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On May 11th 2022, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed security pacts with Sweden and Finland. Is this something the Government could do without passing any legislation through Parliament and without consulting NATO? It seems this is a bold move which can possibly impact the UK security and impact NATO.

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    ...and a similar one with Finland.
    – ilkkachu
    May 12 at 8:13
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    "...which can possibly impact [...] NATO." How? NATO is a defensive alliance, so if UK helps some third party country and for example gets attacked in the course, NATO would probably be unaffected by it. Other NATO countries would not need to defend UK at all.
    – Trilarion
    May 12 at 9:13
  • @Trilarion I don't understand why? If the UK would be attacked why would NATO not respond? Please explain May 12 at 9:21
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    The current UK administration has signed things which it has no intention of doing. Why would this be any different?
    – Aaron F
    May 12 at 10:47
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    Are your sure NATO (or at least the USA) wasn't consulted? Seems to me almost the point of all of this is to get NATO tangled up in Sweden/Finland's defense (via the UK) before they apply and get accepted into NATO. I mean what is the UK going to do on its own if Finland gets invaded by Russia? Not alot.
    – Rob
    May 12 at 12:47

1 Answer 1

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Yes - the UK Government may negotiate and sign international security treaties without consulting Parliament as part of its executive power.

However, under section 20 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, such a treaty must be laid before Parliament for a period of 21 sitting days before the government can ratify it. If either House of Parliament decides during that period that the treaty should not be ratified, the government may not do so, but the relevant Minister must present a statement to the House explaining why the treaty should, nevertheless, be ratified. The 21 day period then begins again, during which Parliament must once again vote down the treaty if it disagrees.

On the other hand, this only applies to treaties - defined in section 25 of the Act as a written agreement:

  • (a) between States or between States and international organisations, and
  • (b) binding under international law.

The particular security pact you're referring to, signed on May 11th, is not a treaty but a political declaration. The text of the agreement may be found here, and while it does reference mutual assistance -

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. Such an intensified cooperation will remain fully in line in [sic] with each country's security and defence policy and is designed to complement not replace existing European and Euro-Atlantic cooperation.

- it also very clearly states that this is a political declaration:

This document is a political declaration and not a legally binding commitment under international law.

The signing of this agreement is therefore completely within the remit of the UK Government and does not require ratification from Parliament.

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    Excellent answer, but I would rather see it as a no. UK government cannot sign (ratify) any treaty if the Parliament doesn't want it to. The only difference is opt out instead of opt in. The political declaration here is non-binding and therefore of lower value.
    – Trilarion
    May 12 at 9:16
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    The UK Govt can sign any treaty, whether that treaty gets ratified is a different question that arises later in the process.
    – deep64blue
    May 12 at 9:25
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    Lower value than what?
    – Jontia
    May 12 at 9:44

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