Ever onward, Britain marches toward the door. True, it can sometimes feel like one step forward, two steps back, given that the hour is late and it remains unclear what exactly waits for Britain outside. Nevertheless, Article 50 has been triggered and the UK is leaving in March 2019 (give or take a transition period, backstop, or last-minute extension of negotiations).

One issue that all sides have sought to de-politicise is security. Nobody wants to see the safety of British and European citizens used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations. All parties are committed to ensuring deep and meaningful cooperation on security and defence. Fine words and sentiments. But what, when you get past the reassuring rhetoric, will it actually mean in practice?

Our sister think tank, Friends of Europe, has been publishing a series of reports looking at today’s security challenges from the perspective of different European nations. The reports on Germany and France have already been published, and on 21 June 2018 a new report will come out focused on the UK and Brexit. We have been collecting comments and questions from our readers about the impact of Brexit on security, and we’ve put them to the reports’ author, Paul Taylor, a Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe and Contributing Editor for Politico.

The implications of Brexit for security cooperation in Europe will be one of the many security issues discussed on Debating Security Plus(DS+). In June, Friends of Europe is gearing up to run a global online brainstorm designed to find solutions to today’s security challenges. From 19 June, 09:00 CEST to 20 June 20:00 CEST, the international security community will debate challenges and policy solutions. The discussions will be moderated by leading international think-tanks and organisations that will steer discussions towards concrete recommendations.

You can register to join the debate here.

So, what do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Vassiliki pointing out that the EU and NATO are separate organisations. The implication is, obviously, that after Brexit the UK will leave the EU but remain a full and committed member of NATO. So, really, why should Brexit have any negative impact on British security and defence at all?

How would Paul Taylor respond?

Well, Vassiliki, NATO certainly is the premier defence organisation for the territorial defence of Europe, and is a very important force multiplier for the UK and a way of ensuring that British forces can inter-operate with the forces of other countries (especially the United States).

However, the fact is that for our daily security, in terms of fighting terrorism, organised crime, money laundering, drug trafficking, and all sort of cross-border threats – including also cybersecurity – that’s really handled much more by EU bodies, by organisations that share databases together; criminal records, fingerprints, records of who enters and leaves the Schengen area, and things like that. And, for that, Britain has to have a working relationship with those agencies.

As of now, what Britain would be getting would be the standard ‘third country’ terms, which means no longer being inside those agencies, no longer being able to access the data directly to trawl and work the data, having to work only through liaison officers as countries such as Norway and Switzerland do. That would be a huge setback.

Of course, Britain is also a major contributor of intelligence and police data into those databases; Britain is a major net extraditer of criminal suspects to its continental partners. All of that could come juddering to a halt unless arrangements are agreed, or at least the current arrangements extended after March 2019. At the moment, they’ve barely even started talking about it, and things are not looking promising.

Next up, we had a comment from Lidija, who argues that, after Brexit, the remaining 27 EU Member States will have a “great interest in continuing to involve [the UK] in foreign policymaking” and security policy. However, she goes on to say that the UK will need to offer concessions if it wants to achieve a deep and meaningful security partnership with the EU. So, what sort of concessions are we talking about?

Well, Lidija, I think that one of the concessions is that where the community institutions are involved and where we’re cooperating with institutions that come under the surveillance and jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, we’re going to have to accept that, and that the European Court of Justice’s rules will continue to apply in the UK (perhaps through the figleaf of some joint court or something like that). But, effectively, the rules will continue to be made and jurisdiction made in Luxembourg. So, that’s a big one for Britain to swallow, but I think they’ll have to swallow it. Foreign policy, however, is mostly outside of the community institutions, therefore on most issues the Court of Justice’s jurisdiction does not apply there.

Clearly, if the UK wants to participate in EU programmes, it will have to pay its way in those programmes where it involves a budget; that’s true of the security agencies like Europol, Eurojust, the Schengen Information System (SIS), and so on. Britain may also have to make a financial contribution towards the European Defence Agency if it wishes to have an association agreement with that agency. Then there’s the question of the new nascent European Defence Fund.

It would be hard to imagine that the EU would agree to allow British companies to get European taxpayers’ money from the European budget for research and development projects. So, if and when British companies are selected for those projects, then Britain will have to pay their way. That’s an important part, and I think that’s already recognised in London. But it may be that Britain should go beyond that and offer to make a contribution into the general European Defence Fund itself, in order to have the right to tender for all those contracts. At the moment, the EU lawyers are saying that Britain should at most be allowed to participate by invitation only in individual projects when British companies are recognised to have a particular specialisation which the EU doesn’t have amongst its own Member States. So, that would be a much more restrictive place for Britain…

Will Britain (and the EU) be less safe after Brexit? Or will the two parties be able to do a deal that facilitates deep and meaningful cooperation on security and defence? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – sportsphotographer.eu; PORTRAIT CREDITS: (c) Debating Europe – Paul Taylor

66 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Houmis

    depends on who is the UK’s prime minister, if they get something like labor, consider them dead

    • Christine

      Stupid remark. If it’s the current government it will continue waging wars to assist America and create more terrorism at home and abroad. Labour under a Corbyn leadership would create a sea change towards peace

    • Houmis

      oh no….a communist party leading to peace. That seems like a very bad joke.
      And America’s doing a damn good job at preventing them mind you, google trump’s meeting with lil’ Kim

    • Charles

      Christine Clifford by Corbyn who actually supports the IRA and Hamas

  2. Paul

    Depends on whether the EU continues with its gross intransigence.

  3. Mathias

    The Uk will be. Europe won’t be affected. On the contrary the EU have a historic chance to reform and strengthen the unity of its members.

    • Ivan

      It’s far more likely Germany will increase it’s dominance over the other 26, you can call it the EU if it helps & lie to yourself by thinking you are all equal but everyone will know it as ‘The Greater German Empire’.

    • Ivan

      Mathias Darmell

      Is your organisation on the Soros List ?

    • Tarquin Farquhar

      In your dreams, or should that be nightmares!

      The EU does not have a common defence – NATO sess to that. Circa 80% of NATO’s budget comes from the USA+UK.

      For the EU to replace NATO’s defence would require circa the doubling of the EU’s budget by the EU-27 – in the meantime the EU would be very open to Russian ‘expansionism’.

      We in the UK live on an island – if the EU as you envisage gets invaded, I would hope that the UK would be helpful but…

  4. Stefano

    Se per sicura tu intendi che la UK
    non avrà più problemi con il terrorismo () ; ciò dipendera dal fatto che la stessa ha avuto una terza generazione di estremisti con cui l ‘isis faceva proselitismo .
    Non penso che isolarsi,
    risolverebbe entrambi i problemi
    in oggetto.

    • Tarquin Farquhar

      I almost agree – but the isolation of which you speak is in part being enforced on the UK by the EU.

  5. Steemit

    Britain has over 20000Jihadists walking free on it’s streets right now regardless of EU membership or not. London has hundreds of gangs. My point is their biggest threats are probably more internal rather than external even though external threats obviously exist and will persist for some time to come. Britain is a country of 6400000people, of that England alone is 54000000 people. They will be alright. What however will matter in the future is that the EU wants an army, Britain as a non EU member will not be part of an EU army and as such British military capabilities will not be there to strengthen the EU. They might even be some form of adversaries, not quite enemies of-course but adversaries because each has it’s own interests.

  6. Emmanuel

    You are so funny, I must laugh too much.

  7. Ivan

    Thank you for your concern but we are British and will be just fine, the same cannot be said for the Nations trapped in the EU though or do you really think German, French, Spanish, Irish, etc troops will defend Poland, Hungary, etc when the Russians invade ? If you do you are not only a fool but you are an ideologically driven fool.

    • Uli

      I dont remember but what did u do in georgia and ukraine? Nothing, right?

  8. Gianfranco

    no, uncle Donald will come to your rescue☺☺☺

  9. Joaquim

    Out of Europe means out of Europe. We don’t need the British army which by the way doesn’t make any difference. Even young people don’t want to be in the army anymore.

    • Ivan

      We are not leaving ‘Europe’, we are merely leaving the pointless EU. 8|

    • Joaquim

      Ivan Burrows pure bullshit what you are saying. let’s see how much time can UK hold

    • Ivan

      Joaquim M Pinto The EU is not Europe and Europe is not the EU. .

    • Ivan

      Joaquim M Pinto I don’t need to comrade because just like you I live on the Eurasian continent.

      So who do you think does represent the best of ‘Europe ? Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan maybe ?

    • Ivan

      Joaquim M Pinto It would even be wrong for you to claim ‘Continental Europe’ is the EU.

      Definition of ‘Continental Europe’:

      The most common definition of continental Europe excludes continental islands, encompassing the Greek Islands, Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearic Islands, Ireland, Great Britain & it’s dependencies, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Novaya Zemlya and the Danish archipelago, as well as nearby oceanic islands, including the Canary Islands, Madeira, the Azores, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Svalbard.

      *So not part of Continental Europe means not European at all by that definition.

      Even your silly little flag was stolen from the Council of Europe so just like everything else to do with the EU it is factually incorrect and a mishmash of nonsenses to claim the EU is Europe or even predominately Europe.

    • Ivan

      Joaquim M Pinto And you slip in to the usual anti British racist nonsense. Thanks for that.

      I see you actually enjoy the benefits of living in a free Great Britain even though you think we are terrible people, your hypocrisy is breath taking comrade but I can’t say I am surprised..

      Enjoy 8|

    • Joaquim

      Ivan Burrows my flag is older then yours my country is the only country with same borders for more then 900 years. And your country all that has was stolen. Starting with all the gold and tresors that you’ve stole from our boats. You are the only country where pirates were welcome by the Queen in the Palace. More all the ways by see were discover by the portuguese and we were the only ones dividing the world in two (treaty of tordesilhas). The first trip by boat around the (fernao magalhaes). You guys were always taking advantages of others that says a lot. So think again when you talk about being British cause really is even something to be proud of.

    • Joaquim

      Ivan Burrows the truth Hurst I know.

  10. Ivan

    Just watching the pointless European Parliament discussing the ongoing EU migrant crisis and if is is anything to go by your silly little EU army will be fighting itself within a week 8|

    ‘Solidarity’ only exists in the minds of a few EU fanatics.

    • Borislav

      Ivan Burrows enough with your rant on European Union and arguments on what is Europe, Continental Europe blabla… The point here that Europe has a change to be more united, which is one of the founding principles of this organization. Brexit might actually help this by creating a common enemy and for that reason I hope and expect you get the so called hard Brexit. For that I thank you and hope we see a more centralized and unified post-Brexit European Union.

    • Borislav

      Ivan Burrows I genuinely do not understand the comrade reference but I it must be connected to Russia somehow !? To the point, you are very that Europe is facing an unseen amount of issues and Italy is a great example of that. Dealing with emigrants it’s not easy, my country – being one of the poorest in Europe has also had its fair share of problems. If you think that closing your borders for war refugees is right and because you were born in Europe you deserve a better life than them, well that says enough about you, wouldn’t you agree? The democratic crisis started with you and based on the data we all saw after the vote, the Leave campaign was massively supported by elderly people while young and educated lads voted to stay. I wouldn’t be surprised if UK applies for EU again in 10 years and that is if you actually leave. So enough about how European is so messed up and everything is wrong with it because at some point you will be going back on your statements just like that moron Nigel Farage. The guy who spends the last 10 years getting a salary from the EU only to complain about random stuff like you do right now ;)

    • Rayno

      Ivan Burrows, put aside the annoying laugh of this guy, it’s a parody after all.
      But I really hope that you paid attention what this guy was “saying”. Because the people who created the video, they put in his mouth some statements, who sound hilarious, and what makes the video funnier is that these hilarious statements are true.
      The people who ran the Leave campaign resigned immediatelly after the vote. This is a clear sign that these people have no idea what to do next.
      Which put the brits in very funny situation. You became the laughing stoke of Europe, it was so entertaining to watch your misery and confusion after the vote. 😂😁

    • Borislav

      Ivan Burrows you are leaving in denial my friend (not comrade)… “the rest of the world is queuing up to trade with us…” good luck exchanging the trade volumes between UK – Europe with UK – Australia, that is complete non-sense. By the way have you checked how are the negotiations going with the European Union … not as good as your friend were hoping. Have you followed the epic fail of your government to discuss trade deal with China? Or you will depend on US for help? Good luck dealing with this lunatic over there… Back to the article you shared… “world’s leading financial center” if you seriously believe this you are delusional. Would you argue that this financial center – London has seen a decrease of workforce over the past one year and that’s a good thing? Best of luck moving forward but the first step to fixing a problem is to recognize it. .. Brexit is a mistake and Europe should be happy you are leaving… I am.

    • Anonymous

      Ivan Burrows, what reality you’re talking about?
      The reality that the British government still struggles to reach any agreement with the European countries?
      The reality that all the promises made by the people who ran the Leave campain turned out to be lies, nothing more than a populist bullshit?

      You sent me a link with information how the UK will trade with USA and with Australia. Don’t make me laugh, these countries are at the other part of the globe. It’s obvious that it will be harder to trade with them by simple logistics reasons.

    • Borislav

      Ivan Burrows the fact that I am pro European does not make me a fanatic, think twice before writing. What is the point of sharing this article? Cohesian policy has brought a lot of good and bad in the same time, perhaps it is time to change it, is that your point?

    • Ivan

      Borislav Blagoev You want to destroy 27 Nation States and create an unasked for and unwanted EU superstate yet you claim not to be a ‘fanatic’ ???.

      Definition of a ‘fanatic’:


      a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, supporter of an extreme political cause against the will of the population at large.

      If you talk like a fanatic and act like a fanatic then you are the very definition of a fanatic. 8|

    • Borislav

      Ivan Burrows lovely answer, thank you for the insights on the definition of fanatic. But explain me this, where did you see me asking to destroy 27 sovereign nations to create a superstate called EU?! The direction in which EU is going (something I believe to be right) is towards common market, common democratic rules, single currency a position where we are able to negotiate fair trade agreements with the rest of the world. Do you believe this is extreme political cause that large population of people are against? EU is currently suffering from number of external threats, which I do not believe countries can handle individually. Do you find that an extreme political view? Seriously…

    • Ivan

      Borislav Blagoev The plan has always been to create a federalist United states of Europe so if you support the EU then you must support its aim. If you didn’t know the goal of the EU then you are ignorant of the facts. The greatest threat to the people in the EU is Brussels.

      Fascism, Communism and now Europeanism, different flags but the same crazed lust to rule all Europe.

    • Borislav

      Ivan Burrows EU has brought a lot of positive things to my country and impacted my life in so many ways, so yeah I do support it and hope that my children enjoy the benefits of it. You are far to extreme in your views about the goal behind EU and if you think that this “Europeanism” is just another Fascism or Communism (my country was part of the Communist block so i might have some perspective on this) you are horribly wrong. It’s not even ignorant it’s straight up wrong. But that’s what people have you believe and you choose to follow .. it’s a choice and you seem happy with it. As I said best of luck of keeping your “superpower” status after leaving EU… that is if you actually leave it because first it was after two years… now they are talking about extension, then another referendum. No disrespect to my latin friends but I used to think they make the most drama… hell I was wrong ;)

    • Borislav

      Ivan Burrows since you are so knowledgeable on Bulgarian history could please elaborate a little more on what exactly haven’t we learnt? And this rhetoric about who put how much in the budget is so narrow-minded it’s borderline populism. Germany being the number one contributor has also been on the receiving end, same goes for UK. The benefits of a single market and free trade are so well described in literature and you seem adequate with google so I am not worried you will find it an interesting read. Regarding the article you mentioned, in my mind perspective some businesses will benefit from ending the cohesion funds because they are over-reliant on them, which does not make a good business. Last time I check the debate on this is ongoing, which is something democratic societies do unlike Fascist or Communist would as you previously compared EU to.

    • Ivan

      Borislav Blagoev .

      Bulgaria sided with the wrong side during WW2, then again during the cold war and now you side with another bunch of lunatics with a plan to unite Europe under one flag without asking the people.

      Do you see a trend yet or do you just like being controlled by a foreign Capital ?

      Lets see if your countrymen are still keen on the EU when the free handouts of other peoples money dries up.


    • Borislav

      Ivan Burrows you are absolutely right, on a couple of occasions we were on the wrong side and to some extent still paying for this. However, siding with Germany in WW2 and joining the EU happened under completely different circumstances, so you looking for a trend there is little off, check your history books again. And enough with this argument about handouts, Bulgaria is also giving back to EU and plenty of foreign companies have benefited and thrived on the local market. It is a win-win situation and that is why we believe in European Union. Before you go and find some article from some pro-Russian extremists in Bulgaria allow me to say this… majority wants Europe and the approval ratings of EU are actually higher compared to our governments’. So if funds dry up (again undecided) I am fairly certain things will not change dramatically. Thank you for the concern but do not worry :)

    • Borislav

      Ivan Burrows I did not know you can tell the future, because the present is a lot different than your foreseen result… But we have strayed off topic some hours ago. Tell why do you feel UK will be safer post Brexit? You already mentioned the “future” trade agreements with 100+ countries that cannot wait to make trade deals, but why do you think UK alone will have the power to swing those deals in your favor. Because so far the two biggest markets – US and China have not been overly excited about the prospects, or you believe Macron will swing the EU in favor of Brexit? What are your thoughts?

    • Borislav

      Ivan Burrows many European countries have internal issues but EU has survived for decades and there is a reason for that. You don’t get it and it is fine. Try answering my questions for a change ;)

    • Ivan

      Borislav Blagoev All 27 Nations in the EU have the same issue, the antidemocratic control from an unelected elite in Brussels. .

      The concept of safety is relative but relying on the same people who created the migrant crisis, the Euro crisis, the democracy deficit crisis and the mass unemployment crisis for our security would clearly be idiotic & suicidal.

      So we will do as we have always done, pick our friends & allies on merit & not because the fools in Brussels / Berlin order us to.

  11. catherine benning

    Will Britain (and the EU) be less safe after Brexit?

    Britain is far more at risk being part of the EU than when it finally frees itself from within its sinister grasp.

    We have thousands of Jihadi gangs waiting to find themselves in enough numbers inside our borders to bring about the demise of our society and its people. They wait to make drastic changes our leaders had been blind to and once they did open their eyes to its reality, hid it from view, by pretending it was an illusion. Conspiring politicians, to this day, continue to house and feed these people in our midst, and they do it against the will of the citizen. Regardless, this situation came about as a direct link to our alliance with the EU and its covert plans, praised and applauded by your annual prize called Charlemagne. Even fully aware of the intentions brought about by this invasion, the fanning of your open door policy continues and is encouraged. Therefore, your collective European citizen has to accept and approve of their own cultural and social demise.

    Britain cannot be less safe after Brexit, providing Brexit means what the British voter mean it to mean. Free of the tyranny the European collective has imposed on its source of income. Its tax payers. Which, the British will no longer be.

  12. ironworker

    Britain never copes with the idea of a “Continental Army”. I guess Britain can handle successfully diverse threats on many levels without any sort of help or support. At least they used to, and they probably will do it again as long as it takes.

  13. David

    Well yes the parting I think means that they have less trust in each other.

  14. catherine benning

    Will Britain (and the EU) be less safe after Brexit?

    However, on reflection, its Galileo they are getting at with this question. The name is odd when you reflect on Galileo the person.

    Does the EU really believe the British would leave such an important scientific system open to philandering? Our scientists are way ahead of puerile thinking. Plus, this project is another reason we cannot afford to pay your bills. We have our own superior system to support.

  15. David

    We will be fine….as for your eu….i couldn`t care less.

  16. Rob

    We keep cutting the armed forces back so much. What we need is an alliance with our European neighbour’s

    • Matt

      We’ve got NATO Rob Merryfield!

    • Rob

      Matt Dovey NATO is very cold war 1980’s, what we need is a European Army

    • Matt

      Rob Merryfield really? So who’s our main potential enemy at the moment? Russia. Pretty much like the Cold War. Who would command this European army? The eu? You might have noticed we are leaving that shitfest

    • Rob

      Matt Dovey I think the Italians should lead the EU army, they have a successful record. They were selling off old rifles last week, only been dropped once

    • Rob

      We need to make friends with the Russians, they are strong like bear no

    • Matt

      Rob Merryfield the Italians have spanking uniforms. I remember seeing an Italian army until shipping out to Kosovo or somewhere like that from Venice. I have never seen such a bunch of well manicured fighting men. Breathtaking.
      The Russian bear is to admired for his strength

  17. Duncan

    That all depends really, on wether or not the EU and the UK continue their intelligence sharing on the same basis. If they do, then it will be no less safe, if they don’t it will be less safe, most notably for the EU

  18. Gudrun

    I think that the UK will be less safe. The EU not really.

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