Part of a series from the Fresh Start Group on what Leave would look like.

What does Vote Leave mean for the Defence of the Realm?

It means:

  • We will continue to defend our Country through close cooperation with NATO, as we have for 70 years;
  • We will continue to cooperate with our European Allies.

“We are clear that NATO is the cornerstone of our defence.”
– Rt Hon David Cameron MP, 12th February 2012

Current problems with EU membership

The UK is one of only two EU nations with full spectrum defence capability. Its defence, intelligence and security services are highly valued by its allies. NATO has been the cornerstone of our security for nearly 70 years, with the EU playing, at best, a complementary role. The UK chooses to take part in EU missions and furthers our interests and contributes financially to others. Participation in such operations is also open to non-member states and NATO. Our co-operation and interoperability is highly valued and would continue if Britain decided to leave the EU. Intelligence sharing and defence capability development can only be done on a bilateral basis. Moves to create EU-wide intelligence agencies would not result in intelligence being shared EU-wide. We would lose nothing by leaving, but would gain much.

As the EU Common Security and Defence Policy moves toward greater integration, the UK’s freedom of action and operational effectiveness is being increasingly constrained.  We send the monetary equivalent of a warship a week to the EU.

Our critical intelligence gathering and sharing with the US is being placed in jeopardy, and ruled as illegal by the EU.  We are unable to have full control over our borders, so that even if we suspect someone of being one of the 5,000 Daesh trained fighters Europol thinks have returned to Europe, we are powerless to prevent their entry to the UK. Funding for established EU missions that we support are being vetoed by other nations, wasting resource and effort. Judges interpreting European laws are undermining international humanitarian law in armed conflict resulting in litigation against our troops and limiting their actions in theatres of war. And the failure to recognise the needs of member states to thrive economically and secure their own borders is resulting in civil unrest, the rise of extremism and tensions between states. The EU assumes authority over defence and security without having or displaying responsibility.

Immediately following Vote Leave

There will be a smooth process of transition following Vote Leave and as all EU law is enshrined in UK law it will remain in place unless repealed by the UK Parliament. For the duration of the renegotiation period, the UK would continue to be a party to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), including commanding the EU battle group next year. All EU treaty arrangements would continue to apply to all member states. We could confirm our commitment to NATO to spend two per cent of GDP on defence.

Within 2-5 years of Vote Leave (depending on EU process)

Whilst there will be areas of cooperation with the EU, the fundamental underpinning of UK defence policy is our relationship with NATO. With sovereignty restored, we would be able to explore options such as:

  • Use our freedom of action to focus defence activity, engagement and budget on the interests of the UK;
  • Revise defence procurement regulations to improve UK competitiveness in this sector;
  • Investigate closer integration and intelligence sharing with the “Five Eyes” under the terms of the UKUSA Agreement and formal expansion to include the SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR) comprising Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden;
  • Save the £23 million currently spent each year on CSDP.