February 15, 2019 / 2:33 PM / 4 months ago

Brexit won't deter European security cooperation - intelligence chiefs

MUNICH (Reuters) - Britain’s exit from the European Union will not affect security cooperation with its NATO allies France and Germany, given the growing external threats to the continent’s stability, the intelligence chiefs of the three countries said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A anti-brexit protester carrying an EU flag walks down Whitehall in London, Britain, February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

“The chiefs ... said that all three services would continue to be close allies in jointly protecting Europe from threats such as Islamism, terrorism, organised crime or cyber-attacks,” the heads of Germany’s BND, France’s DGSE and Britain’s MI6 said in a rare joint statement.

“This would also hold true... in view of Brexit,” they said after meeting at the Munich Security Conference.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29. The British parliament last month rejected a withdrawal agreement reached by UK and EU negotiators, raising the possibility of a disruptive no-deal Brexit that could harm trade and other ties.

Britain and the EU have pledged to continue cooperation on security issues through institutions such as Europol and Eurojust after Brexit, although a proposed “operational cooperation” between police and justice systems remains vague.

However, British officials have warned that a no-deal Brexit would be a step back for security cooperation.

“Our security relationships are unconditional with our European colleagues... We need each other. This is a two-way street and that isn’t going to change,” Alex Younger, the head of the MI6 foreign intelligence service, told Reuters in an interview earlier on Friday.

“The relationship that exists between us and our European partners is closer than I have ever known it in my 30 years as an intelligence officer. Brexit doesn’t fundamentally alter those relationships,” he said.

Bernard Emie, director general of France’s Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure (DGSE), said Europe faced unprecedented threats and that the three allies had to reinforce their cooperation despite an uncertain political environment.

“The European continent is under growing threat of interference and external aggression,” Emie said.

“These challenges cannot be dealt with solely at a national level. They need a strong and coordinated response ... especially from our three services.”

Reporting by John Irish and Paul Carrel; Editing by Gareth Jones

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