When the pair meet at Downing Street later today, Mr Rutte is hopeful that he can convince the Prime Minister to back down on his previous refusal
When the pair meet at Downing Street later today, Mr Rutte is hopeful that he can convince the Prime Minister to back down on his previous refusal to agree to such a pact. No10 turned down the opportunity to discuss defence and foreign affairs co-operation as part of the post-Brexit future relationship deal between the EU and UK. Diplomatic sources have suggested that America’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan will help lower Government opposition to a new pact with Brussels.
One insider told the Times: “Afghanistan is a catalyst for further discussion on European defence co-operation, preferably including the UK.
“Since Brexit, not enough European leaders have been in touch with Johnson. It is important to look at the geopolitics without being divided and there is a need to work with the UK.”
France and Germany also back a deal that enhances security ties between the bloc and UK.
EU governments have claimed to have seen a shift in Britain’s tone with Washington because of President Joe Biden’s handling of the Afghanistan crisis.
It was noted that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last month said the UK and its European allies could have worked together to remain in Afghanistan beyond the US withdrawal.
Earlier this week European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen championed a new drive to create an EU army to bolster the bloc’s military capabilities.
Mr Rutte’s offer of an EU-UK defence pact will come despite the explosive response by the French to the submarine deal between Australia, the US and Britain.
Brussels sees this as a trade dispute over Australia’s decision to drop its contract with Paris.
Whereas France believes it challenges Europe’s strategic autonomy.
An EU diplomat said: “It has never been discussed at the political level.
“There are always hiccups when a company loses out but this is not a big issue with either the US or UK.”
Mr Rutte has recently held discussions with President Macron in Paris, where the two leaders agreed to bolster European security and defence co-operation.
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“On our part we are ready to dance. We have been in favour in continuing strong co-operation on security and defence.
“We still are. We are still willing.”
The EU yesterday expressed “regret” at being left in the dark by Australia, Britain and the US during talks over their new alliance to counter Chinese agression in the Indo-Pacific region.
Mr Borrell said: “I understand the extent to which the French government must be disappointed.
“We regret not being informed.”
He said that EU foreign ministers would discuss the agreement and suggested France would call for European navies to increase their presence in the region.
“EU foreign and defence ministers will be pressing for an increase of our presence in the Indo-Pacific and enhanced defence of our interests in the region.
“I am not saying we should send a European fleet in but we should have vessels there.”