Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London


July 2018

The case for a new Western European Union

My magnum opus and swansong ‘The case for a new Western European Union (WEU): European Defence after Brexit’ on the options and solution to keeping the UK close with the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) post-Brexit has been published.

The report, which includes analysis of the Brexit negotiations, is available for download at www.charlestannock. com/weu.pdf

Brexit means the EU is losing one of its main military powers, while the European Union has proceeded further with defence integration than was possible while the UK was a member. Nevertheless, the UK and EU share important defence interests.

At present neither the EU nor the UK can agree on the terms of such cooperation. While the EU is willing for the UK to be involved in Common Foreign and Security Policy and CSDP as a third country (like Norway is), the UK believes the scale of its contribution to European security and defence means it should be able to take part in shaping common European defence policy and has repeatedly proposed as much in the Brexit negotiations, in addition to UK operational work with military partners (such as France and Poland) established under bilateral security treaties. The EU, however, considers that such a proposal would give a non-EU member state too much say over EU defence and security.

To break this impasse, my paper develops an idea from my 2017 report ‘Brexit: The security dimension’- to revive the WEU, which was established in 1948 by the Brussels Treaty, and expanded to admit Italy and West Germany in 1954. It functioned as a problem-solving European military organisation whose low profile relative to NATO and the European Communities enabled it to be used to overcome political obstacles and strengthen the Western alliance.

My paper assesses this idea against a background of advances in European defence integration and the state of Brexit negotiations, and compares it to alternative ways of managing the EU- UK defence relationship: including as an element of a comprehensive EU-UK partnership, an Article 217 Association Agreement like Ukraine’s and through a European Pillar within NATO.

The British decision to withdraw from the EU has led to the EU building its military capability in the activation of a Permanent Structured Cooperation.

A New WEU would have as its members those EU member states signed up to PESCO, as well as the EU itself (through the High Representative on Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) and non-EU European democracies such as the UK, Norway and perhaps Ukraine).

The New WEU would have three main functions: structured coordination and planning between its non-EU members and the EU; interface with the European Defence Agency and EU Defence Funds; and governance of a ‘shared defence market’.

Operational planning would be carried out either at the evolving European military headquarters or the headquarters of its other members, principally the UK’s Permanent Joint HQ at Northwood in London.

EU continues to push ahead with ambitious trade deals

The Parliament this month passed a resolution setting out its priorities for the EU’s ongoing negotiations for a renewed partnership agreement with Chile, which I was proud to promote as its rapporteur (author).

This agreement, like most that the EU concludes, pairs political cooperation with a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). This is one of the EU’s third-generation agreements, replacing a deal signed back in 2003.

Given the Foreign Secretary’s comments in May of this year during an official visit to Chile, that the UK is very keen to increase trade with the country, its timing during the Brexit negotiations is somewhat ironic.

Like many others, Chile will be yet another example of where the UK will be forced to renegotiate an existing deal after it leaves the EU, with little promise of bettering the terms already in place.

At a time when Leavers continue to champion the role that the Commonwealth can play in Britain’s future as an “independent, sovereign, trading nation”, its key members are embracing the EU.

Having already last year concluded a political agreement and FTA with Canada, negotiations with Australia and New Zealand are now beginning with the EU. Indeed, the EU’s Trade Commissioner was in Australia just this month to officially launch trade talks.

Meanwhile, talks between India and the EU are rumoured to be resurfacing after having previously broken down, largely due the UK’s insistence that there could be no link between a more open India in trading terms and a more open Britain in terms of granting work visas.

The Cabinet is preparing for its much publicised Chequers meeting on July 6, at which the best model for Britain to achieve its hard Brexit divorce from the EU will finally be agreed. As reports emerge that the meeting will involve the entire cabinet, rather than be limited to the so called ‘Brexit War Cabinet’, it seems likely that the Prime Minister’s customs partnership plan will prevail. Whilst formally leaving the EU Customs Union, it would seek to allow trade in goods between the UK and the EU to continue as they currently do now, aiming to solve the Northern Irish border issue and pacify broader business concerns at the same time.

Given the EU’s recent calls, however, for “realistic and workable proposals”, and taking into account the highly publicised comments of the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in which he hinted that such a proposal would be unobtainable cherry- picking, I remain cautious.

Wherever things end up, whilst the UK channels its energy into such debates, the EU is quietly tying up trade deals around the world with the very countries with which we hope to forge closer ties post-Brexit.

Local election campaigning

Delighted to assist campaigning in Balham ward, Wandsworth with local councillors and activists, ahead of the Council elections on May 3.

Cyprus Mayor meeting

Meeting with the new Mayor of the occupied Kyrenia municipality, Mrs Rita Elisseou Komodiki, in Cyprus. We discussed the rights of the Greek Cypriot people, a new Turkish nuclear power station that may be built 40 km away from Kyrenia and efforts to find missing people from the 1974 war.

Commonwealth and Ireland

Meeting Mike Lake CBE, Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, and Ireland Senator Frank Feighan to discuss ways of bringing Ireland closer to the Commonwealth and considering ideas to strengthen post-Brexit EU-Commonwealth future relations.

Slovak award received

I was honoured to receive along with three other British citizens the Special Certificate of Appreciation at the embassy of Slovakia in London, for my efforts to develop friendly relations between Slovakia and the UK on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Slovak Republic. In spite of Brexit, the UK’s strong bilateral relationship with Slovakia must continue and I will work hard for that end.

Homeless charity

Visiting the fantastic Brú Aimsir DePaul homeless shelter team in Dublin in my role as goodwill ambassador for Depaul International.

Italian TV debate

On Italian television in the Strasbourg Parliament discussing the recent Brexit deal and international news events.

Chanukah festival

Celebrating with fellow MEPs the festival of Chanukah in the Strasbourg European Parliament - a true spirit of amity across cultures and religions with widespread attendance.

Camden elections

In my London constituency, campaigning with Belsize Councillors in Camden ahead of May’s local elections.

Gender equality

It was a pleasure to host a working lunch for the Gender Equality Committee of the Montenegro Parliament led by Nada Drobnjak MP in my role as Rapporteur of the European Parliament for Montenegrin EU accession.

Discussing Brexit plans

In Hammersmith, participating in debate on a panel organised by the the European Movement, with fellow MEPs and ex-parliamentarians, where we discussed the future of the UK following Brexit and prospects for a a soft exit involving modest changes to the UK’s relationship with the EU.

Nigerian delegation

Pleased to welcome members of a Nigerian Parliamentary delegation to the European Parliament to discuss EU-Nigeria relations.

Speaking with students

Addressing an audience of students in the sixth form politics society at Jewish Free School in Kenton, North London this week speaking with them about my work as an MEP and the effects of Brexit on the UK.

Friend of Portugal

Greeting former President, now Minister, Ramos Horta from Timor Leste on his visit to the European Parliament in my capacity as co-chair of the Friends of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries here we discussed new government policies regarding oil exploration, EU aid, security and regional relations with ASEAN countries.

Fighting terrorism financing

Speaking to the ECR group media team about my shadowing of the European Parliament report by Javier Nart MEP on targeting the financing of terrorism, in which Her Majesty’s Government makes it clear it is giving unconditional assurances to the EU27 that the UK wishes to remain fully engaged in the security area.

Meeting in the Irish Parliament

In the Irish Parliament with Senator Neale Richmond and Ireland’s Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee.

Greenwich students

Welcoming to the Strasbourg Parliament a group of London law students from Greenwich University.

Anglo-Portuguese relations

In Lisbon with Assunção Cristas, leader of CDS-PP party of Portugal, and my former MEP colleague Luis Queiro to discuss the consequences of Brexit and Anglo-Portuguese relations.

Taiwan ceremony

Presiding over a donation ceremony between the Government of Taiwan and the Piracy Survivor Family Fund, which is administered by the London based International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network.

Italian TV Debate

On Italian television in the Strasbourg Parliament discussing the recent Brexit deal and international news events.
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