The dilemmas and arguments for and against Brexit have all too often been coloured by black and white alternatives. Economic doom versus prosperity, complete social oblivion versus complete social cohesion, and control versus abdication of responsibility – all of this is batted backwards and forwards relentlessly, colouring the facts and preventing a clear picture from emerging from the chaotic campaigning.
The same thing occurs when we get to the question of security. Pro-Brexit supporters herald an age of splendid and infinite peace and security for the UK – whilst the Remain campaign warns of an impending World War III. Yet the truth remains that of all the arguments for and against Brexit, the security implications will remain relatively unscathed either way. The UK will not fall into some kind of apocalyptic Jihadist revolution, nor will it find itself suddenly immune from the threat of terrorism. We live in a world of unceasing conflict and threat that will unfortunately, not be neutralised by the EU referendum.
Does the decision to leave the EU give the UK that little bit of extra advantage in the way we deal with the threat of transnational terrorism? Yes. Does it do so at the expense of our European intelligence partners? No. Anybody who works in the security space knows that intelligence sharing and distribution is the most important aspect of tackling terrorism in a globalised world. Intelligence is absolutely crucial as it has the potential, if used correctly and efficiently, to stop terror attacks before they are even planned or carried out. Equally, the UK security apparatus is aware that a secure Europe means more security for the UK. So which security links would be left with the EU if Britain decides to make its own way?
NATO, Five Eyes, Interpol, our Embassy Intelligence Stations and our dedicated country specific security liaison officers and departments – this is what the EU will always have. Make no mistake: this is a formidable apparatus and one which will not suffer operationally from a UK Brexit. The UK puts a massive amount of resources and energy into pan-European security, and it will continue to do so. It does not, however, receive a huge amount back. The European Arrest Warrant is something consistently flagged as being a crucial part of UK security work. In reality, the warrants’ usage is predominantly used to combat law and order and organised crime – not international terror, and therefore has little impact on counter-terrorism arrangements.
Further, an independent UK will allow much greater control of our borders and a version of immigration better suited to British needs, rather than European demands. Though some claim that our lack of inclusion in the Schengen arrangement shields us from a majority of troubles that emerge from free movement, the UK still remains vulnerable and open to unfiltered drug, weapon, and human trafficking. Additionally, remaining in the EU threatens the UK’s sovereignty as current procedures entail that the ECHR is the supreme decision-making body for all member states, allowing the EU to make critical security decisions for the UK under the guise of human rights.
European security will not suffer from a UK Brexit, but Britain does have a chance to increase its own security – and there appears to be no reason for us not to take up this golden opportunity. An EU exit simply does not put existing relations with other global heavy-weights such as the US and the Five Eyes under threat. So the simple fact is this: counter-terrorism methods will remain the same whether the UK remains inside or outside the EU.
Why, therefore, would the UK not take up an opportunity to gain more freedom and greater flexibility in the manner in which it responds to its own security concerns? Exiting a political union does not equal to exiting long-established relationships of goodwill and cooperation. This relationship isn’t working out for us, I’m afraid.
Perhaps it’s time to be friends with benefits.