Britain says it will still play pivotal role in European defence

Cameron confirms UK troops will take part in planned Nato mission in eastern Europe

 Barack Obama speaking before the Nato Summit  in Warsaw, Poland, which is expected to decide about military reinforcements on Nato territory in Central-East Europe. Photograph: Leszek Szymanski/EPA

Barack Obama speaking before the Nato Summit in Warsaw, Poland, which is expected to decide about military reinforcements on Nato territory in Central-East Europe. Photograph: Leszek Szymanski/EPA

 

Britain will not turn its back on European defence and security policy prime minister David Cameron said yesterday as he confirmed that 650 British troops will take part in a Nato mission in northeast Europe.

Speaking at his last Nato summit as prime minister, Mr Cameron underlined Britain’s commitment to the transatlantic defence alliance, despite the country’s decision to leave the European Union two weeks ago.

“Britain may be leaving the EU but we are not turning our back on Europe and we’re not turning our back on European defence and security,” he said on arrival in Warsaw.

His comments were echoed by foreign secretary Philip Hammond who said that Britain was the second largest contributor to Nato. “We have every intention of maintaining our role in Nato, and indeed strengthening our role in Nato in the future. Britain is leaving the European Union, but it’s not leaving Europe and it’s not leaving the world. We will remain fully engaged,” he told the BBC.

Members of the 28-country alliance formerly signed off on a 4,000-strong military operation in eastern Europe designed to stave off threats from Russia.

‘Special relationship’

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Earlier, in an article for the Financial Times, US president Barack Obama said the “special relationship between the US and the UK will endure”, despite the Brexit vote.

Mr Obama met the presidents of the European Commission and Council, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk ahead of yesterday’s summit. While he strongly underlined US support for EU integration, describing the European project as “one of the greatest political and economic achievements of modern times”, he warned that governments “cannot be remote institutions”.

European Council president Donald Tusk said that while the geopolitical consequences of Brexit might be very serious, “it is equally important to send today a strong message to the whole world that Brexit, as sad and meaningful as it is, is just an incident, and not the beginning of a process”.

In a sign of deepening co-operation between the EU and Nato, the European Commission and Council presidents signed a joint declaration with Nato which pledges to increase information and intelligence sharing, step up co-ordination on exercises, and increase operational co-ordination between the two bodies,  particularly at sea.

‘New realities’

“In these new realities, our citizens are demanding greater security, no matter whether they live – in countries belonging to the EU, to Nato or to both. It is our democratic responsibility as leaders to deliver.”

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the declaration as “historic.”

Following a meeting of the Nato-Georgia commission at the fringes of the summit, Georgian prime minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili appealed to Nato Member States to support the country’s membership aspirations.  The Nato secretary general will meet Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko today.