More Brexit anyone?
At the end of a frantic night of counting, the result came through and everyone’s jaw hit the deck (some of us might have laughed): the British people had chosen to leave the EU.
Cue televisions running more 24 hour news cycles that the viewers could throw a shoe at, a bunch of politicos scratching their shiny pates and an online petition calling for the annulment of the referendum signed by 80,000 Australians.
Well, one or more of the above points may be there for comedic value, but you get the point.
What about the poor man in the ministerial room? What are the implications of Brexit for the military and wider defence industrial base?
It’s a mixed bag. In terms of deployments, the UK’s contribution to EUNAVFOR’s missions in the Mediterranean and off the Horn of Africa appear most likely at risk.
While the question has been put to EUNAVFOR, a response is yet to be given. But we at Quill suggest that British ships will not be able to continue working within this force structure. The clue is in the name.
Of course given that the sea is at once everyone’s playground and no-ones to own, the HMSes of this world will still be broadly operating in the same environments. With perhaps fewer requirements for photo calls during port visits.
There’s also a little bit of bluster going on north of the border about all this too, due to the fact that support for the Brain (British + Remain) was pretty high up there. A couple of picturesque (in a grim, bleak and utterly depressing sort of way) waterways are very much a part of the defence set-up in the UK and there is some need to maintain this arrangement. As bargaining chips go, the SNP has a pretty good one right there.
On land it’s going to get a bit more difficult for friendly back-slapping exercises on a hilltop in Spain somewhere. And instead of the British Blue Team finding a snoozing local Red Team at objective Alpha Bravo Bravo Alpha, they might find a Panzer division laagering up instead.
In all seriousness the UK will continue its obligations to NATO and likely draw on bilateral defence agreements with EU member states. There will be a bit more overtime being done in various ministries typing offices but the fact remains that in a European context the UK brings unrivaled military capability to the table.
It might be the coffers where the impact is most felt. A 2% slice of a small pizza is less filling that a 2% slice of a large one. Same percentage, less pepperoni.
It’s never really a good plan to predict the financial future but should the UK economy nose-dive, there will evidently have to be more cuts to the defence budget. This will likely put at risk programmes already hanging on by their fingernails and capability upgrades across all services.
For the defence industry, trying to quantify the ramifications is less clear. You can read Shephard Media’s Brussels correspondent’s take here while our friends over at Think Defence have provided their thoughts on the implications for industry here.
The domestic market might well be a little smaller in the months ahead but such is the value of the industry to the UK in terms of expertise and employment, a joined-up plan is need to ensure it remains competitive and cooperative with EU partners.
And as we’re all in the need for some light relief, I’ll leave you all with this classic.