Britain and Germany may be going their separate ways after negotiations for the U.K. exit from the European Union are complete, but the two nations are still planning to deepen defense cooperation on a bilateral basis according to a document released in London earlier this week.
London and Berlin have completed negotiations on a document to provide top cover for future co-operation activities and are looking for an opportunity to sign the agreement, said an entry tucked away in the U.K. Ministry of Defence’s 2016 report and accounts published July 19.
“We have finalized a bilateral ‘Joint Vision Statement’ and are identifying an opportunity for signature. A shared roadmap is being developed to underpin our bilateral work,” said the report.
According to officials in Berlin the upcoming German general elections in September have put the signing on hold for now.Meetings between procurement chiefs and officials exploring potential co-operation on defense equipment programs are continuing though.
A spokesman for the British Ministry of Defence said the two sides had recently met for further co-operation discussions under the umbrella of a forum known as the Ministerial Equipment and Capability Co-operation.“
There have been three ministerial equipment and capability co-operation meetings so far. The most recent took place [in London] on 13 June 2017,” he said.
While officials were mum on details, topics of discussion are understood to have also included large, multi-national programs already underway, like the Eurofighter Typhoon or the Airbus A400M airlifter.
Those efforts, plus many smaller ones, could be susceptible to changes in the formal trade relationships that are now being renegotiated between the U.K. and the EU.
The ARTEC built Boxer 8x8 vehicle may also have been on the agenda.The British Army has for months been pushing to acquire the Rheinmetall/ Krauss-Maffei Wegmann built armored personal carrier without a competition to meet its mechanized infantry vehicle requirement.
The two sides have previously collaborated on programs like Tornado and Typhoon fast jets and the A400MThe MoD spokesman said the two sides were developing a joint roadmap which is separate but linked to the joint vision statement.“
The roadmap reflects a gradually broadening and deepening of the bilateral defense relationship and sets out the specific areas of agreed co-operation across defense,” said the spokesman.
The annual report said the two sides had already held a capability symposium in London with the aim of identifying new areas for cooperation.“
The event produced 26 new project proposals spanning the air, land, maritime, joint, medical, cyber and ‘overarching’ domains; these are now in the early stages of development,” said the annual report.
The British MoD’s annual report and accounts document also pointed up the co-operation push wasn’t just limited to equipment programs. Increasing operational co-operation was also being progressed by the armed forces.Officials from both sides said the plans for greater bilateral co-operation remain in place despite Britain’s decision to quit the European Union.
German defense leaders made mention of the Berlin-London relationship in the 2016 “Weißbuch,” a strategic planning document for Germany’s armed forces. The document was published only weeks after the June 2016 Brexit vote by the British.
The reference to greater co-operation in the strategic planning document by the Germans mirrored a similar statement of intent to grow links between the two sides in the British strategic defense and security review in 2015.
The German document noted “a long tradition” in the bilateral security relationship, announcing that an expansion of ties “in all areas of common interest” would follow.
A spokesman for the German defense ministry said those plans remain in place despite the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union.“The British have every opportunity to remain engaged outside of the EU,” the spokesman said, adding that London traditionally is known to prefer security ties grounded in NATO over those springing from the European Union.
Brig. Gen. Robert Rider, defense attaché at the U.K. Embassy in Berlin, told Defense News “The intention is to continue to work toward greater cooperation.” The Brexit proceedings, he said, present merely a new “strategic context” for the discussions.
Rider wrote a paper for the German Federal Academy for Security Studies in early 2016 that suggested additional fields of cooperation exist in land programs – in active protection systems and tanks, for example – as well as in attack aircraft.“
The U.K. believes that Germany will also be interested in some form of participation in the U.K.-France Future Combat Aircraft System program (FCAS),” Rider wrote then.In an interview on July 20, he said that the decision this month by France and Germany to explore a fifth-generation jet of their own does not close the door on U.K. cooperation on such a program.“
Each country has its own bilateral relations, and we welcome that,” Rider said.
Concerns were raised in the U.K. last week about Britain’s possible isolation from other leading defense players in Europe post Brexit following an announcement by Germany and France that they were considering co-operating on a range of equipment programs, most noticeably a new generation fighter.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News.