The Government’s Approach to UK-EU Security Cooperation


On Wednesday 9 May, the Government published a document entitled “Framework for the UK-EU Security Partnership”, intended “for discussion with the EU”. This follows previous statements and position papers on security, including Theresa May’s Munich Security speech from 16 February 2018 and position papers on ‘Security, law enforcement and criminal justice’ and ‘Foreign Policy, defence and development’  published in September 2017.

This document outlines Open Britain’s top lines and our assessment of the Government’s approach to post-Brexit security cooperation.


Top Lines

  • The Government now readily admits there is no existing structure when it comes to security issues which will replicate what the UK enjoys today as an EU member state.
  • Brexit will lead to a hampering of co-operation on a number of security issues, including the European Arrest Warrant, the European Criminal Records Information System, Europol and Eurojust.
  • On external security and foreign policy, the Government’s aim will essentially be to try to replicate existing structures which we benefit from as an EU member.
  • However, they remain determined to pursue the hardest form of Brexit imaginable, which makes weakening our security cooperation with the EU all but inevitable.
  • If Brexit means losing our leadership role in Europe and weakening our security and influence in the world, everyone has the right to ask whether doing so is in the national interest, and to decide whether the deal is good enough for this country through a People's Vote.


In Detail

No existing third country security partnership meets what the UK enjoys today: 

  • Today’s document acknowledges that there is no existing third country relationship which the EU has in security terms which matches what EU member states enjoy when it comes to protecting their citizens.
  • The Government says relying on precedents for EU agreements with third countries as a basis for the future relationship “would result in a patchwork of capability with a real drop in cooperation and serious attendant risks.”


Internal security issues:

  • The document concedes that being outside the EU would severely hamper co-operation on the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), Europol and Eurojust. It states that: “In some cases, for example ECRIS, there are no viable existing 3rd country alternatives.”
  • Additionally, the document notes that “there would be a clear mutual loss of operational law enforcement and criminal justice capability if the UK ceased to participate in and contribute to the EU’s [police and criminal justice measures] toolkit”, raising the question as to why the Government is looking to pursue this policy in the first place.
  • The document acknowledges that existing EU measures such as the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), the European Investigation Order (‘EIO’) and the Prisoner Transfer Framework Decision already work well for the UK, and “allow for reliable and efficient provision of assistance between jurisdictions and crucially provide legal certainty for law enforcement authorities and individuals subject to criminal proceedings.”
  • The document goes on to note that “EU agencies Europol and Eurojust are at heart of the efforts to tackle serious and organised crime and terrorism across Europe ... It is critical that the strength of these bodies are not weakened.” This raises the question as to how the Government intends to replicate the current UK participation in these EU agencies whilst at the same time leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.


External security issues:

  • The document suggests the Government would like to participate in both the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) missions, as well as the EU Defence Agency. However, it is unclear as to how the UK will be able to exert any influence as a non-EU country.
  • The Government is calling for “regular, structured UK-EU27 consultation”. However, former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, has been clear that “If you’re not in the room, you don’t [influence policy.]”.[1]
  • The document says the Government intends to “carry over all existing EU sanctions” and that “the UK is reviewing more than 1000 listings and sectoral measures to identify the best way to transfer these into UK law.”
  • Finally, the document notes that the “the UK and EU should keep the option open for UK participation in PESCO [Permanent Structured Co-operation] projects”. This is despite the fact that as an EU member state, the UK chose not to participate in PESCO[2] when it was launched.


[1] House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee, 11 July 2017