PARIS ― Non-European Union states vying for funding under the continent’s emerging defense architecture should be judged by their commitment to a common defense enterprise, the head of the European Defence Agency has proposed.

Jorge Domecq pitched that idea at the Eurosatory defense trade show in Paris when asked by Defense News how he foresees the saga of Britain’s exit from the EU playing out in the defense sector.

The question is what type of relationship the EU will keep with London in the context of the so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation initiative for defense and security, or PESCO.

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There has been talk in Brussels about allowing third-party nations an avenue to apply for funding through the European Defence Fund. But Domecq’s idea of a type of ideological litmus test appears to set the bar exponentially higher than would be the case through a sheer bureaucratically oriented vetting process.

“Whichever country wants to be part of PESCO projects has to make a contribution to CSDP as a whole, as to buy the idea of an EU strong defense identity,” he said, using the acronym for the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. “If that is not supported, it makes no sense if you want to be in one project or the other.”

That means it will matter less whether non-European allies bring actual capabilities to the table, but more whether their objectives line up those of the EU, he said.

As for the U.K., which has had a strained relationship with the European Defence Agency, Domecq sees little reason to see that prerequisite met. “The U.K. has had capabilities all this time,” he said. “But it hasn’t had the will to bring them at the service of CSDP strongly, to be honest.

“Today in the EDA, the U.K. does 10 times less than the country which is not an EU member, and that’s Norway.”

Final EU decisions regarding entry points for third-party states are expected by the end of the year. But analysts say the coming months will show the general direction of what’s to come.

Meanwhile, the British government is keeping its cards close to the vest, and some observers privately wonder whether the loss of the European defense scene through EU channels would actually make a significant dent.

Simon Everest, head of the U.K.’s Defence and Security Organisation, declined to address Brexit and its effects when talking to a small group of reporters at the Eurosatory trade show.

But he said that 80 British defense and security companies showing up at the event signifies that “Europe continues to be an important market.”

In fact, the trend year of exports to Europe has increased in the past few years, as common threats are on the rise, Everest said.

Within the U.K. export portfolio, equipment for air warfare tops the list of sales, though the land and maritime domain are catching up, he said.

Sebastian Sprenger is Europe editor for Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multinational investments in defense and global security. He previously served as managing editor for Defense News.

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