Post-Brexit security pact with EU ‘will complement’ NATO, Starmer says

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WASHINGTON — A security pact between Britain and the European Union would be “complementary” to NATO, Prime Minister Keir Starmer has said at a meeting of the alliance.

Speaking ahead of a summit marking 75 years of NATO in Washington, the U.K.’s new prime minister told reporters the plan for closer ties with Brussels on defense and security was “really important to us.”

“I do think there is scope for a significant improving of our defense and security relationship with the EU,” he said.

“I think this is complementary with NATO. NATO is still the cornerstone of defense in Europe and our approach on defense has always been NATO first.”

On Tuesday, Starmer commissioned a review to set out a “roadmap” for increasing the U.K’s defense spending to 2.5 percent of GDP — and urged other NATO to members to hike their military spending too.

Labour has said it wants the pact with the EU to cover a broader range of topics beyond just a conventional defense partnership — encompassing areas such as energy, supply chains, pandemics and migration.

Appetite for European defense cooperation in parallel to NATO has grown in Brussels and London in anticipation of Donald Trump’s possible return to the White House. The former U.S. president has been lukewarm in his attitude to NATO and said Europe should take more responsibility for its own security.

Fresh security threats including the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a perceived U.S. pivot to the Pacific region have also played a role.

The new British government is keen to start work on the pact quickly and is expected to use Starmer’s attendance at the Washington summit, as well as a meeting of the European Political Community (EPC) in Oxfordshire, England, next week, to advance early talks on it.

Starmer told reporters that the two meetings were “a really important window of opportunity” to get the agreement off the ground. He has taken the unusual step of bringing his EU Relations Minister Nick Thomas-Symonds to Washington with him.

Starmer is also accompanied by Foreign Secretary David Lammy and Defense Secretary John Healey. In an op-ed earlier this week, the pair said the U.K. aimed to reach a “new geopolitical partnership” with Europe through an “ambitious and broad-ranging UK-EU Security Pact” while also striking bilateral agreements to “to strengthen our defenses and support Ukraine.”

“These are meetings that would probably take months and months and months for us to fit in as a team, if we were not taking advantage of this summit for the purposes of those relations and the EPC,” Starmer said of the dual summits.

“The central purpose is obviously all about NATO but it is a very important opportunity to strengthen those relations.”

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