Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

U.K. Spy Chiefs Say Brexit Data-Sharing Deal Vital to Security

  • MI5 and GCHQ both cite need for agreement between EU and U.K.
  • EU allies needed reassurance after Brexit vote, MI5 boss says

Britain’s intelligence chiefs have warned that a failure to agree data-sharing rules after Brexit could threaten security both in the U.K. and the European Union.

The comments were published in a report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, which monitors the work of the domestic security service, known as MI5, the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6 and the government’s interception service, GCHQ.

In evidence in December 2016, an unnamed witness from GCHQ cited the rules covering the movement of data into and out of the EU as the area where failure to reach a deal could compromise security.

“It will have big implications for us, so getting that right is important,” the witness said. That point was repeated in evidence from MI5 director-general Andrew Parker the same month.

Asked more generally whether Brexit would affect MI5’s relationship with EU partners, Parker replied that it was a mixed picture. 

“My life has got more difficult since the referendum because of the need to invest reassurance time with all of our European partners,” he said. “But the thing that is driving the quality of those relationships currently is the darkness of the threat and the common concern about it. Half of Europe is scared of terrorism and the other half is scared of Russia and both halves want us to help them.”

The report didn’t mention the views of MI6 chiefs on Brexit, but academics who study the agency have suggested that the negotiations to leave the EU may have left the body busier, as it is likely to have been asked to spy on the people across the table.

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