British military 'could become bargaining chip' in Brexit negotiations
The UK’s armed forces could become “a very big bargaining chip” in Brexit negotiations, according to three top EU diplomats.
Speaking to the Sun, the officials suggested Britain will likely get a better trade deal if defence co-operation for after it leaves the bloc is secured.
Some EU member states are concerned about Russia’s growing ambitions and see access to the UK’s army, navy and air force as a key deterrent.
Despite a funding crisis within defence, Britain is still seen as having the strongest military and best counter-intelligence agencies in Europe.
One diplomat said: “When you talk about security and defence the British have a lot to give to us in exchange. Both sides are very much in favour of continuing cooperation.”
Another diplomat said: “The UK is very strong in defence. This is definitely not about who will win or emerge stronger. It’s about making the best deal possible.”
Former soldier and Conservative MP Leo Docherty took the opportunity to make the case for a cash boost for defence, blasting: “Our military is the finest in the world, but it cannot be done on the cheap.”
He added: “Lest we forget that this review is response to the increased threats we face - and those threats are real - but tackling them cannot come at a cost to conventional defence.”
Fellow veteran and Tory MP Johnny Mercer said: “This is a key reason for No10 and No11 to stump up more cash to keep our world-beating reputation.”
The Prime Minister has said Britain is “unconditionally” committed to Europe’s defence.
However, she caused outrage in her Article 50 letter when she a implied failure to reach a trade agreement would result in weakened defences for the whole of Europe.
Ministers have already hinted that they expect to pay into a £5bn EU defence fund after Britain leaves the bloc.
They also supported Britain joining European missions and sharing military resources.
More British armed forces have been sent to Eastern Europe after Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian civil war.