Safety in Europe : Why brexit won’t change our view on Nato

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The British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives on 19 October 2018 in the port of New York. Bild: dpa

London has declared to ensure Europe’s safety – even after leaving the European Union. In exchange Great Britain should demand higher defence expenditure of the EU-member states. A guest’s contribution.

          3 Min.

          Trident Juncture, an exercise that took place in autumn last year in Norway, demonstrated Nato's commitment to Europe’s security. With a combined military strength of around 50,000 troops, 250 aircraft, 65 ships and 10,000 vehicles, drawn from 30 nations, it was the largest display of Western power in Europe since the end of the Cold War. It underlined the Prime Minister’s commitment when she addressed last year’s Munich Security Conference, making clear that „Europe’s security is our security“ and „the United Kingdom is unconditionally committed to maintaining it”.

          Even as the UK forges a new path as we leave the European Union, British lawmakers like me remain committed to maintaining peace across the European continent and we will continue to support our European allies through Nato.

          Against a backdrop of continued threats from Islamic jihad and terrorism, Russian aggression and rogue states becoming more bellicose, the defensive response from European and Nato partners has been as united as it has been strong. For instance, when Russian agents attempted an assassination on British soil using a chemical agent, the condemnation was swift across European capitals.

          Alan Mak is member of the UK parliament for Havant.
          Alan Mak is member of the UK parliament for Havant. : Bild: Private

          Our joint approach on defence shows how far we have come since the St Malo Declaration 20 years ago. The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) that grew from that Anglo-French summit has had notable achievements in improving our regional security. Operation Atalanta off the Horn of Africa has meant cargo ships can now enter the Suez without fear of attack from Somali pirates. Operation Sophia has turned the tide in the fight against people smugglers off the North African coast. Operation Althea has helped maintain peace in Bosnia during the country’s recovery from conflict. All these operations saw the British Armed Forces deployed side-by-side with European allies.

          With our strategic overseas bases, a naval strength only further enhanced by two new aircraft carriers and an extensive intelligence network, Britain will remain a top tier, global military power and a willing and invaluable partner to our European neighbours after Brexit.

          That’s why the British Government has signalled our intent to continue as a CSDP partner, with a desire to go further than just being a third-party participant such as Norway, Switzerland or Turkey. Where it’s in the UK’s interest, we will be involved proportionately in operational planning for CSDP missions and the development of each mission’s mandate, the legal basis upon which action is taken. This is all part of our post-Brexit desire to remain active in ensuring our regional security.

          But while the CSDP has had notable achievements, mostly in policing the wider-Mediterranean, it does not offer the same protection as Nato. As Trident Juncture demonstrated, the combined military strength of Nato still makes it the pre-eminent global defence organisation. Nothing else supersedes its ability to protect our citizens. For the last 70 years, even through the darkest days of the Cold War, Nato’s founding principles, especially Article 5, have offered every allied state full collective protection.

          Juncker`s pooling is the wrong approach

          Europe must not allow Brexit to become a rallying force for an alternative organisation that could weaken Nato’s influence. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has been open in his desire for a European Defence Union to allow Member States to begin „pooling defence capacities in Europe”. This is the wrong approach. Pooling resources could mean more nations fall further behind the Nato two per cent of GDP defence spending target. With only Poland, Greece and Estonia joining the UK as EU nations meeting this commitment, more needs to be invested from our nearest neighbours on defence.

          In a world growing more uncertain, we need to renew our faith in Nato. As the Joint Declaration at the 2016 EU-Nato Warsaw Summit emphasised, „a stronger Nato and a stronger EU are mutually reinforcing”. We need to place our faith in the time-tested trans-Atlantic alliance that our enemies would like to see eroded. As Britain looks ahead, we can now take a far more global approach when it comes to defence and security policy, reaffirming old alliances with Australia, New Zealand and Japan in the Pacific, working to improving democracy and human rights around the world, and using our extensive diplomatic network protect Western values. Our Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt rightly sees the UK acting as an „invisible chain” binding together nations that share our values of peace, prosperity and security.

          Yet this cannot be done alone. Nato will remain at the heart of our approach when it comes to keeping our citizens and interests safe. As the UK leaves the EU, we want to continue our close co-operation with our European partners, but this must be in the context of increasing national defence budgets to ensure our collective contribution to Nato remains robust in the face of new and growing threats to the rules-based international order.

          Zur deutschen Version geht es hier.

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