Munich — Britain’s exit from the EU will not affect security co-operation 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.
“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 Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), France’s Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (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 EU on March 29. Last month, the British parliament 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 co-operation on security issues through institutions such as Europol and Eurojust after Brexit, although a proposed “operational co-operation” between police and justice systems remains vague.
However, British officials have warned that a no-deal Brexit would be a step back for security co-operation.
“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 Émié, director general of France’s DGSE, said Europe faced unprecedented threats and that the three allies had to reinforce their co-operation despite an uncertain political environment.
“The European continent is under growing threat of interference and external aggression,” Émié said. “These challenges cannot be dealt with solely at a national level. They need a strong and co-ordinated response ... especially from our three services.”