Author and freelance writer. Sometimes in London more often elsewhere




Persuasive writing


The EU - Does it really make us safer?

By James Maclaren, Feb 23 2016 06:47PM

In politics as in war the first casualty is truth – well if not in absolute terms a political version of it. Avoiding direct questions, casting scorn on an opponent’s ideas and floating opaque ideas with confidence they won’t be analysed in detail, or if they are the agenda and public attention will have moved on.

One such example of this is the Prime Minister’s passionate exhortation on how vital (note use of the world vital, a term usually reserved for matters of a life threatening nature), the EU is to the United Kingdom’s national security. Immediately upon return from his Brussel’s summit and the unveiling of the new terms (potentially) of Britain’s membership of the EU, top of the list of benefits for which we should be thankful is the safety and security that membership brings with it.

Mr Cameron’s narrative goes that within the framework of the EU we are protected through our ability to share information on potential threats and undertake coordinated timely responses. This is where the disingenuous language begins. In reality no such security framework exists – or at least exists in a way that Mr Cameron would wish us to believe. The comforting idea that all of Europe’s terrorist and criminal data bases are accessible across all the member states is simply not true - no such supranational capability exists. Apart from the fact there is no infrastructure to share such information, worse there is a lack of willingness for partners to share intelligence with their EU partners. In fact most countries do not share information between their own national agencies let alone across borders.

The UK is particularly efficient and much admired for its policing, intelligence gathering and military capabilities. No other European country comes close to this spectrum of capability. The organisations are lean, well-organised and resourced and have excellent protocols for inter-agency cooperation. It’s what we do. If only such a model could be replicated across the EU then Mr Cameron’s words could be taken more seriously.

It is true that border information with the EU as an example of low level data exchange does take place – but so what. The UK exchanges high volumes of similar data (and high level intelligence) with the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Africa and it does so more effectively with those intelligence partners than with its European partners. In Europe ridiculous rivalry, jealousy and desire to avoid exposure of inefficiency trump trans-national cooperation. Where the UK does make progress in policing and intelligence cooperation it does so on the basis of bi-lateral understanding and protocols built up through the building of enduring relationships. There is no reason why a withdrawal from the EU would threaten these arrangements.

But what of the important European security and policing institutions we hear so much about, Europol and Eurojust. In truth they contribute little and act as merely as facilitators, conducting analysis and the encouragement of cooperation. It is difficult to imagine these or any of the EU agencies declining to cooperate with a non-aligned United Kingdom, which almost certainly contributes more intelligence led information to European security than it receives. It’s a further example of a Europe that needs the UK than the UK needs Europe.

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