UK-Europe security and defence faces a cliff edge
Not enough is known about how the UK will remain engaged in European security and defence matters following its exit from the European Union in 2019. In February I published a paper on Brexit and Security focusing mainly on domestic security and access to EU databases and am now working on another on UK-EU Defence.
On 13 November, 23 EU countries signed a post-Brexit Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) agreement to deepen defence co-operation. The UKís powerful military is matched only by France, which favours granting the UK status merely as a third country participant with no role shaping PESCO policies. The bilateral treaty the UK government wants is still to be discussed in negotiations but may not be acceptable to all 27 EU member states.
I would prefer a broader alliance based on the post-war Western EU (WEU) which predates the EU and NATO.It would foster organised cooperation between both EU members in PESCO and democratic non-EU members - particularly when NATO is unable to do so. Without dismissing the primacy of NATO for the UK, a WEU-like structure could bind the UK for security and defence purposes to neutral non-NATO states such as Sweden as well as non-EU democratic countries including possibly Ukraine, Georgia and Israel.
The UK must use its resources more efficiently as we face an expansionist Russia, unending Middle East instability, a continuing Mediterranean migration crisis and a fast-evolving international terrorist menace. Reducing barriers in Europe-wide defence procurement would also hopefully lead to a single defence market - crucial at a time of defence budgetary pressures.
Our long-term security and defence relations was due to be discussed at the 14 December EU Council Summit. If agreement is not found there is a real danger of a cliff edge, particularly on domestic security.
The EU Referendum - approved by a slim majority at a time of challenges to the EU internally and externally - was held on an understanding that its result would be respected. There was, however, no accepted single view of what leaving the EU would look like. The Leave campaign promise of simplicity in untangling 44 years of joint work with EU partners has not materialised - just as £350 million per week for the NHS cannot be delivered by Brexit. Leaving is predicted to contract the UK economy while £50 billion needs to be found to settle the UKís liabilities.
The EU is not perfect but it has helped bring relative peace and prosperity to Europe for the last half century. It is a force for good in a globalised world requiring cross-border cooperation. Its disintegration does not augur well for global governance or long-term stability given the dangers of populism, protectionism and isolationism. I continue to campaign for the softest Brexit including remaining in the EU Customs Union and Single Market.
This is my last newsletter of 2017 after a difficult year for the Conservative party and government during the Brexit negotiations. I wish all my London constituents a happy Christmas and New Year and hope the festive season will provide us with a short break before returning in 2018 refreshed to face the ongoing challenges.
My report on the EU-New Zealand Partnership Agreement
I recently completed the Report of the Parliament on the Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation, otherwise known as PARC, between the European Union and New Zealand. New Zealand is one of the EUís closest partners, a country with which Europe shares common values and interests.
PARC builds on the existing joint declaration signed in 2007 developing and cementing those links, allowing for closer cooperation and more regular ministerial dialogue. PARC covers many of the areas that we would expect to see, and is similar in scope to the recently signed Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) with Canada, for which I am pleased to say I was also the Parliament Rapporteur.
These areas include fighting terrorism and organised crime, aiding global development, working together at the multilateral level, and combating climate change and supporting sustainable development. New Zealand is a leader in the renewable energy sector and has set itself ambitious targets for renewable energy production. This emphasis on combating climate change, supporting sustainable development and protecting biodiversity is very clear throughout the PARC, and I strongly support this. Article 15 for instance, which focuses on working together to further the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures, gives a sense of the level of commitment by all parties.
We also see PARC reaffirming the terms of the Framework Participation Agreement signed in 2012 which allows for New Zealand to contribute militarily towards European Union Common Security and Defence Policy missions. New Zealand has also participated in the EUís policing mission in Afghanistan. The signing of PARC is part of a wider development and success story of the EU itself, where we see it working effectively to secure agreements with third countries, both in terms of political cooperation, but also for trade.
This agreement marks the start of an increased engagement with the Pacific region, as the EU is set to start trade negotiations with New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Sadly just as Brexit happens in 2019 the EU will be about to conclude its FTAs with Commonwealth countries Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and possibly India; as well as Japan. The UK will have to renegotiate similar bilateral deals from scratch.
Moderating a panel at a conference on countering extremism in Brussels. Discussion took place on various issues such as combatting extremism and tackling the spread of terrorist propaganda facing not only the European Union but the wider world.
Visiting the new homeless charity Depaul UKís HQ in Southwark with its CEO Martin Houghton-Brown and senior partnerships manager Jason Eades.
Hopes for Cypriot talks
Pleased to catch up with my former MEP colleague and now Speaker of the Cypriot Parliament, President Demetris Syllouris. We discussed the collapse of the reunification talks of Cyprus and hopes for fresh progress in the future.
Meeting the new Ambassador of India to the EU H. E. Gaitri Issar Kumar to discuss Brexit, EU-India future relations and the Rohyngia Myanmar crisis.
Visiting a tuna canning factory in S„o Vicente, Cape Verde with MEP colleagues learning about EU phytosanitary regulations. I was proud to lead small delegation from the European Parliament to one of Africaís great democracy success stories.
Development aid policy
Meeting a delegation of Londoners explaining ONE Campaignís policy to maintain the European Parliamentís proposed share of the EU budget given to development aid.
Irish State TV interview
Speaking to RTE, Irish State TV, in the Strasbourg Parliament about the opening of Brexit negotiations and my hopes of resolving the Northern Ireland border question.
Interest in libraries
At a libraries exhibition. I have always loved libraries as a sanctuary for an enquiring mind and am fascinated how theyíre now adapting to the digital age.
Meeting with a ministerial delegation from Mexico to discuss EU-Mexico relations, including the upcoming upgrade of the trade agreement between the two.
At an event to support a campaign across Europe to raise awareness of the common emergency services 112 number, which I hope will survive Brexit.
Speaking with students
It is always a pleasure to speak to young students about the role of MEPs, Brexit and the future of the EU and the importance of voting and taking an interest in politics.
Co-signing a Parliamentary Urgency resolution on the Myanmar Rohingya crisis with my colleague Sajjad Haider Karim.
Welcoming retired US Senator Joe Lieberman to the European Parliament as a member of the Counter Extremism Project advisory international board.
ITN Brexit documentary
Being interviewed for an ITN documentary on Brexit negotiations where I welcomed the positive change in tone by the Government to the EU27 but remain cautious on the outcome.
With US State Department Director for South Central European Affairs discussing the Western Balkans including Montenegro where I am European Parliament Rapporteur on EU accession.
Receiving in the European Parliament, Robin Walker, Undersecretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union.
With Kirsty Hayes, H.M. Ambassador to Portugal discussing excellent current UK-Portugal relations and the consequences of Brexit.
Welcoming Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani, in my role as as Chair of the European Parliament Friends of Kurdistan. He discussed with MEPs the independence referendum and the final stages of the defeat of ISIS.