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Wheels in Motion

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

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

Prime Minister Theresa May has now triggered Article 50 – not to mention the next General Electon – as the nation prepares to exit the European Union (EU). Subsequently, experts at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) have been swift to outline what key security and defence issues they’ll be keeping an eye on during the Brexit process negotiations.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers (RUSI’s deputy director general) has urged that security shouldn’t be used in the upcoming talks for bargaining purposes. “The UK will need to balance its desire to use Brexit as an opportunity for deepening its influence as a global power with its continuing interest in the security and stability of Europe,” explained Chalmers.

A considered assessment by RUSI’s Military Sciences and Defence, Industries and Society research groups focuses on the opportunity to “rebalance” the UK’s military commitments. The triggering of Article 50 should see the start of a “clear-headed analysis” of UK military priorities. With the UK withdrawing from the EU, the Ministry of Defence can start to acknowledge security alliances by way of funded activity at scale, returning attention and focus to NATO and other defence relationships – the ‘Five Powers’ Defence Agreement, to name but one – where the UK has formal obligations and responsibilities.

According to RUSI, many of these commitments have been “neglected” over the past decade to meet a political requirement for activity around the Common Security and Defence Policy that demonstrated Britain’s leading European military role.

Rebalancing the UK’s military commitments is an opportunity to alter the current disparity between resources and those commitments. This happens as the potential constitutional make-up of Britain comes under threat with “very serious implications” for the nation’s defence and security.

For its part, RUSI’s International Security Studies research group believes the UK will have to seriously rebuild its strategic thinking and understanding of its place in the world. If it wants to be a global player, it will have to “develop a deeper and more sophisticated understanding” of various conflicts and relationships around the world so as to better comprehend where the UK can play a significant role and effect influence.

The EU, of course, has been a major supporter of advancing work aimed at preventing and countering violent extremism around the globe. The UK has also played a strong role here.

At the same time, counter-terrorism collaboration – such as that achieved through the intelligence sharing agency Europol ­– is key to mitigating the threat posed by transnational terrorism. Going forward, RUSI feels it’s essential that this important co-operation on both countering violent extremism and counter-terrorism isn’t hindered or “bartered” during the negotiations, as that would be a loss to host countries, the EU and the UK alike.

In certain places around the globe, RUSI suggests the UK has “stepped back” and let other European powers lead. For some regions this makes sense, but if it’s to be taken seriously, the UK must “strengthen its cadre of expertise” and ensure that it’s able to continue to occupy a prominent seat at the international table.

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