The UK’s defence and intelligence agencies will be forced to make difficult decisions and perhaps accept significant costs as the Brexit process goes onby Anoushka Kavanagh , Jerome Mockett / October 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
“The government now recognises that the European Union is an important defence and security player, and that is certainly not something that we heard from the leavers, including some current ministers, during the campaign.”
The government has made much of Britain’s contribution to EU security in recent policy papers. The argument has been that Europe depends on Britain’s security capabilities, and that the UK could manage on its own if negotiations fall apart. But in an interview with Prospect, senior defence and security expert Malcolm Chalmers warned that failure to co-operate in this area could also have grave implications for the UK.
The deputy director of respected think-tank RUSI suggested Brexit may put the UK’s security at risk: as “some of the most serious, and indeed growing, threats that we and other European countries face right now are in relation to cyber-security, both from organised criminal actors and from non-state terrorist groups”—both threats that “continue to develop very rapidly”—“very close co-operation” will be “critical” in securing our security in these areas on departure from the EU.
The government has recognised that agreeing a close security relationship will be key in the negotiation of Brexit. Ministers have emphasised the crucial role the UK plays in EU defence—and have even faced allegations of using British capabilities as a bargaining chip. In her recent Florence speech, the PM highlighted our “outstanding capabilities”: “we have the biggest defence budget in Europe… We have a far-reaching diplomatic network, and world class security, intelligence and law enforcement services,” she said.
While stating that the UK “will continue to offer aid and assistance to EU member states that are the victims of armed aggression, terrorism and natural or manmade disasters,” the government has made it clear it believes the EU needs us.
However, the comparable role the EU plays in our security has not always been fully recognised. Currently, the UK enjoys a close security relationship with Europe, with some of the best intelligence sharing and counter terrorism cooperation mechanisms in the world. Shared systems to identify who is crossing EU borders and help dismantle cells financing jihadist networks were revamped in only July—and the EU is a key player in safeguarding our fundamental rights and privacies.