Under my chairmanship, the committee launched an inquiry into this subject in July 2023, focusing on three areas of cooperation that have developed since the invasion — sanctions against Russia, the EU-U.K. defense relationship and the reconstruction of Ukraine. We then received oral and written evidence from many witnesses, and questioned Foreign Secretary David Cameron and the Minister for Europe and North America Leo Docherty.
Overall, the committee found much to be positive about in each of these areas of cooperation. And we’ve recommended building on this successful experience of ad hoc cooperation with more structured arrangements for working together on foreign policy in the future.
As it stands, however, any reduction in American support for Ukraine, and for European security more broadly, could leave Europe badly exposed. Therefore, the U.K., the EU and its member countries need to prepare for a scenario in which they may have to take on more of the burden.
Evidence presented to the committee on sanctions showed that coordination between the U.K., the EU and the U.S. on imposing an unprecedented range of measures worked well overall. The same goes for the U.K.’s new post-Brexit sanctions regime — although the pace at which these were introduced sometimes saw both the Treasury and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office swamped with inquiries and license applications.
Sanctions can only have impact if they’re implemented and enforced effectively. And we heard worrying evidence about Russia’s growing ability to circumvent sanctions through third-party states, as well as their uninsured shadow tanker fleets. Witnesses also drew attention to some weaknesses in the U.K.’s performance in terms of enforcing sanctions. Thus, in our report, we’ve pressed the government to set out the actions they’re taking to put this right.
Furthermore, the next big issue for sanctions policy is likely to be the use of frozen Russian assets for Ukraine’s reconstruction. While some witnesses noted the legal complexities this would entail, Cameron made the tantalizing comment that “there’s a legal route to doing this.” And the committee has thus asked for further details.