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Despite Brexit, Britain backs France's EU defence force plan

media The EU headquarters in Brussels Ludovic MARIN / AFP

The UK is backing a French plan to establish a European intervention force, a British minister said on Saturday. With Brexit under way, the plan would provide Britain a means of maintaining defence ties with the continent.

"We're very keen to support President Macron in this initiative," junior defence minister Frederick Curzon told the AFP news agency at a meeting of EU defence ministers in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.

"We look forward to sitting down with our French colleagues to work through the ideas that they have formulated for a more efficient and joined up security and defence system across Europe. We think it has a real part to play."

The force, known as the European Intervention Initiative, would be separate from other EU defence cooperation, meaning there would be no obstacle to post-Brexit Britain taking part.

The EU this week announced plans to spend nearly 20 billion euros on defence in its 2021-2027 budget, mainly on research and developing new military technologies.

Twenty-five EU countries signed a major defence pact, known as Pesco, in December but it is not clear whether Britain will be allowed to take part in any of the military projects it would initiate.

But it did not include plans for an intervention force, as France proposes.

That proposal "certainly will help to achieve what we are looking for, which is a deep and special partnership with our European colleagues in defence and security", Curzon said.

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