Germany Forging Post-Brexit Defense 'Road Map' With the U.K.

  • Security cooperation must survive Brexit, von der Leyen says
  • German minister says she’s working closely with U.K.’s Fallon

Germany’s defense chief said she’s forging a security “road map” with the U.K. to ensure that tight cooperation on military matters survives Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she’s working with U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon on a bilateral project for the two North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. In an interview at the Munich Security Conference, the German minister said that cooperation goes beyond membership of the EU.

Ursula von der Leyen

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

“We want to have very close ties,” von der Leyen said in the Bavarian capital. “We know we need each other. We are both members of NATO and we have common interests to increase our cooperation.”

As Prime Minister Theresa May’s government formulates plans for Britain’s post-exit relationship with the EU, Fallon said the U.K. may still take part in EU military operations after leaving the bloc. May has previously indicated that if exit negotiations turn sour then current joint work on security, intelligence and military collaboration could stop.

Speaking on the sidelines of the security conference, Fallon said he wouldn’t “rule out” requests from the EU for security assistance.

“Otherwise much of the burden is going to fall on France,” Fallon said.

Defense Spending

Von der Leyen, a close ally and party colleague of Chancellor Angela Merkel, spent her time at the security conference reasserting Germany’s commitment to raise its defense spending to 2 percent of economic output by the middle of the next decade from about 1.2 percent currently.

Still, the minister echoed Merkel in saying that spending would climb moderately so it could be absorbed by a wider array of military projects, even as the new U.S. administration of President Donald Trump demands spending boosts.

“We aim to reach that goal, without any question,” von der Leyen said in the interview. “But you can waste a hell a lot of money if you do it inefficiently.”

The U.K., one of five NATO members whose spending exceeds the 2 percent mark, has spent years rejecting any attempt by the EU to assert security power, fearing it would diminish the role of NATO. The German-U.K. road map is “independent” of the EU, von der Leyen said.

“Security matters for us as people on the European continent and in the U.K.,” the German minister said. “We have common enemies.”