A former CIA director has said the European Union “gets in the way” of security services, further undermining Prime Minister David Cameron’s assertion that remaining within the EU makes the UK safer.
His comments come just a day after the former head of Britain’s MI6 security agency, Sir Richard Dearlove, said that membership of the EU actively hampers British security. He argued that, on a range of measures, a British exit is demonstrably better for national security.
Retired general Michael Hayden agreed with his former colleague, telling the BBC that the EU is “not a natural contributor to national security”.
“National security remains a national responsibility and so sadly, the grades you have to give to each of the services are frankly individual, and it’s very uneven,” General Hayden explained.
While France and Britain have “very good”, “aggressive” security services, Belgium’s, he said, is “small, under-resourced, legally limited and frankly, working for a government that itself has its own challenges in terms of overall governance.”
“European defence and security policy has proved to be little more than an aspiration,” sir Richard said in his intervention, adding “Britain is Europe’s leader in intelligence and security matters and gives much more than it gets in return. It is difficult to imagine any of the other EU members ending the relationships they already enjoy with the UK.”
General Hayden responded: “I think Sir Richard is right. Because of this division of labour – I don’t mean to be arguing against the European Union, but with regard to these kinds of questions – the Union is not a natural contributor to national security of each of the entity states.
“In fact, in some ways [it] gets in the way of the states providing security for its own citizens.”
Britain leaving the EU therefore “wouldn’t have much effect, certainly on the American ability to co-operate with national security services which, again, maintain and keep the primary responsibility for national security,” he said.
And he agreed that, in his experience, European security services have a tendency to interact more with American security agencies that with each other “because frankly, we [American security] are a pretty good investment. We’re huge.”
“The same math does not apply to other services on the continent,” he added.
Welcoming General Hayden’s intervention, Leave.eu campaign co-founder Arron Banks said: “Now that a former head of the CIA, a security superpower, has shot down claims that the EU makes us safer, Cameron has no excuse for not being straight with the British public.
“General Hayden, Sir Richard Dearlove and the man in the street all understand that we’re made less safe by EU rules which give Belgian Islamists the right to settle in the UK and EU courts which stop us from deporting dangerous people who are already here,” he said.
Responding to General Hayden’s comments, Philippe de Backer, a Belgian European Member of Parliament from the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe told Today: “I strongly disagree with him.”
He argued that the United States wouldn’t put up with a patchwork of intelligence agencies working independently in each American state, and neither should the European Union’s member states, adding: “The terrorist are not concerned with borders or national sovereignty.”
But it’s an argument that Mr Banks rejected, accusing pro-EU politicians of using the tragedy in Brussels this week to make a “power grab”
“The pro-EU politician from Belgium who spoke after General Hayden had his head deep in the sand, defending the European Commission’s attempt to use the Brussels attacks as an excuse to grab power over national intelligence services,” he said.
“Personally, I can’t think of anything more likely to undermine the freedom the terrorists want to destroy than a central spy agency under the control of the inept and unaccountable Eurocrats who enabled the current security crisis.
“These people are dangerous and deluded, and we can’t be safe so long as they’re able to overrule our courts and dictate who can and can’t come into our country.”
Latest polling by Survation shows the remain campaign ahead by eleven points, but support for remaining within the Union is waning – two percent of people have switched from remain to leave in the last month to produce a result of 46 percent backing remain against 35 percent who plan to vote leave. 19 percent are still undecided.