EU security bodies “of little consequence” to Britain – ex-spy chief backs Brexit

Sir Richard Dearlove, former Chief, British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) © Lucy Nicholson
European security bodies bear “little consequence” to British security, a former head of the UK’s foreign spy agency MI6 has said, adding his support to the pro-Brexit campaign.

Writing in current affairs magazine Prospect, Sir Richard Dearlove suggests that leaving the 28-nation bloc would not be as damaging to Britain’s security as the “Remain” campaign suggests. He argues that European intelligence institutions like Club de Berne, are “generally speaking little more than forums for the exchange of analysis and views.”

“With the exception of Europol, these bodies have no operational capacity and with 28 members of vastly varying levels of professionalism in intelligence and security, the convoy must accommodate the slowest and leakiest of the ships of state.”

In contrast to the “Remain” camp, who have insisted that leaving the EU will weaken Britain’s security, Dearlove said the cost to the country would be minimal.

"Whether one is an enthusiastic European or not, the truth about Brexit from a national security perspective is that the cost to Britain would be low. Brexit would bring two potentially important security gains: the ability to dump the European Convention on Human Rights – remember the difficulty of extraditing the extremist Abu Hamza of the Finsbury Park Mosque – and more importantly, greater control over immigration from the European Union,” he wrote.

The former head of MI6 added that London’s intelligence services “give much more” than they get from sharing security information and services.

Dearlove, who headed up the intelligence agency between 1996 and 2004, said European intelligence bodies are the “leakiest ships of state.”

"The larger powers cannot put their best intelligence material into such colanders. The British voice is nonetheless very influential because its intelligence and security community is, and will certainly remain, the strongest and most mature in Europe,” he said.

However, campaigners calling for Britain to stay in the EU insist that membership provides access to intelligence which is “of benefit” when preventing terrorist attacks.

Home Secretary Theresa May told the House of Commons: “I think there are a number of mechanisms that we are part of within the EU that do enhance our security."

Downing Street has yet to respond directly to Dearlove’s comments.