The Corner

National Security & Defense

Brexit and Security

The article in Prospect by the former head of MI6 explaining that the risk to British security from Brexit was “low” (I linked to it here yesterday) has caused quite a stir in Britain. Rightly so.

Now, over at CapX, Iain Martin weighs in:

For all the claims made, the truth is that although European Union cooperation on intelligence and security exists it is patchy at best. The so-called Club de Berne is the forum in which the agencies of the 28 EU members (plus Switzerland and Norway) have long worked together. It was founded in the 1970s with a smaller membership but it has no executive responsibility. The CTG (the Counter Terrorism Group) was formed after 9/11 and is where more of the practical work – sharing intelligence and expertise – goes on. Under the EU’s foreign policy function, in the External Action Service division, there is also a centre for pooling intelligence analysis and recommending joint action.

Inevitably, there are demands from Brussels, whenever there is an outrage, for much more to be done under the umbrella of the EU. Nation states, it was said again this week in Brussels, must give up their national prerogatives and combine their spying. Yet although the EU has been at this building a common capability for almost twenty years now (beginning in the late 1990s) the results are unimpressive. Despite this, the answer to such inadequacy or failure, it seems, is always more EU rather than an honest reflection on whether it is really the right forum or model.

Ah yes, always “more Europe”, the wretched, relentless ratchet that gave the Continent Schengen and the euro and has stolen so much of its democracy.

Anyway, back to Martin (my emphasis added):

The reality is that the 28 are not remotely equal in capability in this field. The national services of those countries which by dint of history or experience have a large intelligence and security function have vastly more operational clout and information. That means the UK, France and Germany, with a few others bringing specialist knowledge. Note also that they retain an understandable scepticism about sharing information with some of the newer members. And arguably the closest other such relationship in the West is between the UK and the US. The last time I checked the United States was not in the EU.

It is manifestly clear that the idea that the EU equals security and Brexit equals isolation (splendid or otherwise) for Britain is complete bunkum. It should be perfectly possible for the major players to cooperate against ISIS as national governments, within or without the European Union, and to work together closely, without the need for an ever-expanding and self-serving EU superstructure.

But then the inability to see this is at root what is wrong with the EU more broadly, and the reason the UK is having its referendum at all. Even when Britain talked of leaving and tried to negotiate a distinct set of arrangements, and suggested that the federalist mantra of Jean-Claude Juncker and co is a dead end, it did not seem to produce much of a recognition of reality. Speaking as a European (who is nonetheless sceptical of the EU, which is not the same thing as Europe) my concern is that what has been constructed is transparently unfit for purpose. It is a botched bureaucracy, built on a notionally nice idea, being rendered inoperable by history. The EU open borders model and obsession with anti-democratic integration rather than trade and friendly cooperation is turning steadily into a catastrophe for European civilisation.

Spot on, other than that ‘notionally nice idea’; The EU wasn’t that either. Yes, there was a desire to prevent a recurrence of war in Europe, and that is indeed a nice idea, but the solution dreamt up by the founders of what became the EU was based on a panicky misreading of history and a profound distrust of democracy. There was little that was nice, and less that was wise, about that. Fortunately NATO, not the EU, had what it took to keep war at bay. Yet it was the EU that received the Nobel Peace Prize. Odd that.

And on the subject of NATO and the EU, here’s something to consider. It comes from an interview with Janis Kazocins, the former brigadier-general in the British army who later went on to become head of the Latvian security services (the Constitutional Protection Bureau). In my experience Kazocins is a sharp, knowledgeable and highly perceptive observer: It’s generally worth paying attention to what he has to say. The article is mainly focused on the Baltic States and that most troubling of neighbors, Russia. Anyone interested in that topic should read the whole piece, but this section (my emphasis added) also caught my attention:

Q: Do you agree to what the European Commission president has said – that a joint European army would make Russia understand that we are serious in the defense of our common values?

A: Armies are a way to achieve foreign policy goals. If no common foreign policy exists, how can there be a common army? We already have seen how larger European countries have different positions on international matters, like, for example, in Iraq and Libya. At the same time, why does the EU suddenly also have to be a separate military force? We already have NATO, which also includes the United States and Canada. It is completely incomprehensible why we need such an army, which would only become a rival to NATO. Member states already have enough generals and bases, thus the alliance should instead focus on regional cooperation, like with Sweden and Finland, which are not NATO members.

A rival to NATO? Oh yes it would be, both unconsciously (as a distraction) and consciously: The architects of the EU always saw their “ever closer union” as an emerging challenger to what they regarded as unacceptable American hegemony.

And this is not just a dream confined to the EU’s bureaucracy. Chancellor Merkel, the catastrophic German chancellor so admired by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, has also long smiled on the idea of an EU army. That would be the same Chancellor Merkel whose country only spends some 1.2 percent of GDP on defense, barely more than half its supposed NATO commitment. 

Extract Britain from the EU and we can be sure that its (sadly diminished, but still very capable) armed forces would not get sucked into the neo-neutralist mess that any EU army would undoubtedly turn out to be. 

John McCain meanwhile continues to insist that “the need for a strong and united Europe is greater than ever.”  In so doing, he shows that he does not understand just what those trying to build that “strong and united Europe” intend it to be. Perhaps he might try to keep up. 


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