Defence minister: UK remains key ally despite Brexit deal rejection

Defence Minister Jüri Luik (Pro Patria).
Defence Minister Jüri Luik (Pro Patria). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Defence minister Jüri Luik (Pro Patria) has said that, whilst the Brexit deal vote on Tuesday revealed deep splits in the United Kingdom's government and political elite, the country remains a key ally of Estonia, something which will not change regardless of the future relationship between the UK and the European Union.

"Our security policy cooperation is priceless in value and will continue, regardless of what the UK's relationship with the European Union will be, exactly. We are grateful for the UK's great contribution to NATO's collective defense," Mr Luik said.

However, he did express support for UK Prime Minister Theresa May's now-rejected Brexit deal, and questioned whether its opponents understand the situation in Brussels clearly and that they were putting the EU in a difficult situation.

"The voting result in the British House of Commons was very clear,'' Mr Luik said.

''It is of course concerning that after thorough negotiations, the British parliament is so critical of the result. The question does not only lie in the deal, but there are sharp ideological differences in opinion in the British political elite on the kind of relationship that there should be between the European Union and the United Kingdom at all. This makes achieving all kind of agreements difficult," he continued.

Two sides to the debate

"Having participated in several negotiations myself, I can jokingly say that the 'best' negotiators are always those not at the table. Those bystanders are also acting as though there aren't two sides to the negotiations ... However, these negotiations do have two sides, ie. the UK and the EU," he went on.

"There is no doubt that by far the most preferred option for the EU would be a thoroughly negotiated withdrawal deal. Work is continuing to find a solution suitable for both sides; nobody can afford to sit idly by," he added.

Theresa May's deal, which she had agreed with EU leaders, was voted down by a margin of 230 votes, the largest in any such vote in over a century. She now faces a vote of no-confidence on Wednesday evening, though may pull through with Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) support and those members of her own party (118 in total) who opposed the deal in the House of Commons.

The defeat on the deal could lead to renegotiations with Brussels on a new deal even if Mrs May stays on. Other less likely outcomes would include a general election (in the ordinary run of things there wouldn't be a general election until 2022, the last one having been in 2017 in the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum), a second UK referendum on EU membership, or a no-deal EU withdrawal by the UK.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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