UK position paper: Foreign policy, defence and development

Newington's Tiffany Burrows provides a summary of the UK's Future Partnership Paper: Foreign policy, defence and development.

The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) published a further Future Partnership Paper, outlining how the UK, along with other partners, cooperate with the EU on foreign, defence and security, and development policy at present, before exploring how the UK could continue to do so after Brexit. The UK outlines that it will continue to support the EU, and would like a future relationship in terms of foreign policy, defence and development which is deeper than any current third country partnership with the EU.

Key provisions

The paper is largely an examination of current global threats and the various ways the UK and the EU currently collaborate to confront these challenges, thus laying the foundation of the UK Government’s position of supporting “a future partnership with the EU unlike any other EU-third country relationship”.

“The UK supports a strong, secure and successful EU with global reach and influence”

  • In framing its argument, the UK asserts that it will continue to support a strong and stable European Union, as well as emphasising the shared values that the UK and EU have which underlie their foreign, defence, security and development policy aims.
  • The paper affirms the UK Government’s commitments to foreign, defence and security policy vehicles, such as NATO, and states explicitly that its work with these institutions will be in a complementary way to the way the EU works and interacts with the same bodies.

“The UK is – and will remain – a major global diplomatic, defence, development and trade policy actor”

  • A literary flex of the UK’s might and muscle, the paper itemises the UK’s position in the global order –a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a leading member of the IMF, World Bank and G7 to name a few.
  • The list also includes a mention for the Commonwealth and a less than subtle reference to the UK being the only European country that meets both the UN target of 0.7% on gross national income (GNI) and the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence, with 20% of this on equipment.
  • Further to Brexit Secretary David Davis’ MP (Haltemprice and Howden) oral statement to the House of Commons on 5 September, the paper alludes to the UK Government’s position that the talks on withdrawal should occur simultaneously with discussions on how a future partnership would work, particularly in relation to trade: “trade is also central to development, with potential benefits for developing countries and the UK”.
  • The European defence industry is intrinsically linked with this question of a future trade agreement and is referenced in the paper as being “closely integrated with leading companies having a presence across several European nations, including the UK, where all constituent parts of the UK play their part”.

“The UK is exiting the EU, not withdrawing from Europe.”

  • The paper stresses that global threats rarely stay within borders, and that close cooperation between the UK and the EU is necessary to combat challenges such as migration, serious and organised crime and terrorism.
  • More explicitly, the paper outlines certain case studies demonstrating cooperation between the two negotiating sides, including EU sanctions against Russia following the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

“The UK is therefore offering a deep and special partnership that will make available UK assets, capabilities and influence to the EU and European partners”

  • The UK Government describes its offering as being “unprecedented in its breadth…and in its depth” and emphasises that it’s contribution to a future relationship with the EU in the areas of foreign, defence, security and development policy will be significant, “drawing on our global defence, development and diplomatic presence”.
  • The paper concludes by stating that the UK wishes to work with the EU as “closely as possible…protecting our citizens, promoting our values and ensuring the future security of our continent”.


The paper is heavily weighted towards explaining the contributions the UK has made to date towards major foreign, defence, security and development policy achievements in partnership with the EU. The message? The UK and the EU would both suffer if further cooperation in the realms of defence, security, and foreign and development policy is not continued.

Some will see this as a veiled threat intended to scare the EU into agreeing to the unique relationship the UK government is pursuing. However, while the paper demonstrates the expertise and leadership the UK has to offer in these areas, it also makes clear those achievements come from collaboration, and working as “partners”. To that affect, peppered throughout the paper is an emphasis on shared – our shared values, commitments, goals, and threats.

Although the paper is primarily focused on the relationship between the UK and the EU, the Government’s ambition of “Global Britain” is also referred to, both explicitly, and when the paper outlines that the UK Government will “maintain strong alliances with EU Member States, alongside partners beyond Europe, including the US, and from the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.”

Whilst being reminiscent of the UK Foreign Secretary’s Boris Johnson MP (Con, Uxbridge and South Ruislip), “have our cake and eat it” approach, this future partnership paper dedicates a significant portion of the paper to explaining exactly why this approach is necessary. The tone of the paper is predominantly collaborative, and is built upon the premise that a continued, and unique, partnership between the UK and the EU would be mutually beneficial.

Reported in The Times, Brexit Secretary David Davis MP said the future partnership paper “highlights Britain’s world-class diplomacy and defence capabilities, our leading contribution to international development, and our desire to continue to use these as part of a deep and special partnership with the EU.” Defence Secretary Michael Fallon MP (Con, Sevenoaks) stated that “at a time of increased threats and international instability the UK remains unwavering in its commitment to uphold European security.” In an opinion piece for Times Red Box, the Foreign Secretary summarised the UK Government’s position as “Britain has global interests and a global foreign policy. But our security is indivisibly linked with that of Europe”.

Next steps

DExEU is publishing further position papers in the upcoming days (before party conference season begins) in preparation for the next round of negotiations, expected to begin on 25 September, and the European Council summit on 22 October. Theresa May will deliver a speech "on Brexit negotiations so far" in Florence on 22 September.

If you would like to speak to Newington about how your business could best outline its position to the Government please get in touch with our dedicated Brexit team at or call Lizzy Roberts on 020 7234 3332.