20 European Union countries will today sign a pledge to co-operate closely on defence with the UK government not involved in the defence pledge.
Previous efforts to strengthen links have been unsuccessful for decades due to Britain’s opposition to a combined European military.
“We’ve never come this far before,” a senior European Union official told Reuters, he said of EU defence integration efforts that date back to a failed bid in the 1950s. “We are in a new situation.”
The permanent structured cooperation on defence agreement (PESCO), seeks to tighten defence between EU members and improve coordination in the development of new military hardware.
Aside from Denmark, which has opted out of all EU defence, only Austria, Poland, Ireland and Malta have yet to decide whether to join the pact. The UK Government however have signalled that it wants a close security relationship with the EU after Brexit.
“It’s in our mutual interest to work closely with the EU and its member states to challenge terrorism and extremism, illegal migration, cyber crime, and conventional state-based military aggression” said David Davis, Brexit secretary.
The UK contributes to several EU military programmes, including those countering migration from Libya and piracy off Somalia.