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Defence and Security: The UK and Romania after Brexit

Defence and Security: The UK and Romania after Brexit

No. 7-8, Sep.-Dec. 2017 » DiploMATTERS

We live in a better world than our parents or grandparents did. Romania’s GDP is a remarkable five times higher that it was at the turn of this millennium. More countries, like Romania, are more open, democratic and stable than they were a couple of generations ago. We are more tolerant, with more rights for religious, ethnic and sexual minorities. We have access to technologies that were unimaginable just a few decades ago. And even if we look outside the developed world, there is good news. In 1990, 1.9 billion human beings lived in extreme poverty. That number had, despite population growth, been cut in half by 2010. In 25 years, global mortality rate for children under 5 years of age declined by more than half. Many fewer people are contracting HIV/AIDS and more are living with it.

But that incredible set of achievements, encompassing great swathes of humanity, is not irreversible. We must continue to be vigilant to a whole array of threats – some new, some old – that we face.

The list of threats that require a response is wide – terrorism, international organised crime, humanitarian disasters, with causes both man-made and natural, migration, hybrid warfare and cyber security and so on. None of those threats are unique to the United Kingdom and all of them demand that we work together.

So we will. 

Enduring partnerships 

Over 1,000 British troops participated in NATO exercises on Romanian soil; two Royal Navy Type-45 destroyers docked in Constanța; and four RAF Typhoon Aircraft were based on Romanian soil for four months over the summer to help police the skies over Romania, as part of NATO deterrence measures.

The decision of the British people to leave the European Union was not a decision to leave Europe and the UK will continue to be a vital player in NATO, work closely with the European Union to tackle joint threats and work hard to get the most of the bilateral relationships with countries like Romania, that have proved to be steadfast allies and like-minded partners.

For more than half a century, the UK has worked with nations from Europe and across the Atlantic to forge our common security based on the fundamental values we all share. The UK is the second largest defence spender in NATO. We have a highly developed set of security relationships such as the Five Eyes intelligence cooperation with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and we have invested in critical capabilities such as our nuclear deterrent and two new aircraft carriers. We are also a leading contributor to international missions.

Romania, over recent years, has also made a significant contribution to European security. Romania is one of the very few countries that meet the NATO Defence Investment Pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defence and 20% of its defence budget on equipment. And Romania has been prepared to make real commitments to the operations and missions that guarantee our security. For example, Romanians have served with distinction in places such as Afghanistan and the Western Balkans.

Our bilateral security work is vital. 2017 was a particular high point for cooperation in this field. Over 1,000 British troops participated in NATO exercises on Romanian soil; two Royal Navy Type-45 destroyers docked in Constanța; and four RAF Typhoon Aircraft were based on Romanian soil for four months over the summer to help police the skies over Romania, as part of NATO deterrence measures.

Prime Minister Theresa May has proposed a new UK/EU treaty on internal security encompassing three central components:
Firstly, practical co-operation to facilitate fast and efficient means to convict serious criminals. Second, co-operation between law enforcement agencies, including the sharing of expertise, information and intelligence. And thirdly, the exchange of data.

Meanwhile, close cooperation to tackle terrorism and international organised crime has also continued between our nations. The UK has more Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) set up with Romania than with any other nation. That collaboration has borne fruit. For example, in 2016, a UK-Romanian JIT was set up to investigate an organised crime group engaged in trafficking Romanian nationals for sexual exploitation in the UK. Following that joint work, UK law enforcement arrested controllers and rescued vulnerable victims, many of whom who had been subject to horrific abuse. This joint approach completely dismantled the organised crime group. In total there were 21 arrests, 35 vulnerable victims were safeguarded and vehicles and cash were seized. 18 members are currently facing trial in Romania. Therefore, our work together is valued and delivers results. 

The road ahead 

As the UK leaves the European Union, we must ensure that we continue to work together effectively to keep our people safe. As Prime Minister Theresa May set out at the Munich Security Conference on 17 February: 

We must do whatever is most practical and pragmatic to provide security for our citizens, and not allow competition between partners, rigid institutional restrictions or deep-seated ideology to inhibit our co-operation and jeopardise the security of our citizens.” 

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a leading contributor to NATO and the US’ closest partner, we have never defined our approach to external security primarily through our membership of the EU. So, upon leaving the EU, it is right that the UK will pursue an independent foreign policy.

That starts with internal security. The UK has been at the forefront of shaping the arrangements that underpin our internal security co-operation. Expedited extradition, mutual legal assistance, and co-operation between law enforcement agencies have helped dismantle organised crime groups and combat terrorism. And we have become one of the largest contributors of information to European databases and Europol.

People across Europe are safer as a result, and we must find ways to protect these capabilities when we leave the EU. In order to do that, the Prime Minister has proposed a new UK/EU treaty on internal security encompassing three central components:

Firstly, practical co-operation to facilitate fast and efficient means to convict serious criminals. Second, co-operation between law enforcement agencies, including the sharing of expertise, information and intelligence. And thirdly, the exchange of data.

There are no legal or operational reasons why we could not reach such an agreement, although it will require real political will on both sides to make it happen. Negotiations over this will need to be practical and pragmatic, respectful of both the UK and EU’s sovereign legal orders; include comprehensive data protection arrangements; and be adaptable in the face of future threats. But it is in all of our interests to get this right. 

EU, NATO and beyond 

Clearly our security interests do not stop at the edge of our continent. And as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a leading contributor to NATO and the US’ closest partner, we have never defined our approach to external security primarily through our membership of the EU. So, upon leaving the EU, it is right that the UK will pursue an independent foreign policy. But our interests will continue to be based on shared values and a commitment to working together.

Our partnership must include three key things. First, at a diplomatic level, we should have the means to consult regularly on the global challenges we face, and co-ordinate, for example, on the use of sanctions. Second, co-operation on the ground, alongside each other. That could mean continuing to contribute to an EU operation or mission as we do now, or contributing to EU development programmes, as long as we can play an appropriate role in shaping collective action. And third, continuing to develop capabilities to meet future threats.

We need a partnership that respects the decision-making autonomy of the EU and the sovereignty of the UK. It should also offer both sides the means to combine efforts to the greatest effect. If the EU and remaining Member States believe that the best means to increase their contribution to collective security is through greater integration, we will look to work with them, and help them to do so in a way that strengthens NATO and our wider alliances too.

Our partnership must include three key things. First, at a diplomatic level, we should have the means to consult regularly on the global challenges we face, and co-ordinate, for example, on the use of sanctions. Second, co-operation on the ground, alongside each other. That could mean continuing to contribute to an EU operation or mission as we do now, or contributing to EU development programmes, as long as we can play an appropriate role in shaping collective action. And third, continuing to develop capabilities to meet future threats.

On defence, that means agreeing a relationship between the UK and European Defence Fund and Defence Agency. On cyber, it means a truly global response – the UK, EU, NATO and industry all working together to strengthen our capabilities. And in space, where the UK plays a leading role, we want to keep open all the options to collaborate most effectively, such as developing the Galileo programme. 

Conclusion 

Those who threaten our security would like nothing more than to see us fractured and put debates about mechanisms ahead of keeping our people safe. To defeat them we need a dynamic relationship, not a set of transactions, built on an unshakeable commitment to shared values. We need a responsive partnership, able to adapt rapidly to new threats. We must all play our full part. The UK stands ready to do exactly that, now and in the years to come.

 
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