Britain doesn’t need a new security deal with the EU

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Britain doesn’t need a new security deal with the EU

Bruce Newsome argues Britain’s prime minister (Theresa May) is repeating the self-destructive dishonesty of her predecessor (David Cameron) in claiming a new “special” security relationship with the EU. 

Back in February 2016, David Cameron returned from Brussels to claim that he had made a deal with the EU for a “special status” for Britain, to the benefit of Britain’s “economy” and “national security.” The claim was so vacuous that it was forgotten in the subsequent four months of campaigning on the referendum to leave the EU.

Two years later, on 17 February 2018, his former Home Secretary, now prime minister, Theresa May, told a European security conference that Britain and the EU need a new security arrangement; she also made an unconditional guarantee of Britain’s commitment to the EU’s security.

May’s speech is contradictory: she can’t both unconditionally guarantee the current security arrangement and claim a need for a new security arrangement. And the fakery doesn’t stop there.

EUROPOL, euro-fakery

She specifically warned that – without a new security deal – Britain would no longer be able to help EUROPOL. But that’s not true, it wouldn’t matter if it were true, and these false claims were refuted before the referendum.

Back then, Cameron characterized EUROPOL as essential to Britain’s security. The day after Cameron’s return from Brussels, a former Home Secretary in the Labour government (Alan Johnson) claimed that “the European arrest warrant” is a “huge” benefit to Britain’s security, without which a terrorist suspect would take years to recapture.

This is nonsense: neither EUROPOL nor a European arrest warrant was necessary to the capture of any terrorist suspect.

EUROPOL is like most of the EU’s institutions: it duplicates what non-EU institutions already do better.

EUROPOL is redundant to INTERPOL; EUROPOL is less useful within the EU than INTERPOL is useful outside the EU. Britain is leaving the EU – it doesn’t need EUROPOL, it can rely on INTERPOL, and on all sorts of superior regional and global arrangements independent of the EU, and especially on the bilateral arrangements that pair-wise members of the EU actually use when they want to get anything done.

No country needs to be a member of the EU to cooperate with EUROPOL – if Indonesia, say, wants to warn the EU of a terrorism suspect travelling from Indonesia into the EU, it could do so, and it could seek cooperation in returning the suspect. Indonesia doesn’t need to be a member of the EU; nor does Britain. In fact, Indonesia would warn member countries bilaterally, which is always quicker and more effective than going through EUROPOL.

If Britain has the intelligence of a British terrorist suspect returning from the Islamic State through Italy, say, it would have got that intelligence outside of any EU arrangement. Now, if Britain wants Italy’s help in detaining that suspect, Britain will make arrangements with Italy – bilaterally.

Britain wouldn’t want to involve the EU immediately because of the inevitable issue-linkages and leaks that accrue when sharing intelligence within EU institutions. For instance, if EUROPOL issues a bulletin for a wanted suspect, the suspect’s face and name will need to be obscured under barmy privacy protections in other member countries, such as Germany – even for a terrorism suspect!

Then a defence lawyer will get wind of an opportunity, and try to involve the European Court of Justice in claiming some incompatibility between the handling of the suspect and how European judges adjudicate European rights.

Therefore, Britain is better off arranging bilaterally for the suspect to reach British jurisdiction before the EU gets involved.

Why now?

Cameron didn’t persuade the British electorate two years ago about the benefits of EU security arrangements, so why is May trying it on now?

Her commitment to Brexit has proven to be directionless, vague, and half-hearted; she has a reputation for getting walked over by the EU in the negotiations. Her solution should be to specify Britain’s self-interests and develop a spine when negotiating towards them.

Instead, she has spun a fake issue (“Britain’s security is in peril from separating from the EU!”), so that she can claim a fake resolution to that fake issue (“Theresa May makes a new ‘deep and special partnership’, so Britain is no longer in peril!”).

Where did May get the idea of spinning this particular fake issue? Likely from EUROPOL itself.

Just over two weeks before her speech (the sort of period civil servants need to work an issue into a speech and run it by each other), the chief of EUROPOL (Rob Wainwright) raised the alarm about what Britain would supposedly lose by leaving the EU. Two years ago, he raised the same alarm. Well, he would, wouldn’t he? That’s his job, and he has special influence and privileges in the British government. He’s British, who gave up a job in MI5 to take over EUROPOL, in 2009, at the tail end of the Labour government’s politicization of Britain’s fine intelligence services. He’s still chief of EUROPOL, after 9 years, although he’s due to step down in April 2018.

His claims in 2018 are as vacuous and contradictory as they were in 2016: again, he warned of “loss of influence” even though Britain is the second largest contributor of intelligence to EUROPOL and the leader of various working groups within EUROPOL. Most ridiculously, he claimed that leaving the EU would harm Britain’s cross-border security. That makes him this week’s barmy Brexit-basher of the week.

On Brexit, Theresa May is as dishonest and self-serving as David Cameron. The chief of EUROPOL is as politicized and self-serving as he was in David Cameron’s time. Both May and Wainwright are heading out; the sooner the better.

4.70 avg. rating (93% score) - 20 votes
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    Bruce Newsome
    Bruce Newsome, Ph.D. is a lecturer in International Relations at the University of California Berkeley
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