It cannot be assumed that the United Kingdom and European Union’s current shared foreign-policy interests will be saved from the broader disruption of Brexit.

The current public image of the Brexit process is of a British government negotiating with itself while simultaneously making little progress in Article 50 talks with the EU. It is perhaps inevitable that disputes over money, borders, citizens and a future trading relationship should overshadow other areas where the EU and UK could develop an effective post-Brexit partnership. Foreign, security and defence policy are areas where a departure from the existing intertwined relationship between the UK, the EU and the 27 other member states would have mutually detrimental effects.

The 13 October joint statement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Theresa May was a timely reminder of the shared security interests of the EU’s member states and the UK. In response to US President Donald Trump’s declaration that he would not seek congressional recertification of Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the leaders of the EU’s three largest member states together asserted that preserving nuclear diplomacy with Iran was a shared national-security interest. However, despite the shared interests and decades-long experience of EU–UK diplomatic cooperation, defence and security could be jeopardised by inflexibility in the design of the structures of the post-Brexit relationship.

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Richard G. Whitman is Director of the Global Europe Centre, University of Kent, and an Associate Fellow of Chatham House.

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Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

December 2017–January 2018

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