Boris Johnson not play fair. United Kingdom not a loyal partner of the EU

(B2 – exclusive) According to the agreement signed between London and the Europeans, in the context of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, the United Kingdom must behave “in a constructive and responsible manner”. A point made during the last extension at the end of October. It has to be said today that the British do not (at all) play the game…

B. Johnson au Conseil européen d’octobre 2019 s’engage. Aujourd’hui il ne tient pas parole (crédit : Conseil européen)

The failure to appoint a European Commissioner

The best-known example is the lack of a British Commissioner in the future European Commission. Reason given by Boris Johnson: parliamentary elections that force the government to refrain from any international appointments. We can understand…. But this forced a political legal sleight of hand with the launch of a mock infringement procedure by the European Commission against the United Kingdom. While the 27 EU ambassadors were tearing their hair out to concoct a decision validating the European Commission by forgetting’ the 28th (British) Commissioner.

The refusal to adopt the budgets of two agencies…

But two very discreet decisions taken in recent days show that the British’position’ is not’fair play’. The United Kingdom has successively refused to approve the increase in the budgets of the European Defence Agency (EDA) in mid-November and, more recently, of the EU Satellite Centre (SatCen). Read: European Defence Agency. The increase in the budget blocked by the United Kingdom) and Increase the budget of the EU Satellite Centre: it is’No’ says the United Kingdom). Highly balanced decisions where the order to block any increase was made directly in London, at the Ministry of Defence, as well as at the Prime Minister’s office.

… related to European security and defence

These two structures, which depend on the High Representative of the EU, are not very large. Nevertheless, they are very useful for European defence autonomy: one to assess all cooperative defence projects, the other to provide satellite analysis products to Member States. Maybe that’s what’s bothering London. Because, in terms of the budget, we cannot say that the impact is significant. The planned increase represented respectively 2.375 million euros for EDA, 1 million euros for SatCen, in total, all countries combined. In terms of the British Crown’s share of the budget, this did not exceed 500,000 euros. Not a danger for the British deficit. 😉

A not very loyal position….

This position constitutes, first of all, a serious breach of the commitment not to “compromise the proper functioning of the Union and its institutions” and to “refrain from any measure likely to jeopardise the achievement of the Union’s objectives” (see box). The electoral issue certainly weighed heavily. The British government was afraid of any feeling of being able to extend its membership of the EU.

… in contradiction with the British statements

But it is in contradiction with the British desire to affirm that it remains the guarantor of European security before and after Brexit, or even to sign an agreement immediately after Brexit to continue to be a party to and benefit from these European structures, as indicated in a note from the British Ministry of Defence seen by B2.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

The British commitment

“This further extension cannot be allowed to undermine the regular functioning of the Union and its institutions. […] The United Kingdom will remain a Member State until the new withdrawal date, with full rights and obligations in accordance with Article 50 TEU, including the obligation to suggest a candidate for appointment as a member of the Commission.  The European Council recalls the commitment by the United Kingdom to act in a constructive and responsible manner throughout the extension period in accordance with the duty of sincere cooperation. […] To this effect, the United Kingdom shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and shall refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives, in particular when participating in the decision‐making processes of the Union.”

Extracts from the European decision taken on 29 October 2019 extending the Brexit deadline until 31 January 2020


Nicolas Gros-Verheyde

Rédacteur en chef du site B2. Diplômé en droit européen de l'université Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne et auditeur 65e session IHEDN (Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale. Journaliste depuis 1989, fonde B2 - Bruxelles2 en 2008. Correspondant UE/OTAN à Bruxelles pour Sud-Ouest (auparavant Ouest-France et France-Soir).