UK Defense, European Defense and Brexit: Note 2


Brexit is a process which have a major impact on the UK and Europe for sure.

And no matter what the Brexit negotiated outcome that will be sorted out between the EU and the UK, both continental Europe and the UK will have to find a way to work together going forward.

The UK has a long history of dealing with continental Europe as does continental Europe with the United Kingdom, and certainly not all peaceful.

Brexit is an episode of history which will be ingested as the UK and Europe go forward in the next phase of their interactions.

Clearly, the UK and as well as major continental powers will sort out a way ahead, but as they do so several trajectories of developments will be set in motion.

A key one is that the UK is a major defense power within Europe and only France really is at the same level.

And given the continuing very significant defense shortfalls in Germany, a Franco-German defense relationship certainly not can not deliver the same European defense effect as can a continuing and perhaps deepened UK-French defense relationship.

But what will be the French-UK defense relationship after Brexit?

Clearly, both countries are concerned about this and are working the issue.

The latest evidence of this if Britain and France signing an agreement to exchange test pilots.

According to a story published today on the UK Ministry of Defence website, the first defence ministerial council has taken place in Paris.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and French Minister of the Armed Forces Mme Florence Parly today (17 May) held the first Defence Ministerial Council since the announcement of a permanent and regular forum for the discussion of UK-France defence cooperation in January 2018. During the meeting a bespoke technical arrangement which will oversee the exchange of test pilots between the two nations was signed.

The agreement formalises an exchange enabling French pilots to train at the UK Empire Test Pilots’ School based at MOD Boscombe Down, and British pilots to train at the French Test Pilots’ School, Ecole du Personnel Navigant d’Essais et de Reception based on the Istres Le Tube Airbase. This reciprocal exchange of personnel ensures that the skills of military flight test, analysis and capability enhancement are shared between the Armed Forces of UK and France, further strengthening the UK’s relationship with France and building on the strong partnership between our armed forces.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

France is one of our most important allies and this agreement symbolises the importance of deep defence and security relationships. By participating in this exchange programme, we will strengthen understanding between our personnel.

We are the only two European powers willing and able to deploy and sustain significant military power and we will continue to work towards a special partnership for the future.

The UK and France have also successfully carried out the second development firing of the Sea Venom missile which will equip the Royal Navy and French Navy helicopters to prosecute a wide range of surface threats, from fast inshore attack craft up to corvette-sized vessels, including in coastal environments. Sea Venom has both ‘fire and forget’ mode as well as a ‘man in the loop’ capability, which allows full missile control until target impact.

French and British Armed Forces operate alongside each other in NATO, including as part of the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in Estonia. The UK and France have been fighting Daesh together in Iraq and Syria, and last month launched coordinated strikes against Syrian regime chemical weapons stocks. The UK and French navies work together around the globe to uphold freedom of navigation and the laws of the sea, with UK personnel currently taking part in France’s Jeanne d’Arc naval deployment to the Asia-Pacific region, and are building on work last year to increase coordination of hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean.

We are also developing cutting-edge defence capability projects together and deepening links across our Armed Forces, vital actions as both the UK’s National Security Capability Review and last year’s French Strategic Review of Defence and National Security described a world of rising instability and unpredictability – which is why we are conducting the Modernising Defence Programme to make sure we are configured to address the intensifying and complex threats that we are our allies now face.

Earlier, a March 30, 2018 press release by the Embassy of France in London provided an update on a meeting between the procurement ministers of the two countries.

Paris, 30 March 2018

The Délégué général pour l’armement, Joël Barre, had a meeting on 29 March 2018 with his British counterpart, Minister for Defence Procurement Guto Bebb, for the 29th High Level Working Group.

The meeting, organized in the framework of the Lancaster House treaty, follows the Franco-British summit of 18 January 2018 between President Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May. The discussion came after the [French] Military Estimates Bill was submitted to Parliament and as the Defence Modernization Programme is under way on the British side.

M. Barre and Mr Bebb reviewed the many programmes on which France and the UK are cooperating at present, as well as potential subjects of interest. More specifically, in accordance with the guidelines set at the Sandhurst summit, M. Barre and Mr Bebb agreed on the broad lines of the new phase of technological work to be conducted as part of the Future Combat Air System programme.

A detailed review of the One Complex Weapons initiative was carried out. The Délégué général pour l’armement and the Minister for Defence Procurement especially welcomed the fact that MBDA had successfully completed the first contractual stage of the FMAN-FMC concept phase.

Our joint mine warfare programme was also discussed at the meeting; it develops an autonomous system to the highest global standard, while offering interesting prospects for export.

New areas of capability cooperation were also identified for more detailed analysis.

The results of the meeting will help prepare for the first Franco-British ministerial defence council, established at the recent summit.

Joël Barre, the Délégué général pour l’armement, declared that:

“In accordance with the orientations defined in the Strategic Review, the Military Estimates Bill proposes an unprecedented defence effort. Besides speeding up the modernization of our conventional equipment and launching the renewal of the two components of France’s nuclear deterrent, it also aims to consolidate European cooperation in equipment programmes.

“With this in mind, and driven by a shared determination renewed by the Sandhurst agreement, that we are working with the UK to jointly develop the systems that will enable our armed forces to meet the challenges of tomorrow.”

The Defence Procurement Minister said:

“France remains our most important European defence partner. Our unique relationship in security and defence has lasted more than a century. We continue to work closely to deliver the best equipment to our forces in land, sea, air, space and cyber. In a world of growing global threats, we are working together to ensure the continued security of Europe and our common allies.”

- The HLWG (High-Level Working Group) is the highest governing body for Franco-British armaments cooperation. It was created by the 2010 Lancaster House treaty, which establishes defence cooperation between France and the United Kingdom which has little, indeed no equal worldwide. The HLWG meets several times a year. It is co-chaired by Joël Barre, Délégué général pour l’armement, and Guto Bebb, the British Minister for Defence Procurement.

- The One Complex Weapons initiative covers a broad spectrum of joint missile projects, including the concept phase for the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon, the helicopter-launched Light Anti-Ship Missile project, initiated at the 2014 Franco-British summit in Brize Norton and currently undergoing tests, the upgrade of the ASTER anti-air missile and mid-life refurbishment of the SCALP/Storm Shadow cruise missile. One Complex Weapons also covers MBDA’s development of centres of excellence in France and the UK./.

The featured photo shows Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and French Minister of the Armed Forces Mme Florence Parly. Crown copyright.