MPs should vote down the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, says the former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove. The former intelligence chief – “C” – and Falklands hero Major-General Julian Thompson, along with other former senior military and security figures, have warned that the government has during Brexit negotiations embedded the UK in EU defence and security structures, without seeking proper parliamentary oversight or approval.
The group has been warning that the Prime Minister’s deal constitutes a threat to national security, putting UK forces and intelligence and security interests under the emerging superstructure of EU policy. They claim: “Transferring defence sovereignty and compromising the crown jewels in our Intelligence relationships is a bridge far too far in the Cabinet Office’s stealthy efforts to lock the country into perpetual alignment with the EU.”
In highly unusual terms, Number 10 reprimanded Dearlove, and he now hits back. Tonight, Dearlove and Thompson have released the text of a letter sent to MPs.
7 December 2018
To – Members of Parliament
On 29 November, with others, we published a letter to the Prime Minister. It explained that the Withdrawal Agreement, on which you will shortly be called to vote, threatens to change our national security policy by binding us into new sets of EU controlled relationships.
Buried in the Agreement is the offer of a ‘new, deep and special relationship’ with the EU in defence, security and intelligence which cuts across the three fundamentals of our national security policy: membership of NATO, our close bilateral defence and intelligence relationship with the USA, and the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
Number 10’s immediate response to our letter showed we had touched a raw nerve. However their rebuttal indicated a worryingly poor understanding of the issues. We repudiate their arguments and their criticism (see below).
The first duty of the state, above trade, is the security of its citizens. The Withdrawal Agreement abrogates this fundamental contract and would place control of aspects of our national security in foreign hands. Vote against this bad agreement.
Sir Richard Dearlove
Major-General Julian Thompson
Dearlove and Thompson have also issued a twelve point rebuttal of Number 10’s claims, published below.
1. The ‘deal’ surrenders British national security by subordinating UK defence forces to Military EU control. No 10 reveals complete failure to understand the legally prescribed general principle of EU association and Military EU documents
2. The ‘flexible partnership’ is not on offer: only subordination to the inflexible pooled law of the EU. The defence documents show that if the UK participates in EU defence it accepts 3rd country associated status. Officials have been caught acknowledging in private that the Government has known about these strict EU participation criteria since Theresa May authorised joining the Military EU defence frameworks between November 2016 and June 2017. These participation criteria include adherence to the full scope of EU defence policy plus structural engagement as a rule-taker on intelligence, space, financial contributions and the European Defence Agency. Understanding this, Sam Gyimah MP resigned as a Minister, prompted by his engagement with the Galileo satellite programme.
3. The EDA’s Dirk Tielburger confirmed that there would be ‘no flexibility’ in the participation rules for the UK if it took part in the European Defence Fund. The MOD’s head of science and technology Dr Bryan Wells said in early 2017 that the UK would require a proximity to EU rules and structures which ‘resembled that of Norway’ if the UK were to stay involved in EU Defence Fund projects
4. Norway voted clearly not to join the EU. The Norwegian elite therefore engineered de facto membership as a rule-taker only. The UK Government has consistently said that the UK aim was for a relationship even more restrictive than Norway’s. On 29 November 2018, Government called for ‘the broadest and most comprehensive security relationship the EU has ever had with another country’. The “Kit Kat Tapes” reveal that the UK Government seeks ‘no gap’ in its application of obligations under the Common Foreign and Security Policy after the UK has let the EU.
5. Paul Johnston, the UK’s representative on the Political and Security Committee, said “We’ve deliberately been more descriptive than prescriptive. What we hear from the other side is sometimes rather – sort of – technical, legalistic: ‘Well you don’t understand about third country relationships’.”
6. The idea that the Government will be able to create a ‘flexible framework’ is contradicted by the principles of EU defence autonomy. The clear, binding and published obligation to submit to CSDP alignment has been deliberately obscured. Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK can be only a rule-taker in defence and security. Cyprus sought confirmation from the EU Commission that the proposed UK involvement in CSDP did not permit a decision-making role. The EU Commission wrote to Cyprus reassuring that UK involvement would not involve decision-making. The UK would be involved solely as a rule-taker.
7. Most serious of all, while knowing the truth, the Government has, for more than one year, refused to confirm that the UK would be subject to a structural and institutional relationship with the EU on the sharing of intelligence. However, the Government’s paper on security produced by Cabinet Office on 28 November 2018 finally confirms that this structural, institutional relationship would in fact be created. American and Five Eyes allies are quite clear that a structural relationship with the EU in the intelligence area will harm our key alliance, contrary to No 10’s assertion otherwise.
8. No 10 states:”The UK is leaving the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy, the European Defence Agency and all other EU defence structures. There will be no subordination. We will retain full sovereign control of our armed forces, and will decide when and where we wish to cooperate”. This is complete and dangerous nonsense. The insistence on UK involvement in the EU’s defence programmes stated throughout the exit agreements, plus four separate Government policy papers before them, mean that the Government is putting the country into a position where EU participation criteria are inescapable. On the European Defence Agency, Government has said it wants a ‘cooperative accord’ placing the UK into ie under EDA programmes and initiatives.
9. In contrast to the alternative offered by the WTO, the Withdrawal Agreement will disadvantage UK defence industries and the UK Government as Europe’s largest purchaser of defence equipment. If we leave on World Trade Rules, WTO will grant the UK entry to the Government Purchasing Agreement exemption for defence equipments which will give both global free trade and greater certainty to the UK defence sector. No 10’s stated position is the opposite of the truth.
10 The EU has developed new frameworks and programmes which have the potential to duplicate and detract from NATO in 20 separate areas from science and technology to logistics, airlift and eventually emergency chain of command. President Macron’s Verdun interview in particular, and Mrs Merkel’s European Parliament speech, make plain that Military EU is intended as a rival to US power and therefore to NATO. Any institutional, structural relationship with the EU on the sharing of intelligence brings the risk of breaking the Five Eyes Alliance and therefore an inevitable threat to British national security. The Technical Note on Exchange and Protection of Classified Information of 25 May starkly displays the danger, revealing that, on its misguided misunderstanding of what it implies, the Government places intelligence exchange at the core of its offer to “build a new, deep and special partnership with the EU…fundamental to cooperation across the future partnership” (Cls 1-2). Given that, unlike Canada or the USA, the UK will be compelled to apply the EU’s CSDP, the EU Global Strategy (the EU’s flagship document that was agreed by the UK at EU Council) will rule. This document calls for a hub-and-spoke intelligence arrangement between the EEAS, EU INTCEN and the intelligence capabilities of the CSDP states. Although the Government’s 28 November Security paper indicates the potential for non-classified information to be shared on an ad hoc basis, it is silent about the sharing of classified information. It conceals the expectations of the EU institutions with respect to the growing and gathering intelligence environment of the CSDP participant states. These structural relationships threaten the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance that is the bedrock of western security. The Government has to choose between the anglosphere and wider world and structural subordination to Military EU. It has chosen Military EU which is absolutely the wrong choice. It is therefore an inescapeable fact that the Withdrawal documents pose a real and present threat to UK national security.
11. A minimally competent negotiation over the last two years should have hammered out a free trade agreement but did not do so. Therefore leaving on 29 March 2019 on World Trade Rules is now the only way. The UK Government passed up the opportunity to obtain a free trade deal with the EU by spending months messing around with the concept of a joint rulebook and common customs areas, being ambushed and bogged down by the entirely artificial Irish border issue and ceding the £39bn ransom without conditions.The way this deal and set of promises and future agreements has been composed is actively in conflict with the UK’s interests. In defence, foreign policy and intelligence, the EU finds itself given an unconditional de facto pledge preemptively by Mrs May to continue as a rule-taker only with a level of UK commitment which resembles the current relationship but without membership. The Technical Note of 24 May (Clause 25) states that a defence treaty containing the administrative agreements, intelligence deal and association agreements will be signed as early as possible in the transition as an international treaty under prerogative powers provided the EU believes that deal adequately commits the UK to the EU defence rulebook.
12. The EU will use defence industrial cooperation as a lever to coerce the UK via instruments which have scope to grow beyond recognition. The wider industrial and trade relationship can be used by the EU to force the hand of the UK to submit to incrementally increased levels of policy transfer in all other areas since everything is linked to everything else. There is absolutely no commercial or industrial gain for the UK from being in these structures since the WTO offers superior terms without need for negotiation or ransom.
Just as the EU will be empowered to demand concessions to escape from the ‘transitional period’ customs union once the UK has ceded sovereign power to do so to EU institutions – Macron has already spoken of access to our fishing grounds as his price – so the EU could demand yet deeper access to our defence and security assets as the price of release from the ‘backstop.’ Mrs May has already pre-emptively surrendered leverage from the UK’s defence and security assets as well as from the ransom payment and over independent escape from the transition period. Transferring defence sovereignty and compromising the crown jewels in our Intelligence relationships is a bridge far too far in the Cabinet Office’s stealthy efforts to lock the country into perpetual alignment with the EU.
Less than 50% of our export economy is linked to the EU, with which we run a £95 billion annual trade deficit. Only 10% of UK businesses actually trade with the EU. Most of the British economy has nothing to do with the EU and the people will not sell themselves into a colonial vassalage for the convenience of the 8% of the economy represented by ‘just-in-time’ manufacturers. As we stated the people are even less open to a transactional offer now than in 2016. World Trade Rules are to be welcomed, and there is nothing to fear in this. As we stated in the Message to the Prime Minister: “No risks are greater than Mrs May’s terms of surrender”. It is well established that the UK has no legal obligation to pay anything, especially not for nothing. It is therefore correctly named as a ransom and ransoms should not be paid.
Amid the whirlwind of the Brexit crisis, with the Prime Minister’s deal facing criticism on multiple fronts, too little attention has been paid to the security and defence aspects of what officials have agreed. But it is remarkable. Figures who served their country at the highest levels are appalled by what the government has, by stealth, signed away.