Starmer must account for why he is coordinating with foreign powers opposed to Government policy

Starmer must account for why he is coordinating with foreign powers opposed to Government policy

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet – Shakespeare

On the 14th May, Sir Keir Starmer tweeted that he was in Brussels to discuss Brexit with senior politicians of the 27 EU countries, including the benefits of remaining in the single market and customs union. Under what mandate is he holding discussion with those on the opposite side of the negotiations for the UK leaving the EU? He has clearly set himself against the Government’s announced intentions to leave the single market and customs union and is consorting with the other side currently in negotiation with the UK.

As a military officer during the Cold War and the first decade of the 21st Century, it was always clear how careful one needed to be when talking to foreign officers about military matters. It was impressed on all that espionage was an ever present danger which needed to be guarded against. When talking to a foreign officer, whether from an allied power or a neutral or unaligned power or indeed from Russia, care needed to be taken and any discussion of military topics needed to pass the test of whether release was authorised, and did it benefit UK plc.

What one could not do was pass information on current MOD discussion, work or analysis, even if one had done that analysis oneself, particularly if such information was, by its release, detrimental to HM Government. Interaction with foreign allied officers is encouraged as it helps communication and understanding but care and caution were watchwords to live by.

Espionage as a subject is normally consigned to the security services and those specialists whose job it is to ensure that military secrets remain secret. It is not normally a difficult issue as most military personnel know what can and cannot be discussed. That said, espionage is not confined to the military sphere. Information is important to states and interest groups in a number of areas – on a military, political and commercial (industrial or financial) basis, to name some key ones.

Embassies in other countries are specifically intended to aid in communications between states and part of that is to collect or assess political, military and commercial developments in the country they are located and feed that back to the government at home to further help the national interest. It is well known and accepted by nearly all states in the world.

The criteria of what is releasable are based on security classification, the recipient and the context. Easy from the point of view of military issues where they are normally clearly marked. Unauthorised release to an unauthorised recipient would be viewed as espionage and the military perpetrator likely court-martialled for treason and spying, of which there are many notable examples.

From a military perspective it is easy to determine whether an individual is involved in espionage and the rules are clear and the punishment severe but it seems that politicians are held to a considerably lower standard. The significance of political intelligence is clear as it allows a foreign state to assess what is possible, when a state is bluffing, what the likely reaction to an approach may be or any number of other scenarios which may be detrimental to the government of the state from whence the information originates. True, much can be picked up from the newspapers but having sources on the inside of parliament, if not government, is helpful to the other side in bilateral or multilateral discussions.

During the Cold War, and indeed currently, resources were devoted by state security apparatus to trying to develop highly placed sources within law making bodies and Governments. The furore surrounding the current leader of the Labour Party of whether he was or was not an informer or agent (Agent COB) is instructive. He has weathered that storm for the time being but had President Trump been so compromised, he would, figuratively speaking, have been hung, drawn and quartered in short order. It would have been a smoking gun to the accusations there of his being complicit with the Russians and the US institutional bodies would have reacted accordingly.

It is therefore not surprising that many instinctively view those core Remainers who have declared their hatred of Brexit and wish to reverse it and who meet with the Chief Negotiator for the EU, Michael Barnier, as betraying the UK. The same can be said of Sir Keir Starmer’s visit to Brussels now. As noted above, there is a value to political information and the passing of political information, ideas and inside knowledge is detrimental to HM Government negotiations. To do so to a foreign state actor, or actors, who is also involved in those Brexit negotiations is highly suspicious. The accusation of treason has been levelled at these people but they have dismissed such accusations. However, it falls to them to justify their actions and to explain why, given their anti-Brexit stance, such succour delivered to the “opponents” of HM Government in negotiations is not a betrayal of the country.

It is incorrect for them to claim that they do not believe in Brexit and therefore they are at liberty to conspire with the EU against the democratic vote to leave. They have no mandate to do so and no mandate to talk with foreign officials outside of the Government and with the intent to undermine the Government or reverse a democratic vote. The Government is trying to enact the democratic vote which Parliament authorised the people to make. For individuals and organisations to pass information to a foreign negotiator and to collude with him over timings of announcements and lines of attack against proposed policy, shows that they are clearly working against HM Government and in support of foreign states; the very definition of treason.

The Government cannot take action to counter such reprehensible behaviour in the current political climate, but ultimately, the people will hold these politicians to account via the electoral process, and non-politicians and unelected Lords by their lack of acclaim and condemnation. It could even lead to the abolition or severe reform of the House of Lords at the behest of public opinion. Nonetheless, these hardcore Remainers, who feel they can meet with the other side without a clear role or mandate to do so, should be publicly held to account, particularly by the media, and asked to justify their actions. So far, that is something which the media, much of it hopelessly biased, has avoided doing.

Those who are working to overturn the leave vote have shown themselves to be anti-democratic at heart. While they dress their arguments up as democracy, the EU referendum was held and the result was decisive. The spurious arguments that the people were lied to is rebuked by the Government’s own £9m propaganda leaflet which clearly stated or implied that a vote to leave would entail leaving the EU, the Single Market, the Customs Union and the ECJ, as well as both parties’ manifestos during the 2017 General Election.

The last referendum on the EU (more accurately the EEC) lasted for 40 years. There is no reason why this one should last any less. The actions of these hardcore Remainers speak louder than words. Their passing of information and analysis to foreign negotiators, regardless of the reason underlines the major question of why should we trust them? Far from having a smell of roses, the antics of these hardcore Remainers (you know who they are) have more than a whiff of treason to them. No doubt history and the people will decide.

In the meantime, Sir Keir Starmer and his ilk should consider carefully whether their actions are indeed justified. They should consider what mandate they have to discuss Brexit issues with foreign negotiators and whether they believe in democracy or not. To oppose the Government of the day within the UK is what the opposition is about and is beyond reproach. To coordinate and collude with the foreign powers opposed to Government policy, to pass inside information which potentially damages the UK’s interests and to publicise such actions as somehow honourable is entirely something else.

Nemo unquam sapiens proditori credendum putavit.
No wise man ever thought that a traitor should be trusted.
– Cicero, Orationes In Verrem, II. 1. 15.