EU-UK Brexit negotiations Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Britain’s European Ties That Bind

Despite the impression given by early accounts of the Brexit negotiations, the interests of the UK and the EU are closely aligned in vital areas, particularly security and foreign policy. Finding a way forward on these topics might be the key to creating the cooperative frameworks needed to address more contentious issues.

MADRID – Since the official start of Brexit negotiations last month, attention has been focused largely on the most contentious issues: how much the United Kingdom owes to the European Union, whether the UK will remain subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and what rights British residents of the EU and EU residents of the UK will retain. Given this focus, not to mention the UK’s history of aloofness and even disruption in relation to the EU, it is perhaps unsurprising that EU leaders view the UK as a hostile negotiating partner, lacking any real commitment to cooperation.

In fact, the interests of the UK and the EU are closely aligned, particularly in three vital and interconnected areas: foreign affairs, security strategy, and defense policy. Finding a way forward on these issues, which have so far received little attention, might be the key to creating the cooperative frameworks needed to address the most controversial matters.

In her letter formally notifying European Council President Donald Tusk of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU, British Prime Minister Theresa May identified both economic and security cooperation as the key elements of the “deep and special partnership” that she hopes to agree with the EU. But May should recognize that, while economic and security cooperation are equally important, they are not two sides of the same coin.

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