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Security Matters

by Brian Sims
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

At the same time as the UK Government appoints a new ambassador to lead Brexit negotiations from Brussels, a Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Briefing Paper has been published that maps out the threats and opportunities to British security and foreign policy as negotiation talks proceed.

The Briefing Paper urges Government to ensure that security and foreign policy isn’t overlooked as Brexit negotiations concerning trade and other pressing matters are pursued. In addition, the detailed document calls for a new post-Brexit ‘special relationship’ with the European Union (EU) on security and foreign policy. This could be particularly important if uncertainty over the approach of the new Trump Presidency increases the need for strong European defence co-operation.

Entitled ‘UK Foreign and Security Policy After Brexit’ and authored by RUSI’s deputy director general Professor Malcolm Chalmers, the Briefing Paper argues that the UK’s position as Europe’s strongest military and intelligence power – its ‘security surplus’ – shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations. Instead, RUSI calls on UK Brexit negotiators to make clear to their counterparts that there’s more to the relationship with the UK than haggling over migration rules and budget contributions.

“After Brexit,” states the Briefing Paper, “the UK and the EU will continue to share fundamental interests and values, and the UK will continue to be a reliable defence and security partner. In considering how to handle the negotiations as they reach moments of crisis, any desire to punish the UK in order to deter further defections from the EU should be properly considered in the context of the broader relationship with the UK.”

The Briefing Paper also points out that the UK’s position within the NATO command structure could be affected, with the post of Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, which is traditionally held by the UK, possibly being transferred to a European Member State remaining resident within the EU. There’s a clear message here that the UK’s ongoing role and influence within NATO cannot be entirely ring-fenced from the consequences of Brexit.

In addition, the document suggests that the UK may “find itself faced with a European fait accompli on key issues” and that it will have to work hard to ensure its interests and views are not an afterthought to the results of any US-EU dialogue.

In weighing up the prospects for Britain’s security and foreign policy, Professor Malcolm Chalmers outlines that the UK will need to balance its desire to use Brexit as an opportunity for enhancing its influence as a global power with its continuing interest in the overall security and stability of Europe.

“The UK’s departure from the EU is likely to deepen the recent trend towards a security policy focused on national interest,” observes Professor Chalmers. “The cumulative effect will be a foreign and security policy that’s fundamentally different in emphasis than it was at the height of Blair/Brown internationalism in the decade after 1997.”

Trump’s victory on an ‘America First’ platform may boost this trend, asserts Professor Chalmers, “casting further doubt” as to whether the post-1945 Western institutional order can survive.

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