Government must pay attention to security and intelligence services warnings

Labour Party

The head of MI5 stated intelligence sharing has never been more important than in today’s uncertain world in a speech today.

MI5 Chief, Andrew Parker, said that cooperation between the UK and other intelligence agencies in the EU is crucial to effectively fight terrorist threats from across the globe. “Europe faces an intense, unrelenting and multi-dimensional terrorist threat… in today’s uncertain world we need that shared strength more than ever,” he said.

MI5, MI6 and GCHQ are concerned not to affect the close working relationship that has developed with European colleagues. The services insist that maintaining it at the same level it exists today is crucial.

The MI5 head described how the work of the Intelligence agencies is unrecognisable today from five years ago. This can be directly related to the work of one of the main terrorist fighting platforms, the Counter Terrorism Group (which is made up of all 28 EU member states along with Norway and Switzerland.)

Andrew Parker went on to describe the Counter Terrorism Group as the “largest multinational counter-terrorism enterprise in the world” where “real-time intelligence sharing” involves “thousands of exchanges on advanced secure networks every week”.

It’s not difficult to see judging by his comments today how important Britain’s relationship and cooperation is with European counterparts. It is so obviously dependent on strong relations and partnerships with these agencies to continue to successfully fight terrorism here in Britain.

Some commentators such as the Guardian’s Ian MacAskill have already flagged how leaving the EU would “throw up some problems, with the UK, in order to continuing sharing data at a European level, almost certainly needing new legislation to ensure it stays in line with the European legal framework on privacy and data sharing.”

But it’s not only in the areas of counter terrorism that such partnerships are necessary to expose criminal activity. I already outlined last week how important EU partners are to continue to fight trafficking. Over the weekend the National Crime Agency (NCA) warned that Brexit will provide criminals greater opportunity to launder money in the UK”.

“UK-based companies looking to increase trade with countries outside the EU are more likely to come into contact with corrupt markets, particularly in the developing world,” the NCA said.

The report described how a re designed customs set up in Britain would make the country vulnerable by allowing criminals to take advantage of the customs situation.
If all the security services are raising similar concerns, then it would be irresponsible for the Government to not pay attention to their consistent warning and advice.