Fresh Brexit row erupts as Brussels accused of 'blocking British defence firms'

Posted On: 
29th May 2018

A fresh Brexit row is brewing over claims that Brussels has deliberately made it harder for British defence firms to bid for work under a flagship new fund.

British officials warned that UK defence firms would be shut out of a new €500m EU fund.
Credit: 
PA

The new €500m European Defence Industrial Development Programme is to be set up in 2019 as part of an EU-wide attempt to get member states to spend more on defence.

But British officials have told The Telegraph that they believe the European Commission is playing hardball by insisting on “strict conditions” for non-EU companies who want to access the fund.

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A UK diplomat told the paper: “We have been saying to the EU, ‘if you make it too difficult to participate after Brexit, you’re cutting down your own options.”

They added: “The defence of the Europe is too serious and our collective defence industries are not big enough to be fragmented.”

Another warned that a "highly restrictive" stance by the Commission would "not be good for European defence in the round".

The latest row comes amid an increasingly heated feud over the future of the €10bn Galileo satellite project.

Although the UK has contributed vast sums to the innovative new satellite navigation system, European Commission officials are pushing for the UK to be excluded from the project after Brexit on security grounds.

It also emerged today that Britain may take part in talks on the EU's budget long after Brexit, sparking an unusual joint bout of anger from both Brexit-backing MPs and the European Commission.

The Times reported that the EU council - which represents individual member states - has gone against the wishes of the Commission and invited UK officials to take part in talks over the bloc's £1 trillion budget up to 2027.

European officials reportedly told their UK counterparts that Britain should continue to have a say in the EU's seven-year budget cycle because it will continue to make significant financial contributions after it leaves.

But top Eurosceptic Tory Bill Cash fumed: “This is the type of trickery that the EU gets up to... We have agreed to pay £39 billion to get out of the EU’s treaty structure. Taking part in these budget talks risks ensnaring us again."

A Commission official meanwhile told the paper that it believed Britain was only angling to stay inside the budget framework to help "influence" rules covering non-EU countries in its favour.