The debate on Security continues, heightened by the latest Brussels attacks so soon after Paris. One can only feel compassion for the Brussels attack victims, as one did for the Paris victims. As Lord Reid said in a TV interview, all this will happen again in the UK. The threat is imminent. The debate on Brexit – British exit from the European Union – and Security continues with the Prime Minister saying that “leaving Europe would threaten our national and economic security”. It seems, sadly, he does not understand the difference between Europe and the EU. But then…his reputation is on the line to deliver the UK on a plate to Brussels, after trivial re-negotiations over recent months with the EU, regardless of the impact on the UK.
UK Chancellor George Osborne made a typically trite comment on security of our country “there is safety in numbers”. The most interesting and useful comments over recent days have come from Sir Richard Dearlove (ex-MI6 head) who said there would be minimal cost, but security gains in regard to the UK coming out of the EU. General Michael Hayden, the ex-chief of the US National Security Agency, probably the most effective security agency in the world, gave an interview on BBC Radio 4. His key point was that national security remains a national responsibility. He said that security in Europe is very uneven across EU members.
Some countries like the UK, are very good, but many have security services that are small, under-resourced, and legally limited. He cited Belgium where the security services are in a particularly difficult position and the service chiefs report to ministers in a government that has serious governance issues itself. Hayden agreed that Sir Richard Dearlove is right in his views on UK security. To be fair, General David Petraeus, a career soldier who rose through the ranks to achieve command in Iraq and Afghanistan, recently said that “BREXIT would make the world more dangerous”. He doubtless had received a call from his friend President Obama!
Following his Afghanistan tour, Obama offered Petraeus the political post of Director of the CIA, despite his inexperience in security and intelligence. It was an inauspicious period in the history of the CIA and he was forced to resign a year later for a variety of misdemeanours, not least the mishandling of classified information. It would surely be fair to ignore his comments. A French security expert was recently supportive about the Schengen agreement and the flexibility of open travel in EU countries, but said that we will have to go back to serious border controls (with inconvenience and cost) unless there is a complete rethink on security across Europe very quickly. He was pessimistic about this being something the EU could tackle given its past bad record on the usefulness of bodies such as INTENCEN, EURODAC and FRONTEX.
Lastly, there is an excellent report on European Security, which you can obtain on www.europeaninsights.org. I thoroughly recommend it. As always please feel free to comment below.