Defence and intelligence threats to national security are embedded in the draft Brexit deal

Defence and intelligence threats to national security are embedded in the draft Brexit deal

As specialists in Defence matters we are concerned at increasingly emotive efforts to persuade MPs to back the proposed Withdrawal Agreement as we approach the UK’s exit from the European Union on 29th March. We have together made two interventions in recent days because frankly a bad agreement is a bad agreement.

For some time now, we have pointed out in our collaborative research the defence and intelligence threats to national security that are embedded at the heart of the Government’s strategy.

First, we were both signatories with thirty others to the Briefings for Brexit letter published in the Telegraph last week, explaining why a sovereign Brexit – leaving with no negotiated agreement at the end of the month – is superior to any other course in our national interest. We all now know from commentary by anonymous civil servants that the country is well prepared administratively to leave on WTO terms, but that this information has been deliberately withheld.

With our colleague Field Marshal the Lord Guthrie, we also published – on the Briefings for Brexit website – the text of a safe Defence Treaty which the Government ought to offer to the EU instead of the weak efforts that have been made and are further proposed.

We published these analyses because the Government is proposing to compromise our premier intelligence alliance with the ‘Five Eyes’ of the Anglosphere (Australia, Canada, New Zealand the USA and ourselves).

Having successfully prevented the EU from developing a defence role for over forty years, the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement and associated documents threaten to place Europe’s premier defence and intelligence power under EU control. This is the reverse of what the people voted for in June 2016 and is self-defeating for the UK.

The proposed Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration inform us that the Government seeks UK participation “to the extent possible under EU law” in the European Defence Fund, the European Defence Agency and in activities under Permanent Structured Co-operation.

It is a formulation based on a misunderstanding – whether wilful or actual – about how the EU works. The fact is that there can be no à la carte engagement because this is a spider’s web in which everything is connected to everything else. If the UK touches any one part, it becomes trapped in the whole. Our treaty is written to legally exclude any and all such possibilities.

The three of us believe that the EU has no business at all in the national security realm. These are sovereign responsibilities. The proposed deal, were it to be adopted this week, would actively impair the autonomy of UK decision-making in this most fundamental of sovereign tasks of government.

The speed of ministerial consent after May 2018 removed the opportunity for adequate parliamentary scrutiny or votes on seven separate occasions, in breach of the Scrutiny Reserve Resolution 1998, and the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration lock the UK powerlessly under EU control during 2019-20 and potentially permanently through the ‘backstop’ trap, as Defence EU rapidly evolves.

The Political Declaration would cede all initiative to the EU and President Macron’s speech last week makes it clear that his vision of the EU is actively hostile to the USA and our closest allies. These are not the appropriate actions of Europe’s premier military and intelligence power.

Our draft Defence Treaty was circulated to all MPs and all constituency chairmen on 6th March. They have been warned. This issue alone should sink the Withdrawal Strategy.