Security cooperation in a post-Brexit Europe

Security cooperation in a post-Brexit Europe

While you can hardly open a newspaper or watch the news without Brexit and our future trading arrangement being discussed, the UK-EU future security relationship has so far largely been neglected by the media. No doubt Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech this Saturday in Munich will shine a new light onto the subject. Mrs May will reportedly set out the security co-operation arrangements she hopes will continue between the UK and the EU.

However, the speech will inevitably continue the debate on what our relationship with the EU should be. Brexit presents an opportunity to reform all aspects of our current association, and security should not remain untouched.

It’s worth noting, without a trade deal in place with the EU, the UK will revert to World Trade Organization tariffs. Our ongoing security arrangements have no such fall-back. Without such a deal in place, there will be no outside framework to keep security co-operation in place – should we need it.

Without doubt the UK’s main assets to the EU are its security and intelligence expertise and capabilities. We are all facing an increasingly insecure world, with terrorism, potential threats of aggression and cyber-warfare – not simply old-fashioned criminal activity. We have honed our credentials over many decades and our expertise is highly valuable.

It must also be remembered, while co-operation with the EU might bring mutual benefits with the right deal in place, the UK’s focus must remain in our ties with NATO and the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (comprised of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA). While without the EU the UK remains a global security and intelligence power, the reverse is more debatable.

Although the UK is leaving the EU, there is absolutely no reason for this to impact on our collective security. The UK will continue to play its very prominent role within NATO, as well as maintaining our intelligence-sharing capabilities internationally, while not needing to reduce our security co-operation.

Little mention has been made so far by our Government about our future cooperation with Europol, the EU’s collaborative law enforcement agency designed to combat serious international organised crime and terrorism through EU Member States’ anti-crime agencies working together.

Even after Brexit, the ‘Danish model’ of Europol ‘co-operation’ (not membership) could be used as an example the UK could follow. As former Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has explained this week, cooperation with Europol has been shown to be flexible. The Danes elected to be outside Europol in 2015 after very difficult negotiations. However, they have continued to co-operate with the EU over security in a hard-won deal allowing them indirect access to Europol’s databases, as well as observer status within the agency.

The UK could very easily be outside the EU and continue to cooperate on European policing, intelligence sharing and security – indirectly – with a similar deal if this is what we decide is best for us. The Danes have set a precedent of flexibility, which should continue if the EU crafts an acceptable deal with the UK. Leaving the EU does not need to diminish either the UK’s or the EU’s security.

On Saturday, the PM may also elaborate on the Government’s involvement in European defence programmes – the EU Army. The EU has been escalating its integration in the sphere of defence, with 25 Member States signing up to full membership of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). There is growing concern the UK is becoming entangled with this emerging European Defence Union – by the back door – while there is diminishing funding for our armed forces.

It is imperative the Prime Minister dispels these concerns, while reaffirming our commitment to international co-operation through bodies such as NATO.

Although many aspects of the current security relationship are commendable, and would be beneficial to retain – such as Europol – features, such as the inherently problematic European Arrest Warrant (EAW) must be consigned to the history books.

Like too many aspects of the EU, the EAW rests on the assumption all Member States are equal. However, when it comes to the justice system this is a demonstrable lie. It is beyond ridiculous, bordering on insanity, to pretend the UK’s judicial system is comparable to those in former Communist countries – such as Bulgaria and Romania.

By accepting the equality of criminal justice systems throughout the EU, a warrant issued in one country carries the same weight as if it were issued in any other within the EU, entirely overlooking the different quality of these legal systems. The checks and balances enjoyed in the UK, which keep citizens safe, are not universally enjoyed across the EU.

Charges, which often would not stand up in British courts, can be issued by foreign judges and used to deport, detain and arrest British citizens, with little recourse. In our dealings with the rest of the world, British courts must be able to block extradition to countries whose legal and criminal justice systems do not meet our required standards. Where British judges feel the charges are corruptly motivated, or where a fair trial cannot be held, they must be able to block extraditions. However, this cannot happen while we are signed up to the EAW, clearly placing British citizens at risk when travelling abroad.

The first duty of the Government is the protection of its citizens. Only by leaving the EAW can this be achieved.

While the EAW isn’t as high profile as certain other issues, it must be remembered Brexit is about taking back control. If we are to be a sovereign nation again, this must surely mean the ability to protect our citizens from arbitrary foreign injustice, as well as other global threats. Due to the peerless nature of the UK’s security and intelligence capabilities, the Government must not be timid when it comes to these negotiations.

As we move to Get Britain Out of the EU, it must be remembered the UK will remain a world leader in security and defence, even after we Leave. Our international cooperation through NATO and the Five Eyes alliance will continue unaffected. Given it is in both the UK’s and the EU’s best interests to continue to cooperate on security, only EU obstinance will block this.