UK facing EU security shutout after Brexit
GCHQ stresses importance of intelligence sharing as EU delivers wake-up call
The UK is set to lose access to EU security databases, as it was told to get realistic about the consequences of Brexit for continued cooperation on crime and counter-terrorism.
In a brutal assessment of any future security relationship, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the UK would be locked out of bloc’s pooled policing databases, would lose access to the European Arrest Warrant and no longer have a role in managing agencies such as Europol and Eurojust.
Speaking in Vienna, Barnier said: EU security cooperation was based on “trust”, but added: “This trust doesn’t fall from the sky, there is no magic wand. This trust is founded on an ecosystem… If you leave this ecosystem you lose the benefits of this cooperation.”
Security cooperation has long been believed to be Britain’s trump card in the Brexit negotiations. The UK currently shares information directly with the likes of Germany and France who value this relationship because of the scope and size of GCHQ, one of the biggest surveillance agencies in the world, but mainly because it is so closely intertwined with the US National Security Agency.
Speaking on a visit to Nato headquarters, the director of the surveillance agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, said Britain had supplied key information to help break up terrorist operations in four European countries in the last year and stressed other European countries had benefited from classified intelligence shared by the UK on cyber-threats.
According to The Guardian “it is unprecedented for a UK intelligence chief, especially one from GCHQ who until recently were seldom seen or heard in public, to intervene in a diplomatic negotiation in such a way”. The paper says his comments “can be seen as a direct riposte to EU chiefs” as the UK “upped the ante” in the growing row over post-Brexit security.
But while the EU has indicated it would be willing to renegotiate certain existing security procedures such as expedited extradition, the exchange of security information, judicial cooperation and measures to tackle money laundering and terrorism financing, Brussels’ wider intransigence has surprised many in Westminster.
The Express says Barnier’s speech took aim at British Brexiteers and their ‘red lines’, “reinforcing the EU’s tough negotiating stance of not allowing the UK to cherry pick any elements of its member states’ so-called membership benefits”.
One major stumbling block to a new security arrangement is the EU’s insistence that any cooperation with the UK would be conditional on Britain remaining subject to the European Court of Human Rights and its convention.
On Monday, the European Commission, released a series of slides with several demands for a post-Brexit security deal. The document demanded a so-called “guillotine clause”, threatening to nullify any EU-UK security partnership if Britain leaves the ECHR.
The Daily Telegraph says that Theresa May was reportedly planning to argue for Britain to quit the ECHR in her 2020 manifesto before she called an early election last year “but this move could tie her and future governments' hands”.
It now appears her commitment to withdraw from EU institutions including the ECHR and European Court of Justice make it impossible for the prime minister to achieve her goal of keeping the UK in Europol and maintaining access to the European arrest warrant after Brexit.