnier and Mogherini said Monday, must have “consequences,” and while discussions about security are currently only at an “exploratory” phase, Barnier said, the extent to which those consequences will impact security cooperation will become more apparent in less than a year’s time once the U.K. can negotiate its future relationship with the bloc as a third country.

A common enemy

Despite the awkward political context, the two sides’ common interests are abundantly clear.

As the heightened terror threat across Europe — Parker pointed to 45 terror attacks across the continent since 2016 — demonstrates the importance of close cooperation on internal security, so the geopolitical context highlights the extent to which the U.K. and the EU stand together on the world stage, increasingly in solidarity against Donald Trump’s policy reversals.

Speaking in London on Friday, Simon McDonald, the U.K. foreign office’s top official, cited support for the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate Accord and opposition to locating embassies to Israel in the city of Jerusalem as examples of areas of agreement between the U.K and “European partners.” The point was not lost that on all three, the EU and Britain are opposed to the Trump administration.

On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will meet his French and German counterparts in Brussels with a view to salvaging what is left of the Iran deal, by discussing measures to protect European companies doing business with Iran from U.S. sanctions, Johnson said after holding a preliminary meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in London on Monday.

Despite broad agreement that, on foreign policy, the U.K. must accept its third country status post Brexit and become a closely consulted partner, but without a role in EU decision-making, the details are less than clear.

Barnier said there had been “misunderstandings” about Galileo but the dispute goes to the heart of the two sides differing approaches to Brexit negotiations.

Barnier said the U.K. “knows perfectly” that rules agreed unanimously in the past by EU members, including the U.K., bar British companies from “the development of security sensitive matters such as the manufacturing of PRS security” — referring to the encrypted part of Galileo at the center of the dispute. He added there was nothing to stop the U.K. from using the encrypted Galileo signal as a third country, so long as an agreement was in place.

This approach has not been welcomed in London. A paper outlining the U.K.’s preferred future security relations, which was published by the U.K. government last week, stated pointedly that “arrangements for any U.K. cooperation on Galileo are an important test case of the depth of operational cooperation and information sharing envisaged under the Security Partnership [sic].”

Monday’s letter to businesses working on the project suggested that test was not going well.

Fear of a trade-off

Running beneath all the exchanges on security since the U.K. referendum is the suspicion, felt at times on both sides, that the other will use security to their advantage in the wider Brexit talks.

As long ago as March 2017, May’s reference of the risk to security cooperation in her letter triggering the beginning of the U.K.’s divorce from the EU was perceived by many in Brussels as a threat.

“Solidarity is not to be negotiated,” Barnier said Monday. “Any trade-off between security and trade would lead to an historic failure and it would be a strategic mistake benefitting those who want to weaken us.”

Chief EU negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, looks on prior to a General Affairs council on article 50 at the European Council in Brussels on May 14, 2018 | François Walschaerts/AFP via Getty Images

British negotiators insist nothing is further from their minds than using the U.K.’s undeniable heft in this area — 20 percent of European defense spending, according to McDonald, and internationally respected security and intelligence services MI5 and MI6 — as leverage to get a more generous or flexible trade deal from the EU.

The U.K. government may hope Parker’s trip to Berlin — the first ever public speech by a head of MI5 outside of the U.K. — will help their cause.

“I don’t do politics but it is of course political arrangements, laws and treaties that permit or constrain what we can do together as agencies protecting our countries and Europe,” he said, in a message apparently aimed at the EU’s Brexit negotiators and their legal advisors.

“So it’s as a security practitioner that I hope for a comprehensive and enduring agreement that tackles obstacles and allows the professionals to get on with the job together. We owe that to all our citizens across Europe.”

MI5 chief calls for close security cooperation with Europe after Brexit

Britain and the EU need to maintain a close security relationship after Brexit to counter the threat posed by Russia and the terror group Islamic State, MI5 chief Andrew Parker is expected to say today.

“In today’s world, we need that shared strength more than ever,” the head of Britain’s intelligence services will tell EU heads of state in Berlin, according to Reuters.

The event marks the first public speech delivered by a head of MI5 outside the U.K., and comes amid growing concern that the proposed security treaty between Britain and Europe is under threat from a series of rows, including over Britain’s proposed exclusion from the EU’s Galileo satellite program.

Parker will formally accuse Russia of carrying out the March 4 nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, and will also blame Moscow for “flagrant breaches of international rules.” Russia has denied involvement in the attack.

The MI5 chief is also expected to warn of the threat posed by Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for a deadly knife-attack in Paris Saturday. The group, he will say, is plotting more “devastating and more complex attacks.”

Parker is expected to say he is “confident about our ability to tackle these threats, because of the strength and resilience of our democratic systems, the resilience of our societies and the values we share with our European partners.”

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will deliver a speech on European security policy post-Brexit in Brussels later today.

Door opens to keep Britain in EU (security)

The EU’s new military pact should be opened up to countries outside the bloc — such as the U.S., Norway and the U.K. — after Brexit, according to a proposal to be discussed by European defense ministers next month.

The idea — put forward as a “food for thought paper” by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands — would, if implemented, erode the EU exclusivity of the military cooperation forum. But it offers another way besides NATO to keep Britain, in particular, engaged in European security structures after next year.

The U.K. is the biggest military spender of the current 28 EU countries and a rare one able to project force into distant combat zones. This proposal opens a path for Britain, or another so-called third country, to take a role in any future initiative that is part of the new military pact, which also includes a project for military mobility, for an EU medical command and a rapid reaction force.

The two-page document, titled “Third state participation in PESCO projects,” states: “Certain PESCO projects can benefit from participation by non-EU countries in terms of providing capacities, specific expertise or financial contributions that are useful for either capacity development or operations.”

It proposes that third countries “be invited by the participating Member States of a PESCO project acting unanimously and on a case-by-case basis.”

PESCO, or Permanent Structured Cooperation, is the EU’s program of enhanced military cooperation among 25 of the 28 member countries that was launched last year and allows for combined procurement and a joint military force. Seventeen separate projects were announced under the program in December.

The document, which was obtained by POLITICO, has the backing of 10 other EU member countries: Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Portugal, Sweden and Finland.

On Wednesday, the British government released its vision for defense and security cooperation with the EU post Brexit, proposing a closer relationship than any other existing arrangements the EU has with third countries — including the U.K. potentially contributing troops to EU battlegroups and hosting operational headquarters.

U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis said the EU had a choice: “They can treat us as a third country according to existing precedents, creating something that falls well short of our existing relationship, or they can take a more adaptable approach in which we jointly deliver the operational capability that we need to tackle the ever-evolving threats to our shared security.

U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis | Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

“To protect our citizens’ security, we need to look beyond existing precedents and find a solution that allows us to continue to work together. There is no legal or operational reason why such an agreement could not be reached,” he said.

The Benelux proposal lays out conditions under which the participation of a non-EU country would be considered: specific expertise or assets, economies of scale, and a financial, operational or capacity contribution to the project. But it states that “a third state will not be involved in any decision making in relation to general PESCO matters.” The proposers want a “swift decision” as soon as possible after the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in June.

That timing may prove ambitious, however.

“Some member states, like France and Germany, want first to see how the future relationship [with the U.K. post Brexit] will be,” said a diplomat from one of the backing countries. Defense and security cooperation is just one part of a vast slew of topics for negotiation with the U.K., and it is an area where Britain feels it has strong cards to play in the talks because of its globally significant military.

A Dutch diplomat stressed, though, that the Benelux proposal is bigger than Britain or Brexit: “It’s not only the U.K. We work a lot with Norway that could contribute, but also the U.S., Canada or Switzerland.”

The first diplomat also said there have been diplomatic signals of interest from the U.S.

One major incentive for countries outside the EU is the prospect of their companies benefiting from lucrative contracts for building high-tech military kits. In its multiyear budget plan presented last week, the European Commission proposed creating a €13 billion European Defence Fund “to complement and catalyse national expenditure in research and capability development.”

Part of this money will be used for PESCO projects, although the European Parliament and member countries first have to agree on how the fund will operate.

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