What the European Union owes the United Kingdom highlights how the defence of Europe is substantially dependent upon British military power. It argues that the Europeans should take this into account as Britain withdraws from the European Union. Over this past five-year period, British defence spending – at US$285.5 billion – accounts for almost a third (32%) of spending by countries in both NATO and the EU, a sizeable figure that still conceals its true value, not least because many EU countries’ armed forces are unable to fight at the highest intensities, even in self-defence.
Meanwhile, countries on the European mainland that are members of both NATO and the EU shortchanged the alliance – and therefore their own security – by over US$96 billion in 2016, and in total by US$451 billion over the past five-year period (2012-2016). As a result, Britain has effectively subsidised the security and defence of the European mainland by an extra US$23.9 billion from 2012-2016.
The EU will almost certainly need British military support in the future, not least because of the country’s unique strategic assets. Thus, rather than descend into mutual acrimony, the EU and the UK must establish a new and durable relationship.
James Rogers, Director of the Global Britain Programme at the Henry Jackson Society, concluded:
In recent months, the United Kingdom has been disparaged by many Europeans for its decision to leave the EU. Some have gone so far as to construct it as a kind of pariah state. However, as this Policy Briefing shows, this depiction is entirely unwarranted. Britain remains deeply committed to the security of Europe as the largest European military and foreign aid spender. Moreover, most European countries, insofar as they have short-changed both NATO and the world’s poorest people by hundreds of billions of dollars over the past five years, have their own shortcomings, which should not be overlooked.
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