9 May 2016

Will Brexit mean World War III?


The Prime Minister is extremely concerned about the risks posed by the possibility of Brexit. Boy, if he ever finds out who called this referendum he is going to give them a piece of his mind. Oh, hold on, it was the Prime Minister who called the referendum and said during his renegotiation that preceded it that he ruled nothing out. That means he considered recommending (over some footling benefits changes) the very Leave vote that he now says will mean the end of the world.

Indeed, according to the latest intervention by the PM it seems that Brexit could even lead to war, which does seem a little extreme. In a speech dripping with historical references (Roman legions, Waterloo, the Great War) at the British Museum, Cameron said: “Can we be so sure peace and stability on our continent are assured beyond any shadow of doubt? Is that a risk worth taking? I would never be so rash to make that assumption… What happens in our neighbourhood matters to Britain. That was true in 1914, 1940, 1989…. and it is true in 2016.”

That is pretty low grade stuff, trying to equate leaving the EU with being responsible for another potential war in Europe, or suggesting that those who want to Leave do not take history or Britain’s role as a European power seriously. It is Eurosceptics who have been warning for decades about the obsessive integrationist impulse to force nation states into a superstate structure breeding resentment of the kind that exists in Greece. The expansionist European Union, even with the UK’s supposedly restraining hand involved, made a serious mess of the Ukraine relationship with damaging consequences.

Incidentally, I see that it is now standard issue for the In campaign to talk of Brexit as Britain leaving Europe. No, no, no, as someone said in a different context. The UK cannot leave Europe. It would be a geographical and cultural impossibility; we are part of European civilisation. The European Union is not Europe. Leaving the EU is not leaving Europe.

But it seems pretty obvious what is being attempted here by the Remain campaign on war and continental upheaval. They not only hope to scare people on the grounds that another war would be a dreadful idea; they must also be hoping for wilder Eurosceptics on the Tory benches to start shouting like loons about the history of Europe’s wars and Germany’s record. There’s a strain of that 1950s Empire loyalist thinking in parts of UKIP too, that likes to emphasise supposed British exceptionalism (deriding great countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Italy.) It’s a bad look. If Leave are sensible they’ll put Tory MPs who lean that way in a cupboard and ban them from contact with broadcasters.

Less easy to explain from Remain is the torrent of warnings about leaving the EU being a risk to security and intelligence cooperation. It is so obviously complete cobblers. Fraser Nelson has taken apart the claims at Coffee House. As he says:

“Britain’s natural network is global, not parochial. Geographical proximity doesn’t give us more in common with countries: the beauty of Europe lies in its glorious diversity. It is because of that diversity that the EU struggles to pull off collective security, or collective anything.”

The EU is a complete non-starter on intelligence. What matters most of all is the Five Eyes relationship, involving the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Outside of that, the UK and France now cooperate extremely closely on a bilateral basis. Of course EU countries more widely share flight passenger lists and so on, but that is not what is meant by intelligence sharing and there is no reason other than self-defeating spite for it to stop anyway after Brexit.

There’s a worrying tendency of those with little interest in this subject to talk as though intelligence sharing should be an extension of school exchange programmes and diplomatic visits. You’ll hear it said on TV and radio discussion shows and everyone nods because it sounds nice: “It is very important that we all share intelligence across Europe to combat the terrorists. Let’s share that intelligence.”

That would be utter madness. It’s not how it works at all, thank goodness. Intelligence sharing is built on trust over decades and works on the following basis. You share with people you can be sure will not under any circumstances share it with someone else without your permission or leak it or be hacked. Add to that the German wariness of spying and strict attitude to privacy – thanks to the scarring experience of the Stasi that is within living memory – and the EU, for all that it has committees supposed to look at this area and a Europol keen to do more, is not where it’s at in terms of protecting us from threats. It is insulting of Remain to pretend otherwise.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX