European Crossroads

The many adventurous paths that lead to a European Union: involving politics, society, culture, economics, finance, the military.

A co-authored blog to describe the complexity of a new concept.

Andrea Foffano e ASCE

Intelligence and Brexit: what’s changing?

A national referendum took place in the United Kingdom on the 23th of June 2016. The subjects of Queen Elizabeth II voted to decide whether to remain or leave the European Union.  The British public had spoken and the decision to leave the EU was made by a majority vote of 51.9%.   The term “Brexit” was born as a result of a union of two words “Britain” and “exit”. In light of this; we must seek to understand what will change for the intelligence communities? What are the implications for national security? How will Brexit impact European and British intelligence in terms of management? MI5 and MI6 Eliza Manningham-Buller, Ex-MI5 Chief (British domestic intelligence) from 2002 to 2007, has spoken in favour of the “Remain” cause. She believes in a period of uncertainty for the country the probability that a terrorist attack happening within the United Kingdom is to be considered “very high”. She pointed out that in her view British citizens would be more protected remaining inside as opposed to outside of European political community. The United Kingdom is an influential power within the major European Forum’s, she feared leaving the EU would weaken this. Richard Dearlove, Ex-MI6 chief from 1999 to 2004, had the opposing view. He considers the Brexit move to be in the interest of a safer Britain and this in turn would mean an increased level of security for British citizens. In my opinion this would only occur if the British government along with Brussels and the security authorities adopted a strict immigration policy in order to maximise total control. A detailed management system of actual migration flows would need to be in place. The "do ut des" collaboration Another topic that I must highlight is the ongoing collaboration that is needed between the several different European intelligence’s organizations. Despite the overall feeling that the end result of exchanging activities in a “do ut des” way could be more advantageous for the EU than the UK. The Intelligence information is currently shared between them as inside the European security authorities these activities allow for stronger protection from terroristic attacks and several infiltrations. The stay safe approach has been carried out simultaneously with the stay connected policy as previously, and you can’t have one without the other.      Post-Brexit; inner workings could come to a standstill if the European guide nations (Germany, France in primis) decide to centralise the flows of information and intelligence’s activities to just within the European Community instead of continuing to disclose them with the United Kingdom. The actual geopolitical situation In order to understand the present situation and possible further consequences we must analyze the actual geopolitical context. The starting procedure of a popular referendum is a government’s prerogative and as supposed, advised by its political administration, thus a political act that took place and Brexit was a matter of course. If we consider a different viewpoint; not forgetting the tragic murder of MP Jo Cox. It seems (from observing the mass media’s orientation during the lead up to the vote) and the social and political situation, the final results had been orientated by select authority centers from the beginning, in order to ensure the United Kingdom exited the European Union. This electoral result and its political consequences must be interpreted by considering the actual situation in which the British intelligence is working. Conclusion The MI5 and MI6 are not under the direct control of the Prime Minister; but Her Majesty The Queen (as confirmed in more than one incidence). Furthermore, these intelligence structures are completely set on the “Five Eyes System”, which is a security international organization of sharing intelligence information, this is formed from the co-operation between five of the best counter-intelligence services in the world: United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Therefore, we can certainly affirm the British secret services will not be deprived from their operative resources, even after Post-Brexit that will totally isolate them from the European contest. On a strategic level, if the United Kingdom cuts the umbilical cord that ties itself with the European Union, in order to stay closer to its overseas allies, the European intelligence community will lose a vital member. The UK has a very important role in managing internal and external security this may mean that the EU will find itself completely isolated and severely unprepared to fight the jihadism forces that are actually present in all the European countries, due to the extraordinary increase of immigration flows that we’ve seen in recent years. However; if this theory is correct I need to add that if there is truth that a “strategic retreat” from the European front will mean they are better able to implement stronger reorganisation of the British defense against International terrorism. This will not solely resolve the issues as it is a complex problem and an international one. Therefore, Brexit may oblige the European intelligence structures to manage an even more connected and strategically shared action. The other perspective would be that the USA-UK connection would be able to play a dominant role in a possible international alliance against terrorism: an alliance that should not forget the strategic importance of the European Union role, since there is a possibility of a future battlefield for the international community intelligence. @FoffanoAndrea