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Strengthening UK-Germany defence cooperation

The Policy Institute is exploring what appetite there is to deepen defence cooperation between the UK and Germany, as part of a project funded by the Hanns Seidel Foundation

Revitalising the relationship: Improving UK-Germany defence cooperation to strengthen european security

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In the final report in this project, we find that there are major opportunities for the UK and Germany to improve defence cooperation and position themselves as a defence axis for an autonomous Europe. Indeed, the opportunity cost of not improving defence cooperation while the external threat environment continues to deteriorate is irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

Shifting from working alongside each other to working together need not necessarily be politically difficult or require significant investment. The report suggests three strategically important areas where this could be achieved:

  • Cooperation to strengthen European defence. 
  • Creating pathways for joint learning, exercises and research.
  • Making joint capability investments for the future.

UK-Germany defence cooperation: Bridging the political and military gaps

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The first report from the project finds that closer cooperation is a “largely untapped resource” that could make more efficient use of the two countries’ assets, helping to ease pressures on defence budgets, which are likely to come under strain in light of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the economic fallout from Covid-19.

Greater defence cooperation would also help strengthen European security, which in recent years has been threatened by increasing hostility from Russia and instability along the continent’s southern borders.

The report recommends that:

  • The UK and Germany work together to fill gaps in their individual surveillance and intelligence capabilities – although the UK must ensure this complies with Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreements.
  • Both countries explore opportunities for jointly developing technologies used in their respective future combat air systems, FCAS and Tempest.
  • Germany participates in the UK’s Complex Weapons Programme, in order to strengthen European defence capability and reduce German reliance on the US for missiles.
  • Germany explores leasing P-8 Poseidon aircraft, so that it can cooperate with the UK and Norway on maritime warfare issues.


As part of this project, we also asked a range of experts to contribute short papers on specific topics. These "deep dives" are intended to allow for granularity and actionable ideas. They examine nuclear cooperation, industrial cooperation, innovation cooperation, and cooperation on 5G.