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UK-EU Defence Relationship

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th November 2018.

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Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools) 12:00 am, 26th November 2018

What recent discussions he has had with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the UK’s future defence relationship with the EU.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Employment)

What recent discussions he has had with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the UK’s future defence relationship with the EU.

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

All Ministry of Defence Ministers meet their EU counterparts regularly to discuss important matters of European security. I attended the October NATO defence ministerial meeting, which was also attended by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

For the record, Manchester’s armed forces champion is Councillor Tommy Judge, who was blown up twice by the IRA: once in the M62 bus bombing and once on the Falls Road. We know who are champions are. UK suppliers depend on just-in-time supply chains and therefore need frictionless trade. Does the Secretary of State agree that only a full customs union with the EU will ensure that?

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Employment)

The Royal United Services Institute has concluded that the collapse in the value of the pound against the dollar following the Brexit vote could lead to additional costs of £700 million a year to the MOD. What is the Secretary of State’s Department doing to mitigate this?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

What we always do is look at how we can drive efficiency through the Department, how we can do procurement better and how we can procure more of our future capabilities and equipment from the United Kingdom.

Photo of Marcus Fysh Marcus Fysh Conservative, Yeovil

The withdrawal agreement would commit the UK to all the EU’s state aid prevention rules without giving our defence industry any exemption from those rules. On what planet could we possibly support such a measure, which would destroy jobs across this nation and make our defence industry uncompetitive?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

We are looking to ensure that we have the freedom and independence that we need in terms of defence procurement, and that is integral to everything we are going to do. We will want to see whether there are options when it comes to having access to some programmes in the European Union, and if that works for Britain, we will consider it.

Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence)

The Prime Minister has said that the UK is unconditionally supportive of Europe’s defence, and those of us on the SNP Benches welcome that, but the European Defence Agency has multiple associations for countries outside the European Union, including Norway and now Ukraine. Is it the Secretary of State’s intention to explore such an association membership for the UK after we leave the European Union?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be aware that Britain was involved in the security of continental Europe long before the creation of the European Union. We feel quite confident that the cornerstone of our security is NATO, not the European Union, and that is where our focus is going to be.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement)

Last Thursday, I asked the Prime Minister what the cost would be of developing a British alternative to the Galileo project, given that she has failed to negotiate Britain’s participation in Galileo, post-Brexit. I received absolutely no answer from her. The cost would in fact be between £3 billion and £5 billion. Given the support of the Defence Secretary for this move, will he tell me whether the Treasury has agreed to pay that sum?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

It is typical of the Labour party to want to hand over money continually to the European Union for nothing in return. When we look at the satellite technology, we see that it has been developed here in the UK with British money. We are more than capable of delivering the system with international allies. I hate to have to point it out to the hon. Gentleman, but there are more international allies around the globe than just the European Union, such as the United States, Japan, Australia, South Korea and many others we can work with.