The British government has suffered another humiliating climb down as the EU has decided to cut out Westminster in any future role in cooperative policy making for foreign and defence matters related to the remaining member states.
The move has been revealed in a letter to all member states which reads that there will be no “outside interference” in the EU’s decision making process. The letter was seen by Irish state broadcaster, RTE on Sunday. It is believed that Cyprus along with Greece had a number of concerns about Britain having a special role in the EU’s foreign and security policy post-Brexit in that any access to EU meetings in the area of defence and security would become a future opportunity for Turkish pressure to seek access as well.
The letter clearly states that any consultations between the EU and UK on security and defence would be strictly informal, and that no “written documents” will be used to determine policy related to the EU. The Political Declaration on the future relationship raised suggestion that the UK might be invited to “informal ministerial meetings” as part of ongoing consultation and dialogue on security and defence matters but it is now understood that Cyprus raised concerns on this possible arrangement and has moved to block any further progress. Cyprus seems concerned that any future cooperation for a third country could set a marker for neighbouring Turkey to try and access the EU’s security and defence policy meetings.
In the letter, it clearly indicates that the UK “as a third country, is not a party to any institutional deliberation at whatever stage” and that “strong guarantees … written in to ensure that the work of the Council and its preparatory bodies is effectively protected from outside interference”. Further more, access to EU security and defence meetings will now only be approved by the High Representative, currently held by Federica Mogherini if they were seen as “appropriate” and the invitations would only be to “informal” gatherings of EU foreign and defence ministers. It also states written documents that were to arise from any meetings the UK was attending will not be used “as an input for ulterior [European] Council work” which stem from specifically “precisely circumscribed” rules dating back to 1999 during an EU summit in Helsinki.
The letter finished by stating that the European Council Legal Service will be “very vigilant in all future processes in which a need to protect the autonomy of decision-making of the Council”.