The security implications of Brexit

US President Donald Trump has engaged in dramatic militarisation of US policy in the Middle East.


2017/04/02 Issue: 100 Page: 10


The Arab Weekly
Francis Ghiles



British Prime Minister Theresa May’s implicit threat to condition continued security cooperation with Europe on a Brexit trade deal sits oddly with her otherwise conciliatory tone. Britain’s “notification of with­drawal” letter reads that “failure to reach an agreement” could result in weaker security coopera­tion.

While May’s move might play well with rabid anti-European readers of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, which include many Conservative members of the British House of Commons, other European leaders take it as an im­plicit threat. Britain’s role in shar­ing intelligence and its relation­ship with Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, “will be part of the negotiations”, May said in debate that followed in Westminster.

“I would like to maintain the level of cooperation we have cur­rently… but our membership will lapse and… (without an exit deal Britain) would not be able to access information in the same way as we would as a member,” she said.

“Our security arrangements would obviously lapse if we left the EU without a deal,” added the prime minister’s spokesman.

May’s comments drew sharp criticism from other officials.

Former permanent secretary to the Treasury Nicholas Macpherson wrote on Twitter that crime and terrorism “do not respect borders” and that the lack of a trade deal was “not a credible threat” to security. “Time to get real,” Macpherson added.

There was pushback by officials in Brussels and Westminster, where Britain’s participation in various policing policies and bodies, such as Europol and the European Arrest Warrant, as well as security data­bases, particularly the Schengen Information System, the European Criminal Records Information Sys­tem and Passenger Names Records, is critical.

Despite the controversy, most components of Britain’s and Europe’s security and defence rela­tions do not involve the architec­ture of the European Union. Britain has always opposed the European Union interfering with the role of NATO and the country participates in several security operations out­side the organisation’s purview.

Britain’s “Nine Eyes” alliance, for example, allows the country to share intelligence with various Eu­ropean partners, including France, Denmark and the Netherlands. The Club of Berne, another intelligence-sharing group, includes Norway, Switzerland and EU members.

This might seem quite unrelated to trade negotiations but the fly in the ointment is the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the lynchpin of the European Union’s judicial archi­tecture. After a trade deal is agreed to, the ECJ would play a key role in resolving any dispute between Britain and the European Union over regulation. May is determined to end ECJ jurisdiction in Britain but will have to at least accept it playing an indirect role in future proceedings.

This is where political grand­standing by Brexiters meets its limit. Brexit Secretary David Davis has already had to eat his hat. He will no doubt have to do so again in the months to come.

There is also a broader picture to consider. Since entering the White House, US President Donald Trump has engaged in dramatic militari­sation of US policy in the Middle East, largely without the consulta­tion of American allies in Europe. The United States is intervening in Yemen more forcibly than before and backing Saudi policy. Yemen is facing a huge humanitarian catastrophe, with two-thirds of its population in need of aid.

The escalating military activities are occurring with no sign of dip­lomatic initiatives or future peace talks. The US Defense Department has asked the White House to remove restrictions on providing military aid to Gulf allies that are fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Unspecified US special operations forces are operating in dozens of countries in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.

These policies could produce even more radical Islamists, undermine humanitarian relief and destroy any hope of economic reconstruction, the effects of which will be far more devastating in the Middle East, the Sahel and Europe than in the United States.

Meanwhile, with relations between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and EU leaders having grown increasingly more sour and German concerns that Turkey is spying on German-res­ident Turks, there is an increased need for European leaders to present a united front against the Turkish president.

With all this in the backdrop, Brexit negotiations are serving as a distraction. There are far bigger security challenges confronting Europe and Britain on their south-eastern borders.

The Brexiters are heading for a sharp collision with the real world. Their belief that Britain needs to take back control and break free of the shackles of external influence will be shown for a grievous mis­understanding of Britain’s history, identity and security needs.


Francis Ghiles is an associate fellow at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs.


Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Dalal Saoud

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editors: Jonathan Hemming and Richard Pretorius

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

Opinion Section Editor: Claude Salhani

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Levant Section Editor: Jamal J. Halaby

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Senior Correspondents:

Mahmud el-Shafey (London)

Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Correspondents

Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobeidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Rasha Elass - Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

www.alarab.co.uk

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

66 Hammersmith Road

London W14 8UD, UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved