LONDON (Reuters) – Britain wants to have closer defence cooperation with the European Union after Brexit than other countries outside the union, according to a document that sets out a vision of “a deep security partnership” aimed at nudging talks forward.
Britain wants to contribute its military assets to EU operations after it leaves the bloc, the government will say on Tuesday in its sixth “future partnership paper”, part of efforts to counter criticism by EU officials that it is not prepared for negotiations to unravel more than 40 years of union.
Underlining that Britain has the largest defence and development budgets in Europe, officials will press what they consider to be one of their strongest arguments – that the government can offer defence and security support to the EU.
“At a time of increased threats and international instability the UK remains unwavering in its commitment to uphold European security,” Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement.
“With the largest defence budget in Europe, the largest Navy, British troops and planes deployed across land, air and sea in Europe, our role in the continent’s defence has never been more vital.”
British officials have long championed defence cooperation with European nations, with some suggesting it could be used as leverage in talks which so far have moved slowly, bogged down in arguments over the divorce bill.
Britain has deployed troops in some Baltic states to counter a resurgent Russia, has worked with the EU to tackle piracy off the Horn of Africa and worked on joint defence projects, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.
But EU officials say they cannot move on to discuss a future relationship until “sufficient progress” has been made on three priority areas – the rights of expatriates, Britain’s border with EU state Ireland and a financial settlement.
Without that movement, British officials say talks may become stalled particularly on Northern Ireland, arguing that how to deal with the only land border with the EU depends on what kind of future customs deal the two sides will agree.
“After we leave the European Union we will continue to face shared threats to our security, our shared values and our way of life,” Brexit minister David Davis said.
“It’s in our mutual interest to work closely with the EU and its member states to challenge terrorism and extremism, illegal migration, cyber-crime, and conventional state-based military aggression.”
Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg