A broad European military strategy involving Britain after Brexit has started to take shape with France at its center, often in negotiations far from the Brussels spotlight and, in one top-level EU meeting, without the U.K. defense minister.

Despite an impasse over how to start formal negotiations with Britain on a new defense and security relationship, France is pushing a two-track approach that it discussed at a weekend gathering of EU defense ministers in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Saturday, even though Britain's Gavin Williamson did not attend.

France supports a bigger role for Spain in EU military missions to fill the hole Britain will leave, while it will offer London a place in a new French-led European "intervention force" to keep Britain close in military cooperation.