18 January 2019

Brexit is already affecting security policy

Britain wants to be a major power, but it is not certain that its finances will suffice once the country leaves EU. This is a conclusion of FOI researchers in a report on the implications of Brexit for security policy.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

When Britain leaves EU, it will also have an impact on security policy. Britain has large armed forces, which are already being affected by Brexit, and this in turn has effects beyond its borders.

“Security policy has not been in focus during the current negotiations, but it’s going to be affected. The economy has already been worsened and that reduces the resources available for the military. Even if the country continues, as it does today, to allocate two per cent of GNP to defence, there will be less money available if growth in GNP is less than expected,” says Niklas H. Rossbach, a security policy analyst at FOI.

Three conceivable scenarios

He and his colleague, Johan Engvall, have prepared a report, at the request of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, on the consequences of Brexit for security policy. In the report, the FOI researchers ascertain that there is great uncertainty, and that Britain’s departure brings its role as a major power to a head. They list three conceivable future scenarios:

  • The first assumes that after the country’s departure its economy is strong. Britain remains a great power that acts globally and advances relations with Asian countries.
  • The second scenario is that the focus is regional. Defence resources are placed in Europe.
  • The third is that economic development deteriorates and security policy ambitions decline. The country is no longer a major power.

Potential for new cooperation

“Britain wants to continue to be a major power,” says Niklas H. Rossbach.

“They consider it to be highly worthwhile to defend Western values globally and protect their business interests. This can affect Sweden, since it may mean that the British-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), which has a rapid response capability and in which Sweden is involved, may be deployed outside Europe. But it’s not sure that there will be enough money to match Britain’s ambitions. For Sweden, this might imply that its work in the expeditionary force was led by a country that was no longer as strong as it was when the cooperation began,” he says.

Once Britain has left EU, they will no longer be able to participate in joint EU projects in the same way as before. But they may be building new cooperation, which may prove interesting for Sweden. This could involve for example joint development of new fighter aircraft.