Mutual defence pacts agreed with EU’s Sweden and Finland — both non-NATO countries

Graham Charles Lear
5 min readJul 4, 2022
Troops disembarking off the coast of Sweden. MoD 2022

Nothing said in Parliament, nothing in the Queen’s Speech,

On Wednesday 11 May 2022 Prime Minister Boris Johnson flew to both Sweden and Finland and signed defence agreements which amount to a seismic shift in the UK’s foreign and defence policies and commitments.

The implications of the Prime Minister’s actions on Wednesday have barely made the radar in the United Kingdom.

The geopolitical impact

In effect, the deals signed by the Prime Minister this week extend the defensive land border being protected by the UK against the Russian Federation by some 837 miles (1,347km) in the case of Finland.

The total combined area of land mass Boris Johnson agreed to defend on Wednesday is 304,538 square miles (130,678 sq miles for Finland and 173,860 sq miles for Sweden). This is more than three times the size of the entire United Kingdom.

Neither Sweden nor Finland ever joined NATO — although they are now set to do so

Sweden and Finland are both members of the European Union. However neither ever wished to join NATO, which has secured the peace for over 70 years. The United Kingdom has been the second-largest funder of NATO’s military capabilities in all that time, after the United States.

Following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, however, public opinion in both Sweden and Finland has shifted. Suddenly both countries wish to join NATO now. The process of accession to NATO takes time, however. The agreement of some 30 parliaments is required and the process is likely to take up to a year.

Enter Boris stage left, pursued by a Russian bear

It is against this background that the PM paid a flying visit to both Sweden and Finland on Wednesday, meeting their respective female prime ministers.

In what was clearly a pre-planned arrangement, Boris Johnson agreed to what amounts to the equivalent of NATO’s Article 5 — “an attack on one is an attack on all”

Swedish PM
Magdalena Andersson

Finnish PM
Sanna Marin

I have been unable to find any prior mention of this possibility in Parliament, nor in the Queen’s Speech two days earlier. Nor were I able to find the text of the mutual defence pact in Hansard nor in any Government announcements.

Fortunately, the Scandinavian governments were more forthcoming and I now have a copy of the agreement with Sweden.

What did Boris Johnson sign up to?

The agreements signed by the Prime Minister this week are described as “mutual security assurances declarations”. Whilst these fall short of being international treaties, they nevertheless make political commitments to defend each other’s countries on a bilateral basis

Here is an excerpt from the Swedish document:-

“Should either country suffer a disaster or an attack, the United Kingdom and Sweden will, upon request from the affected country, assist each other in a variety of ways, which may include military means.”

- Signed at Harpsund, Sweden, on 11 May 2022, in duplicate.

In a statement from №10 came the following:-

“Visiting Harpsund, the Swedish Prime Minister’s country residence, and Helsinki, the Prime Minister will set out the UK’s intention to support the two nations’ armed forces should either face crisis or come under attack.”

№10 statement, 11 May 2022

Later the PM gave a press conference in Finland, where he made it clear that this is not a short-term arrangement while Sweden and Finland accede to NATO membership, but a permanent commitment.

The PM in Sweden, 11 May 2022

“From the High North to the Baltics and beyond, our armed forces will train, operate, and exercise together — marrying our defence and security capabilities and formalising a pledge that we will always come to one another’s aid.

“Because this is not a short term stop gap as you consider NATO membership, but an enduring assurance between our two nations.”

- The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Sweden, 11 May 2022

Few readers will argue that the UK should not support friendly countries such as Sweden and Finland in the event they are attacked. It is also the case that British forces have trained with Swedish and Finnish forces for many years.

There is, however, a difference between friendliness and making a permanent mutual security declaration in writing. This may be a political declaration rather than a treaty, but it is a commitment and it has the Prime Minister’s signature on it.

I find it somewhat surprising that no questions about this matter have been asked in Parliament. Perhaps if more MPs were interested in serious national commitments being entered into, and less in political point-scoring over Partygate, Beergate, and Brexitgate, we might see some serious scrutiny.

Where are the protests about ‘Parliamentary sovereignty’ now?

For many years after the EU Referendum in 2016, resulting in the largest democratic vote in British history, a great many British Parliamentarians fought tooth and nail to overturn the people’s decision, up to and including the Hilary Benn ‘Surrender Act’.

This Act effectively tied both hands behind Lord Frost’s back in his final negotiations with the EU. In turn, this led to the appalling EU Withdrawal Agreement and its even more disastrous Northern Ireland Protocol.

These MPs were not shy in shouting about the supremacy of Parliament and they used the courts on several occasions to thwart the Government from delivering a true Brexit. Yet when the British Prime Minister enters into two bilateral pacts with EU countries — with absolutely no involvement from the House of Commons, they have fallen silent.

I agree the United Kingdom should stand by its friends in Sweden and Finland. I am just a little surprised that none of the MPs who were up in arms about every attempt by Mr Johnson’s Government to deliver Brexit has had anything to say about Parliament’s lack of information on what amounts to a major commitment by the UK to two EU countries.

[ Sources: Swedish Government | Finnish Government | №10 ]

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Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.