A post-Brexit European military strategy has started taking shape with France at its center. Despite an impasse on how to start formal talks with Britain on a new defense and security relationship with the EU, France would like to see a two-track system. France is in favor of a bigger role for Spain in EU military missions to fill in for Britain but wants to keep London involved in a new French-led “intervention force” to keep tights EU-UK military ties.
At the same time, Belgium and the Netherlands would like to see London more involved in the EU’s new flagship defense pact. In turn, Spain and Estonia push for Britain to be part of the Galileo satellite program, which the EU is developing to compete with the US Global Positioning System (GPS) despite rules that prohibit sharing sensitive information with non-EU countries. “We must avoid a rupture (with Britain),” Spain’s Defense Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal. Her counterpart, Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, spoke in a similar vein: “It is important that Britain is involved in Europe’s future security cooperation.”
Such plans point to the fact that the EU is not able to defend itself from Russian military threats without Britain, which is, along with France, Europe’s biggest security power. For its part, Britain would be vulnerable without continued access to EU databases and intelligence. Yet, formal negotiations on the future of EU-UK security relations after Brexit have not yet started. The EU still needs to come up with details of the future relationship.
“A future security agreement sounds logical, as nobody wants a dark space in European territory that militants could exploit,” said one senior EU official. “But that logic does not make a deal any easier.” Part of the reason behind extra care devoted to the future security ties stems from Britain’s years of blocking EU defense cooperation out of the concern that an EU army and EU rules would put restrictions on the access of non-EU states to EU bodies such as police agency Europol.