Stephen Kinnock: Many thanks to our panel for some really insightful analysis and views today. I wanted to ask you to do a bit of blue-sky thinking. I know that might be slightly unusual for this sort of session, but we are in uncharted waters. My point is that the West, so to speak, is facing a suite of very serious challenges. We have the rise of China. We have an increasingly authoritarian Russia. We have the possibility of the two-state solution being destroyed through annexation in the West Bank. We have chaos in Libya. Those are just a few of the huge geopolitical challenges we face.
It strikes me that whatever happens in the trade talks between the United Kingdom and the European Union, there is surely a need to protect the security of our citizens right across Europe, which is the first duty of any Government, or indeed any collection of Governments. Could I ask each of you to take a minute to sketch out what you think a new mechanism of co-ordination between the UK and the EU might look like, setting aside the questions about trade talks and how, if they go badly wrong, that could contaminate the broader dialogue? Let us hope that leaders will, nevertheless, realise the vital importance of co-ordination and dialogue across the EU and the UK. What would that mechanism look like to you? How do you think it could work? Is there a possibility of a kind of enhanced observer status—some sort of associate status for the UK to ensure that it is invited to some of these vitally important geopolitical discussions? How might that look?
Professor Chalmers: It is a very interesting question. It is going to be hard to get an agreement any time soon for the UK to have quasi-associate status in relation to the EU Foreign Affairs Council. That is partly because of UK concerns about sovereignty and not wanting to feel bound by connection to the Foreign Affairs Council. I think it is just as much because European Union member states would fear that having the UK in the room, even if we do not have a vote, would unduly shape the discussion in a direction that would weaken the authority of member states, and indeed blur the distinction between being a member state and not.
I do not think looking at that overarching framework is the most productive way to go ahead. Rather, we need to think about a range of other arrangements that can achieve a similar impact. NATO is a key overarching framework for defence issues. It does not cover every foreign policy area, but it is an important overarching framework. Within that, we have, of course, the Joint Expeditionary Force on the military side, which allows the UK to have very close co-operation with seven EU member states, as well as Norway. We have the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force with France operationally ready this year.
I suspect that one of the ways forward could well be to develop the foreign security policy aspect of JEF, although there are some sensitivities there from the EU states. Those are the states in the European Union with whom we are often closest on a range of issues. Also, the UK-France relationship is already a close one and could become closer. Alongside that, of course the E3 is a really important mechanism for mutual shaping of policy whenever there is a crisis, even when there is not, and there is always some sort of crisis. All of the issues you have talked about, Mr Kinnock, are one square. There will have been very frequent exchanges between those three countries at ministerial level, political director level, regional director level and so on, complementing that quad that I talked about earlier.
There have been some suggestions, particularly from President Macron, about a European security council. I know there has been a lot of discussion around that to try to understand what the nature of that proposal is. At present, it does not feel as if it is going anywhere because the French have not specified what they mean. You would have to specify how that related to the European Union mechanisms, but we should continue to talk.
A lot of this will depend on the United States. The primary reason why foreign and defence policy co-operation in Europe is intergovernmental—why in the 1950s the European community did not go in a different direction in relation to foreign and defence policy—is because the US is the leader on defence policy in particular, but foreign policy in general to a large extent. It is a backstop if Europeans do not agree with each other. You asked for blue-sky thinking. If the US was to become more and more absent and less reliable in relation to security challenges in the European neighbourhood—in north Africa, Turkey or wherever it might be—there would be a risk of more nationalisation of policy among European states, including within the European Union. You can see that in relation to Libya; different states are going in different directions.
The result is not likely to be anarchy. It is likely to be more one where there is more focus on a concert of major powers of Europe, at the core of which is likely to be the E3, but others may be brought in on some issues—Italy, for example, in relation to the Mediterranean. The role of the EU as an institution perhaps will become lesser. It is also possible, of course, under a different American President, that the US will become more engaged in multilateralism in Europe. It will not be the same as it was before, because the challenges are different, but there will be more of a sense of the Americans being prepared to act as a leader and, therefore, as we have seen on a number of issues, even under the Trump Administration, pushing people in a particular direction.
We are in a worrying position on a whole range of issues. The rise of major competition in relation to China and Russia is very evident indeed. I suppose my gloomy prognosis would be that, if we were to move to a situation in which the Americans pivoted to Asia to such an extent that Europeans had to take more responsibility for their backyard, greater European cohesion could not be taken for granted, by any means.
Professor Whitman: An observation, first of all, is that, with the UK having left the EU, that means that three large European state—the UK, Russia and Turkey—are outside the EU rather than within the EU. That raises questions about the architecture and arrangements for managing European security and diplomacy. Being frank, the EU and particularly other member states have not yet quite got to grips with the consequences of Brexit in those kinds of terms. There has been a bit of a paucity of thinking in EU state capitals, which is why ideas like the European Security Council that Malcolm raised have come out sort of malformed or have not really had much by way of a diplomatic push behind them.
Those kinds of discussions are going to have to happen sooner rather than later, and we are going to have to find some kind of mechanism for that higher-level interaction. Other forums, such as NATO for example, because of the number of states involved, do not really allow for that kind of thinking. The transatlantic relationship may well be complicated, again for the reasons that Malcolm has suggested.
I have two thoughts to add. The E3 is certainly a very interesting proposition and makes a lot of sense. With colleagues at Chatham House, we are putting out a report in a couple of weeks that looks at the possibilities for the UK of using the E3. It is there to be used, and it could be used in a more effective way.
The second point is that all the arrangements the EU has offered so far in the context of the Brexit negotiations have been pretty poor in their thinking about how you accommodate a state like the UK. They have essentially thought about the UK as a standard third country. They are along the lines of having a Norway-type deal, if you like, with the UK for foreign, security and defence policy co-operation. The EU has been very reluctant to think about the UK along the lines that it does the United States, which is that there is a higher-level, broad, overarching declaration that covers the relationship. A lot of the nitty-gritty actually happens on a day-to-day basis, on an intensive basis, outside of the arrangements that the EU has co-operation on with third countries.
The UK is a key part of the jigsaw, in terms of how we are going to manage the diplomatic order in Europe. It will obviously be for the UK—perhaps we will see more of that through the integrated review—but also other European states to think a bit harder about where they see the UK fitting, where there is of course so much by way of shared interests.