UK outlines post-Brexit defence cooperation plans
On Wednesday, the Government released details about its proposal for future security cooperation with the EU beyond Brexit, which will form the basis of negotiations with the European Commission. The presentation detailing the Government’s position, entitled ‘Framework for the UK-EU Security Partnership’, calls for a new and dynamic internal security treaty that would maintain levels of cooperation, including through EU agencies, and data-driven law enforcement. This would be specifically aimed at joint cooperation to tackle new threats and changes in technology.
Specifically, the ambition of the UK is for this to go beyond any existing third-country arrangements, an exception that would allow the UK and the EU to maintain and strengthen the joint ability to tackle shared threats. The Government want this to be a “core chapter” of the UK-EU future framework, which will be concluded alongside the withdrawal agreement later this year, which would ensure that there is no pause in security cooperation. While the Government is confident of support among individual EU nations, who are keen to maintain the relationship with one of the world’s leading powers in defence and intelligence, it is less clear what approach will be adopted by the European Commission, which is negotiating with the UK on behalf of all EU nations. EU rules as they currently stand do not allow such access for non-members.
UK could build satellite navigation system to rival Galileo
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph published on Wednesday, the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, suggested that the UK could look to develop its own satellite navigation system should the UK be excluded from access to the secure network provided by the Galileo system currently under construction. Under the current programme only EU members will have access to Galileo’s military-grade signal - needed to accurately target weapon systems - once it becomes operation from 2021. A support facility capable of receiving military data from Galileo has already been moved from the UK to Spain. Mr Williamson said that, while Galileo remains the UK’s preferred solution, the government would respond to any denial of access by developing a rival system, potentially in collaboration with other allies such as Japan, Australia or South Korea.
UK industrial involvement in Galileo means that the technical ability to do this is, Mr Williamson suggested, already held in the UK. Significantly, much of the encryption has been developed here. In total the UK has contributed around £1.2 billion to the nearly £9 billion programme, with UK industry receiving a substantial number of Galileo contracts in return. However, there has been recent concern that British companies have recently been locked out of further business.
In the interview, Mr Williamson also alluded to similar thinking regarding the next generation of combat jets should it not prove possible to participate in programmes with other European nations – a veiled reference to the Franco-German programme announced last year to work towards the co-development of a post Typhoon/Rafale capability.
INDUSTRY IMPACT OF BREXIT: Asked what recent assessment has been made of the effect on the defence and aerospace industry of the UK leaving the EU, Minister for Defence Procurement, Guto Bebb MP replied that ‘the MOD is working closely with defence industry and other Government Departments to understand the implications and opportunities presented by the UK's departure from the European Union. Through our future partnership with the European Union, we want to explore how best to ensure that our industries can continue working together to deliver the capabilities that we need to protect the UK and its allies and partners. It is worth noting that current major European collaborative capability projects, such as the Typhoon programme, are managed bilaterally or with groups of partners, rather than through the EU.’
Upcoming Supplier Engagement Events:
NDI is supporting Rheinmetall and KMW, who will be hosting two supplier engagement events for the BOXER programme on 23rd and 24th May. These will provide an introduction to the programme, an overview of the supply opportunities and a networking opportunity. The venue for the 23rd May event is St Pierre Marriott, Chepstow, while the 24th May event will be hosted by Pearson Engineering, Armstrong Works, Newcastle upon Tyne.