Belgium – Attacks – Britain – EU – Politics – Security

After Brussels, Spies Debate Security Risks of Brexit

After Brussels, Spies Debate Security Risks of Brexit
Mon Mar 28, 2016 14:55:03

The Brussels attacks have pushed security to the forefront of Britain’s EU referendum campaign this week, as intelligence experts came out of the shadows to press the benefits and disadvantages of membership.

A claim by the former head of foreign spy agency MI6, Richard Dearlove, that leaving the bloc would have few security implications sparked interventions from key figures on both sides of the Atlantic.

Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly stated that EU membership makes Britain safer and a so-called Brexit would divide the West as it faced global threats from the Islamic State (Daesh / ISIS) group.

But Dearlove painted an unflattering image of the quality of intelligence provided by Britain’s EU allies.

That position was supported by former CIA chief Michael Hayden, who said the 28-nation bloc could even be a security hindrance.

The former head of communications spy agency GCHQ, David Omand, hit back, arguing that Britain had “the best of both worlds” in both controlling its own borders and having strong security ties with other EU nations.

Another ex-CIA chief, David Petraeus, a former commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, warned that leaving the EU “would only make our world even more dangerous and difficult to manage.”

Security was already shaping up to be a key issue ahead of the June 23 referendum, given Britain’s heightened state of alert against terrorism, and the events in Brussels brought many concerns to the fore.

Security is “the one and only issue that is a draw between the two sides,” with an even split between people who think Britain is better off in and out, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University told AFP.

Joe Twyman, head of political and social research at pollsters YouGov, said the debate could see a short-term shift towards the “Leave” campaign but it would not last.

“Security is important, borders are important but the economy is more important,” he said, adding: “I think it would be different if, God forbid, there were to be an attack on Britain.”

S/SH 11

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