Jeremy Fleming pointedly highlighted Britain’s “critical” role in EU security just hours after Michel Barnier issued a Brexit security threat yesterday.
Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, yesterday warned the UK would not have access to the European arrest warrant database and would have a restricted decision-making influence in European security organisations after Brexit.
In response, Mr Fleming made a rare public intervention, highlighting the importance the UK holds in the security of the continent.
He said during a visit to Nato headquarters yesterday: “We’ve played a critical role in the disruption of terrorist operations in at least four European countries in the past year.
“We’ve worked with our European colleagues to share understanding of how to protect our democratic elections and we’ve unmasked aggressive behaviour in cyberspace to better help businesses and citizens protect themselves, for example by joining with others to attribute NotPetya to Russia.
“Those relationships, and our ability to work together, save lives. That will continue after Brexit, for the benefit of the UK and our partners across Europe.”
And he made clear his belief the security of both the UK and Europe as a whole would be better served if key bonds remained after Brexit – despite Mr Barnier’s scaremongering.
Mr Fleming said: “This visit comes at a pivotal time of course as the UK leaves the EU and as we agree a treaty on security to ensure that the UK and EU member states continue to work together to keep us all secure in the future.
“We have excellent relationships with intelligence and security agencies across the continent.
“Over the last 12 months we will have shared classified cyber-threat intelligence with the majority of Nato member states and of course with Nato headquarters itself.
“The UK government has made it clear that we’re ready to bring out offensive cyber capabilities to bear – such as those we’ve used so effectively against Daesh – for the benefit of our allies.”
Yesterday Mr Barnier said the UK would lose out on security if it continues with its plan to leave the EU.
He claimed Britain had to accept its security relationship would change after the country’s withdrawal from the union.
He said: “We will need to cooperate on a different basis – that is a challenge in itself.
“The UK has decided to leave the EU, its institutions, structures and safeguards – it will be a third country outside Schengen and outside the EU’s legal order.
“This is a fact, facts have consequences.”
His rebuke was understood to have caused irritation in Downing Street given the Prime Minister’s “unconditional” offer of continued security cooperation.
And today Guy Verhofstadt also sent a Brexit security warning during an appearance at the Commons Brexit Committee.
He said it is “impossible” for the UK to remain in the EU arrest warrant but said a near-replica extradition deal could be created with similar levels of “flexibility”.
He also accuses Britain of now demanding to be given access to things it opted-out of in recent years.