Europe needs Britain to safeguard its security

Con Coughlin

BRITAIN has a great deal to offer when it comes to safeguarding the defence and security of Europe. Its military spending is higher than any other European nation, thereby allowing it to make a pivotal contribution to supporting the Nato alliance, a role, moreover, that is likely to be enhanced even further when the two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers enter service early in the next decade. Britain has much to contribute, too, in the security sphere, where its membership of the exclusive Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network — the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — makes the country the envy of other European spy agencies, such as France’s DGSE and the German BND.
It is now becoming abundantly clear, though, that this is not how Britain’s role is viewed by the EU Commission, which, rather than seeking to maintain the same level of mutually beneficial cooperation post-Brexit, seems hell- bent on doing everything in its power to drive a wedge between London and its long-standing allies in Europe. In recent weeks the EU has questioned whether Britain can remain a member of the Galileo satellite project, which is aiming to establish a rival system to the US-run GPS network. It has questioned whether Britain can retain access to the European Arrest Warrant and the Europol database. It has even suggested Britain should be excluded from the DNA, vehicle registration and fingerprint databases, all regarded as vital tools in tracking the activities, for example, of terror cells.
The EU’s uncompromising attitude on these issues does not enjoy wide support among UK’s European allies, as Sajid Javid made clear in his first major counter-terrorism speech this week since his appointment as Home Secretary. Javid claims “not a single European interior minister” wants to see Britain treated as an outsider on security cooperation after Brexit. This, I presume, is because Europe’s spymasters realise that any EU-led rift with Britain on defence and intelligence sharing will do them more damage than the UK.
It also raises the possibility that the EU’s grandstanding might persuade the UK government to conclude that sharing the crown jewels of military and intelligence-sharing capabilities with the Brussels ingrates is not such a good idea, after all. This option is certainly starting to gain some traction in Downing Street, particularly with regard to the Galileo project. Responding to EU threats to exclude Britain from Galileo, senior ministers such as Chancellor Philip Hammond have suggested that UK should simply build its own system. There are many compelling arguments for so doing given questionable political motives that underpin EU’s Galileo project.
The world already has a perfectly serviceable satellite tracking system in existence in the form of the American GPS system. But the EU’s deep-rooted anti-Americanism means that it wants its own network. The reality, though, as Professor Gwythian Prins and former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove have explained in their recent “Briefings for Brexit” paper, “The Galileo Spat”, is that the EU’s ambitious satellite project would never have got off the ground in the first place had it not been for British support and technological know-how. The majority of the project’s secure data systems, for example — a vital component for communicating sensitive intelligence to interested parties — have been developed by British hi-tech firms such as QinetiQ.
To make the programme operational, moreover, the EU needs access to British ground stations, such as those based in the Falklands and Cyprus. So, rather than handing over its technological expertise and sovereign assets to Brussels, Britain’s national security and industrial interests would be far better served by developing and owning a satellite system of its own.
Similar arguments apply to UK’s future defence and intelligence-sharing arrangements. The only military agreement of any consequence between Britain and its European allies is the defence pact with France. But this is modest by comparison with the infinitely more important relationship Britain’s Armed Forces enjoy with their American counterparts, one that is the real cornerstone of the transatlantic alliance. Preserving this vital bond with Washington will certainly do far more to safeguard Britain’s long-term interests than getting involved with the EU’s half-baked notions of creating a European defence force.
It is the same picture when it comes to intelligence sharing, where all the key agreements between Britain and Europe have been negotiated on a bilateral basis, with partners such as France and Germany, rather than the EU bureaucracy. And there is no reason that such agreements could not survive post-Brexit — assuming that is, that the French and Germans continue to hold Britain’s intelligence and security services in high esteem. The EU’s policy, therefore, of trying to hold Britain to ransom over future military and intelligence-sharing arrangements could ultimately be counterproductive. For the bottom line is that Britain’s interests are far better served by standing alone than submitting to Brussels’ bully-boy tactics.— Courtesy: The Telegraph

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