No-deal Brexit could be exploited by terrorists

No-deal Brexit could be exploited by terrorists

Europol’s headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. (Reuters)

Terrorism is a major international security issue. While the Treaty on European Union clearly states that national security is a national issue, the EU has also realized the benefits of increased collaboration against a common enemy. In the past five years, the European Parliamenthas increased its security budget, expanded Europol’s access to information, established the Passenger Name Record (PNR), and tackled money laundering head-on to prevent the financing of terrorism. There are also a multitude of databases and tools that Europol has created for the betterment of the entire bloc’s security.

First and foremost is the Europol Information System(EIS), which allows instant and unfettered access to intelligence all throughout the EU. For example, if the Croatian government wants to access French cellphone records of a suspicious individual, it can do so without a lengthy bureaucratic process that would allow perpetrators to duck justice for longer.

In the case of money laundering and terrorist financing, the EIS allows the trail of cash to be followed from country to country. If a suspicious individual is noted making an unusual bank transfer in one member state, the EIS makes that information available to all. The EU takes money laundering very seriously and addresses it with its Anti-Money Laundering Directives (AMLD).

A similar tool to the EIS is the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS). Thislogs DNA evidence, fingerprints and the records of convicts across the EU, including third country citizens, and essentially restricts the movement of criminals. This information is also usedin conjunction with the PNR to identify and track the movement of individuals flying both domestically and internationally. When combined with the Schengen Information System immigration database, it creates multiple layers of protection against potentially dangerous travelers. And, when they do get through, the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) makes sure they are brought to swift justice.

The common theme between all these measures is convenience, cooperation, and speed. They have led to the public perception of adequacy in fighting terrorism increasing by 9 percent from 2016 to 2018. This perception change is in response to thousands of arrests and the removal of 45,000 extremist messages from the internet. Current terrorist arrest rates are nearly doublethose of 2014.

Along with France and President Emmanuel Macron’s task force, the UK has been one of the leaders in the charge against terror. For starters, it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and its intelligence gathering has contributed greatly to the common data sets of Europol. In leaving the EU, the UK will also leave an invaluable security network that it helped build.

Criminals love instability, and nothing brings about instability like times of radical change.

Nathalie Goulet

Criminals love instability, and nothing brings about instability like times of radical change. The UK’s controversial vote to exit the EU has brought with it a mounting threat of increased money laundering, especially to fund terrorist organizations. This is not only due to the economic instability that comes with the shift, but also due to the country’s unclear status as a part of Europe’s international networks of policing and intelligence. The EU is about to implementits Fifth Money Laundering Directive to combat shell corporations, the misuse of virtual currencies, and create a public register of corporations and their beneficiaries.

It is unlikely that the UK could follow suit as effectively without the intelligence of Europol. The issue of laundering currently coststhe country £24 billion ($29 billion) per year. Accordingto a UK proposal to maintain a close partnership with Europol, the nation “contributed over 6,000 pieces of information to the Europol serious and organized crime analysis projects… more than any other member state.” It is clearly a symbiotic relationship that both parties will be worse off for losing. In order to curtail that instability and maintain ties with Europol, a divorce deal is necessary.

It is unclear if citizens and voters in the midst of a burning summer understand the severity of the situation and exactly how much is at stake. All of the aforementioned security tools will be lost without a proper exit strategy.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal included paying €39 billion ($43 billion) to the EU to settle the UK’s debts, as well as a much-needed transition period until at least the end of 2020. This transition period would allowfor the future relationship between the UK and EU to be hammered out after the secession, while leaving the UK under EU law without the ability to vote on EU resolutions, something Brexiteers are not fans of. However, an agreement is crucial due to a myriad of issues, ranging from the status of UK nationals working elsewhere in the EU to the relocation of financial institutions. Essentially, all of these concerns can be answered if a deal is agreed. The EU would essentially taper off the relationship instead of chopping it on Oct. 31.

Under hard-line new PM Boris Johnson, the threat of a no-deal Brexit is higher than ever. Even though May leveraged the no-deal scenario against the EU to the best of her abilities, Johnson’s far-right, cavalier attitude has the future of the UK truly up in the air. May’s resignation came in the wake of three failed attempts to get British MPs on board with her exit plan. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the EU’s insistence on an Irish border backstop, which would keep the entirety of the UK under European customs regulations, including packages sent from the UK to Northern Ireland. This obviously goes against the fundamental goal of the Brexiteers, which is trade and commerce unregulated by the EU. The EU has refused to reopen negotiations without a backstop or a technical backstop solution. Johnson has promised that, regardless of a deal, the UK will complete its exit on Oct. 31.

With only three months to decide the fate of European security, there are several scenarios on the table. In a report entitled “The EU-UK relationship beyond Brexit: Options for Police Cooperation and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters,” the European Parliament outlined what the next course of action could be. Both parties are clear on wanting some sort of relationship, yet the extent is not agreed on. An unprecedented special operational arrangement is the best-case scenario, while a no-deal scenario would leave the UK reliant on Interpol and its own records to solve crimes.

A no-deal scenario would essentially make the UK no different to the EU than, say, Mongolia as far as criminal justice cooperation goes. This lack of cooperation, compounded with the issue of bank headquarters and their anti-laundering experts fleeing the UK, would leavethe country entirely to its own devices on that front. In addition, it would be far more difficult to track the movement of criminal individuals or groups as they move through Europe into the UK. This problem requires an exit deal to open the door for negotiations, and then for those negotiations to carefully weigh politics and ethics in protecting European security.

Brexit should not become a new opportunity for terrorists who are already taking advantage of European solidarity and security breaches. The UK may become somewhat of a breeding ground for European terror. Let’s hope a deal is struck for the sake of our world’s security.

  • Nathalie Goulet is a member of the Senate of France, representing the Orne department (Normandy). Twitter: @senateur61.
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