The UK Government has released a Paper outlining the UK’s proposals for a future partnership with the EU regarding foreign policy, defence and development. The Paper highlights the UK’s shared interests and values with the EU regarding foreign policy and defence, and the UK Government’s offer and intention to work closely with the EU in the future in a partnership “unprecedented in its breadth”, and that is deeper than any other third country relationship. The Paper offers a number of insights into the practical ways in which the UK envisages that such cooperation will be achieved after Brexit, including in relation to sanctions, cyber security, defence and security, development and broader foreign policy.

Foreign policy and sanctions

By way of introduction to the UK Government’s position on foreign policy and sanctions after Brexit, the Paper observes the past and current role and impact of the UK in enhancing European security. It draws on examples of UK foreign policy success such as UK involvement in delivering the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 in 2015 and the UK’s contribution to European action on a range of efforts including those to counter terrorism, violent extremism and serious and organized crime.

The Paper recognizes, in particular, that sanctions are “a vital and effective foreign policy tool” and refers to the UK’s “active role in driving policy on the global and European stage“. It further notes the impact that the UK has had as “the most active Member State in proposing autonomous EU sanctions as a foreign policy tool“, observing that many of the asset freezes applied to terrorist organisations in the EU are based on UK national proscriptions or asset freezes. The Paper also mentions the UK’s role in encouraging co-operation between the EU and third states, including the US, to increase the reach and impact of such measures. The Paper cites the example of the EU sanctions against Russia following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 as an illustration of this role.

In terms of the future post-Brexit, the Paper confirms the intention to establish a UK national legal framework for sanctions, but indicates that the UK “continues to see a strong mutual interest in cooperation and collaboration with European partners“. The Paper proposes that the UK and EU should have regular close consultations on foreign policy and security issues, with the option to agree joint positions on foreign policy issues, suggesting that this “could include cooperation on sanctions listings, including by sharing information and aligning policy where appropriate“.

Defence, security and the CSDP

The Paper highlights the UK’s contribution to European security, referring to the UK’s (i) defence capabilities and budget, (ii) defence and security relationships with European partners through bilateral and other frameworks (such as the UK-France Lancaster House Treaties signed in 2010 providing a framework for co-operation across defence policy, military capability and nuclear matters); (iii) positive impact on the growth and competitiveness of the EU defence and security industries through research and development; (iv) leverage brought to bear in support of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and European security; and (v) use of its permanent membership of the UN Security Council to support EU priorities.

The Paper also refers to the UK’s role as a founding member of the EU’s CSDP, which provides the framework for the military operations and civilian missions conducted in support of the EU’s CFSP, and its contribution to CSDP operations and missions.

It is clear in the Paper that the UK envisages a very close relationship with the EU in terms of defence and security matters going forward, proposing a “deep level of co-operation” and expressing an intention to establish how best to “utilise UK assets“. The Paper envisages scope for the UK and EU to work together on CSDP missions and operations, including UK personnel, expertise, assets or use of established UK national command and control facilities.

The Paper recognizes the integrated nature of the European defence industry, the innovative nature of the sector and the UK’s role in maintaining Europe’s technical excellence through innovation, research and collaboration. On this basis, the Paper highlights the importance of open markets and customs arrangements that are as frictionless as possible to ensure the continued success of the defence sector. Other proposals noted for consideration include UK collaboration on European Defence Agency projects as well as models for participating in the EU Commission’s European Defence Fund.

Other matters: cyber security, international development, and “cross-cutting issues”

Cyber security is highlighted as “a key element of protecting European security and values“. The Paper states that the “UK seeks to maintain the broadest possible cooperation to address shared cyber security threats” and proposes to respond to state-based threats and non-state based actors through close collaboration, including through participation in the CSIRT network and in the context of development of effective cyber security legislation.

The Paper proposes that the UK will continue to use its international development budget through its international development partnerships to advance global development impact or to tackle specific country problems. It proposes that close collaboration with European partners will continue on a case-by-case basis and be subject to the UK’s standards on full transparency, accountability, risk and assurance, results and value for money. The Paper also contemplates reciprocal exchange of development and humanitarian policy experts.

Further to the proposed “deep and special future partnership” that the UK seeks with the EU, the Paper also indicates that the UK could offer: (i) reciprocal exchange of foreign and security policy experts and military personnel; (ii) classified information exchange to support external action; and (iii) mutual provision of consular services in third countries where either EU Member States or the UK lack a diplomatic presence, and continued co-location of diplomatic premises.


As is to be expected at this stage of the UK-EU negotiations, the Paper focuses more on principle than detailed proposals or concrete commitments.

Nonetheless, businesses will welcome the clear emphasis in the Paper on continued and close co-operation. The Paper is keen to emphasise the key role played by the UK currently in the EU’s foreign, security and defence policy, and makes clear that the UK wishes for minimal change after Brexit.

In particular, businesses who have to negotiate the intricacies of sanctions regimes will welcome the assurance of regular close consultations and the possibility of co-operation on sanctions listings, as well as the suggestion of policy alignment “in appropriate circumstances“. The Paper comes shortly after the UK Government published its response to the consultation on sanctions policy and framework post-Brexit, discussed in our blog post here.‎

Further, the recognition in the Paper of the integrated nature of the European defence sector, and the role of the UK defence and security industry in maintaining European technological excellence, will also be of note to both the UK and European defence industries. The UK’s stated position is to facilitate continued collaboration to ensure the continuing success of this sector.