European Defence Co-operation

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

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Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Conservative, Mid Worcestershire 12:00 am, 26th November 2018

What recent discussions he has had with his European counterparts on strengthening defence co-operation.

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

I hold regular discussions with my European counterparts on a wide range of issues, including strengthening defence co-operation. This is done not only through organisations such as NATO, but on a bilateral basis.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Conservative, Mid Worcestershire

NATO has been at the heart of our efforts to ensure security and peace in Europe. Will the Secretary of State confirm that, as we leave the EU, we will continue to be just as keen to participate in NATO, right alongside our European allies and friends?

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

There is a misunderstanding that the European Union is the organisation that has delivered peace and security on the continent of Europe—we all know that for almost 70 years now that has been done by NATO, as my hon. Friend is right to point out. We will continue to liaise closely with all our partners, whether they are in the EU or not.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

The Prime Minister has managed to unite the whole House in opposition to her half-baked Brexit deal, which, after two years of negotiations, is remarkably short on detail on our future relationship with the EU. One of the many questions that remains unanswered is the nature of our participation in the European defence fund, with just a cursory reference to it in the political declaration. This matters to the UK defence companies and research partners who want to have full access to the grants that the fund provides, so can the Secretary of State confirm that that will be the case?

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

As I am sure the hon. Lady is aware, 90% of our collaboration with European countries is done not through the European Union, but on a bilateral basis. I imagine that is where the greatest amount of growth will be in the future. We have the option of being able to participate in the European defence fund, but it is not necessarily something we will choose to participate in.