How MPs were left in the dark over EU defence

Parliament has not seen or discussed the vast defence plans that ministers have agreed at the EU Council between 14 November 2016 and 22 June 2017

It has been clear from the moment of the first agreement in Nov 2016 that there are deep and serious consequences for UK autonomy in defence at a time when people would expect defence decision making within NATO to have been preserved by Brexit.

More recently, we’ve discovered arrangements which have binding effects over the UK’s defence industrial base.

The EU Commission is offering multi-million euro incentives to multi-billion euro defence industrial partnership schemes. The continuation of the schemes once they are running in 2019 will be a strong incentive for the the UK to retain its current adherence to CSDP, the EDA, EU defence Procurement legislation and EU rules and standards beyond Brexit Day in March 2019, as these are the contributions by which Norway is permitted to participate.

The five separate agreements (links below) are all done with full UK consent and participation. EU Commissioners have underlined the UK’s commitment to them. (Another EU Commissioner has express her personal surprise over the UK’s willingness to participate.)

The agreements will at least have a material effect on Brexit negotiations.

The agreements provide the EU with an industrial ‘brake’ on negotiations which was not available to them prior to Nov 14, 2016.

The policy advisory role feeding into ministerial teams has been retained by the MOD and the defence industries body, ADS, which has been permitted to be involved in policy advice by the MOD.

We believe it is essential for defence, foreign affairs and Brexit committees to be made aware of these plans.

 

EU Council agreements approved by the UK in council conclusions (most recent first):

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/06/22-euco-security-defence/

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/05/18-conclusions-security-defence/

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/03/06-defence-security/

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/12/15-euco-conclusions-final/

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/11/14-conclusions-eu-global-strategy-security-defence/

 

These are the only two references we’ve been able to find relating to discussion of the plans by MPs in Parliament (most recent first):

  1. https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmeuleg/342-xv/34227.htm

I draw your attention to sections 19.25 and 19.26 of the above report.

The most surprising thing about the above two references is that they show that MPs were of the mistaken impression that the two EU defence union plans had not been approved by EU Council conclusions when in fact they had been approved.

The report’s recommendations for depositing of HR/VP Mogherini’s plans for consideration by MPs has not been followed and in fact MPs have since not mentioned or kept track of EU Council conclusions in the subsequent three instances where further details have been approved by ministers alongside their EU counterparts, providing an all-EU consensus.

  1. https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmeuleg/71-xxii/7112.htm#_idTextAnchor029

I draw your attention to sections 9.3 to 9.8. This relates to a letter from Sir Alan Duncan (foreign minister) to Sir Bill Cash (European Scrutiny Committee). The committee’s recommendations have not been followed by the committees mentioned and the significant EU defence union plans have gone unaddressed by MPs while ministers continue to give their consent.