The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has downplayed the impact of Britain’s exit (Brexit) from the EU on the bloc’s security status.
Mogherini said at a NATO meeting in the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Friday that London was currently providing for only a fraction of the bloc's civilian and military missions, adding that the EU’s security would be perfectly intact without Britain’s contribution.
"Looking at the numbers, the UK contributes today only for three percent of our civilian capabilities in our EU operations and missions and five percent to the military ones so for sure it's a valued contribution but for sure a contribution without which the European Union defense and security can continue perfectly well," said the high representative for the EU’s foreign affairs.
"The numbers with which the UK is currently contributing … is not that big as to create a challenge for the European Union in the future," Mogherini said, adding, "So leverage in that respect will be really minimal on their side."
She said the EU would continue security and defense cooperation with Britain via NATO.
“For sure the European Union and the UK will continue to cooperate in this field, also through our cooperation with NATO, I have no news of the UK leaving NATO so this will continue to be common for us,” she said.
Mogherini’s comments came in response to a veiled threat from British Prime Minister Theresa May that the EU’s security could be compromised if London-Brussels Brexit negotiations sour.
May has stressed Britain’s role in the EU’s security, using it as leverage for Brexit talks.
The British prime minister wrote in articles published in several European newspapers on Thursday that she believed that the divorce talks should take place while simultaneously negotiating Britain’s inclusion in fresh trade deals with the bloc during the post-Brexit era.
Negotiating Brexit and renegotiating new terms for Britain’s ties with the EU “should take place in parallel”, she wrote.
Brussels, on the other hand, has emphasized that the conditions for renewing ties would be negotiated only after Brexit is settled.
French President Francois Hollande told May that there was a need to settle Brexit, "then open discussions on the framework of the future relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union."
The French president made the remark during a phone call on behalf of Brussels and the 27 remaining EU member states, according to a statement released by the Elysée Palace on Thursday.