This House believes that leaving the EU would increase British security

Security is not at the heart of the debate about leaving the EU, that is undoubtedly economics, nor is it the issue of most sentimental concern, that would be sovereignty and identity. While it may not be the deciding issue for many it is still an important issue in the referendum. People are unlikely to vote to leave if they believe that Britain will be less secure as a result. The majority of Britons (between 48 and 55%) believe that staying in or leaving the EU will make no difference to the risk of terrorism.[1] With such a large number believing it will make no difference there is lots of room for both campaigns to create a shift in opinion.

There are a large number of factors involved in security. It is tied up with migration through border controls and the possibility of migrants being terrorists attempting to get into the country. It is also tied up with Britain’s place in the world; will the UK be cooperating as closely with its neighbours? And it is tied into the economy as the size of the economy and tax receipts help determine the size of the military and amount that can be spent on security.

As with all such debates there is much hyperbole on both sides. David Cameron has stated “Can we be so sure that 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 as to make that assumption” potentially implying that there may be war if Britain leaves the EU.[2] A bit of a stretch though instability is certainly very plausible. On the other side saying “What held war at bay was, rather, NATO,”[3] essentially the military, and ignoring the softer European pull factors keeping the peace within the EU, as well as any non military security issues such as humanitarian issues or the environment, is almost equally hard to take seriously. It is however such divergent opinions that makes the debate particularly important.

[1] And added to this can be the 14-20% don’t knows’ to make 62-75%.

‘Do you think Britain would be more or less at risk from terrorism if it left the EU?’, whatukthinks.org, 22 February-26 April 2016, http://whatukthinks.org/eu/questions/do-you-think-britain-would-be-more-or-less-at-risk-from-terrorism-if-it-left-the-eu/

[2] ‘EU referendum: Cameron warns UK exit could put peace at risk’,

BBC News, 9th May 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36243296

[3] Abulafia, David, ‘Introduction: Europe and the defence of the West’, in ‘Peace-makers or credit takers?’ The EU and peace in Europe, by David Abulafia ed., Historians for Britain, http://historiansforbritain.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2016/02/WzW-Historians-for-Britain-essays-web2.pdf, p.7.

 

Title 
A nation state can only rely on itself for security
Point 

In the security sphere it is national interests that are most important and no state can expect other states to have exactly the same interests. Everyone therefore needs to look after their own. In the case of the EU Britain cannot expect France or Germany to have the same security interests as the UK with its different situation – being an island rather than part of the continent. Germany is much more concerned with Eastern Europe than the UK, France much more with Northern Africa. Freedom from the EU means greater freedom for the UK to focus on its own national interests on security; terrorism, maritime defence, and building up NATO rather than any competing European force.

Counterpoint 

While keeping sight of the UKs national interests is important almost all of them can be carried out as well with the European Union as outside it. In particular the whole of Europe is interested in preventing terrorism. In other areas such as maritime security it makes sense for the UK to specialise in it while other countries specialise in other areas such as having larger armies. Moreover it should be noted that the UK is in one of the safest areas of the world with no hostile states in any direction. In this sense the EU is a buffer between the UK and less stable areas such as North Africa, the Middle East, or Russia so it makes sense to work with them as part of the same organisations including the EU. 

Title 
The EU causes instability
Point 

According to Boris Johnson the European Union is “a force for instability and alienation”[1] that increasingly causes security problems such as the migration crisis. The EUs inability to solve its crises such as the economic difficulties of peripheral countries like Greece and Portugal are causing resentment and warnings that one may fall out of the Euro block. It is the EU that is creating these problems by not dealing with its crises but leaving them to fester and grow. In Greece for example only a third of Greeks have a positive view of the EU and only 17% believe integration has been good for Greece.[2]

[1] ‘EU referendum: Cameron warns UK exit could put peace at risk’, BBC News, 9th May 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36243296

[2] Stokes, Bruce, and Goo, Sara Kehaulani, ‘5 facts about Greece and the EU’, PewResearchCenter, 7 July 2015, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/07/5-facts-about-greece-and-the-eu/

Counterpoint 

If there were similar crises without the EU existing as a balm and place where all countries can talk regularly and confront problems together then the security situation would be much worse. In the past it has only taken small incidents to spark a war – usually exemplified by the assassination of archduke Franz Ferdinand starting off world war I, but there have also been wars started by trade such as the ‘War of Jenkins Ear’ which became part of the war of Austrian Succession. Today the EU provides a place to negotiate disputes between members making war between member states unthinkable. Of course war would still be a very unlikely response to a dispute, but leaving the EU would mean getting rid of one of the organisations that reduces that possibility by mitigating crises.  

Title 
Strong control of borders is needed to keep the country secure
Point 

Terrorism is often considered the biggest security threat to the UK. Ian Duncan Smith has argued that being in the EU “exposes UK to terror risk” because an “open border does not allow us to check and control people”.[1] The Schengen agreement on the free movement of people makes it easier for terrorists to move about in Europe as shown by the terrorist attacks on Paris which were planned in Brussels.

[1] ‘Staying in EU 'exposes UK to terror risk', says Iain Duncan Smith’, BBC News, 21 February 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35624409

Counterpoint 

Control of borders is important. However it is also not relevant to the debate as the UK not being a party to the Schengen agreement already has control over its borders; the UK checks passports and visas at the border just as would happen if the country were to leave the EU. Leaving would make no difference to UK border security. 

Title 
British security is dependent upon NATO not the EU
Point 

NATO is “the most successful defensive alliance in history”, it saw off the USSR and Warsaw pact without a fight and has created a single security regime throughout most of Europe.[1] With its’ record NATO is clearly most important for security in Europe; it is still needed to deter Russia. The creation of an EU army on the other hand will undermine NATO and is something that will be pushed through after the referendum.[2] Britain could likely opt out, but with cooperation taking place under EU rather than NATO auspices the alliance that has kept the peace would be badly damaged.

[1] London Declaration quoted by Reeve, Richard, ‘We need to talk about NATO’, OxfordResearchGroup, 17 September 2015, http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefing_papers_and_reports/we_need_talk_about_nato

[2] Kemp, Richard, ‘It is an EU army that could bring about war’, The Telegraph, 9 May 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/09/it-is-an-eu-army-that-could-bring-about-war/

Counterpoint 

In a letter to the Telegraph five former Secretary-Generals of NATO stated “The European Union… is a key partner for NATO” and that “Brexit would undoubtedly lead to a loss of British influence, undermine NATO and give succour to the West’s enemies just when we need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder across the Euro-Atlantic community against common threats”. They give sanctions imposed by the EU on Iran and Russia as examples of where the EU has lead on enhancing regional security.[1] Moreover if the EU is to create an EU force this will happen regardless of Brexit. Britain stands a much greater chance of stopping it when it has a voice in the EU with which to object.

[1] Lord Carrington, Javier Solana, Lord Robertson, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, ‘Letters: At a time of global instability, Britain needs to stand united with its EU allies’, The Telegraph, 10 May 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2016/05/09/letters-at-a-time-of-global-instability-britain-needs-to-stand-u/

Title 
Security is better shared
Point 

Security is not a zero sum game – our security does not get better if our neighbours is worse. On the contrary good French, Irish, Belgian and Norwegian security helps ensure good British security. Being in the EU provides an opportunity for cooperation between member states by creating interaction on all levels. Some integration ensures a common and cooperative response to international threats. The EU is the most obvious place to develop a coordinated response to terrorism and other, particularly non-military, security concerns throughout the region.[1]

[1] Galbreath, David, ‘Professor David Galbreath on: Security in, secure out: Brexit’s impact on security and defence policy’, University of Bath IPR Blog, 24 March 2016, http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/iprblog/2016/03/24/professor-david-galbreath-on-security-in-secure-out-brexits-impact-on-security-and-defence-policy/

Counterpoint 

The EU simply adds to an alphabet soup of organisations that work on security in Europe. The two which matter, NATO and EUROPOL, both have little to do with the EU and would work just as well with the UK out. 

Title 
Leaving will mean less communication with other security services
Point 

Leaving the EU may damage relationships with key security partners such as France and Germany. Both countries would have much less reason to cooperate on security issued when not in the same organisation. There would certainly still be some cooperation but the former heads of Mi5 and Mi6, Lord Evans and Sir John Sawers have stated that the UK would lose out through not being able “to take part in the decisions that frame the sharing of data, which is a crucial part of counter-terrorism and counter-cyber work”. Sawers points out that data sharing in the EU allowed France to transfer DNA and fingerprints of one of the Brussels bombers within months – previous to EU data sharing it would have taken months slowing down critical investigations.[1]

[1] ‘Row as ex-intelligence chiefs say EU membership protects UK security’, BBC News, 8 May 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36239741

Counterpoint 

There would still be data sharing between Britain and its neighbours even if the UK left the EU. No intelligence agency would sit on information that could save lives in another country simply because that country is no longer in the same organisation. Moreover the UK could still negotiate data sharing agreements with relevant intelligence agencies to ensure that information sharing remains fast and comprehensive. 

Title 
The EU brings together former enemies
Point 

The EU has created peace among states that formerly fought each other. Most notably Germany and France had fought each other three times in seventy-five years prior to the formation of the EU. The EU has helped make such a conflict unthinkable now. The EU as a structure restrains old rivalries through giving a joint project and goal. It ensures cooperation particularly in places where there are competing interests like Gibraltar where continued cross border access is guaranteed by being a member of the EU.[1]

[1] Hague, William, ‘Leaving the EU would be disastrous for the Falklands, Gibraltar and Ulster’, The Telegraph, 9 May 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/09/leaving-the-eu-would-be-disastrous-for-the-falklands-gibraltar-a/

Counterpoint 

Since the end of World War II Germany and national rivalries in Western Europe not been the main threat to Europe. Instead that threat has emanated from outside the EU; largely from Russia, and then from more nebulous threats such as terrorism. In both these cases it has been military alliances such as NATO and nuclear deterrence that have kept the peace.

Bibliography 

Abulafia, David, ‘Introduction: Europe and the defence of the West’, in ‘Peace-makers or credit takers?’ The EU and peace in Europe, by David Abulafia ed., Historians for Britain, http://historiansforbritain.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2016/02/WzW-Historians-for-Britain-essays-web2.pdf

‘EU referendum: Cameron warns UK exit could put peace at risk’, BBC News, 9th May 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36243296

‘EU referendum: Cameron warns UK exit could put peace at risk’, BBC News, 9 May 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36243296

‘Staying in EU 'exposes UK to terror risk', says Iain Duncan Smith’, BBC News, 21 February 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35624409

Lord Carrington, Javier Solana, Lord Robertson, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, ‘Letters: At a time of global instability, Britain needs to stand united with its EU allies’, The Telegraph, 10 May 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2016/05/09/letters-at-a-time-of-global-instability-britain-needs-to-stand-u/

Galbreath, David, ‘Professor David Galbreath on: Security in, secure out: Brexit’s impact on security and defence policy’, University of Bath IPR Blog, 24 March 2016, http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/iprblog/2016/03/24/professor-david-galbreath-on-security-in-secure-out-brexits-impact-on-security-and-defence-policy/

Hague, William, ‘Leaving the EU would be disastrous for the Falklands, Gibraltar and Ulster’, The Telegraph, 9 May 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/09/leaving-the-eu-would-be-disastrous-for-the-falklands-gibraltar-a/

Kemp, Richard, ‘It is an EU army that could bring about war’, The Telegraph, 9 May 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/09/it-is-an-eu-army-that-could-bring-about-war/

Reeve, Richard, ‘We need to talk about NATO’, OxfordResearchGroup, 17 September 2015, http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefing_papers_and_reports/we_need_talk_about_nato

Stokes, Bruce, and Goo, Sara Kehaulani, ‘5 facts about Greece and the EU’, PewResearchCenter, 7 July 2015, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/07/5-facts-about-greece-and-the-eu/

‘Do you think Britain would be more or less at risk from terrorism if it left the EU?’, whatukthinks.org, 22 February-26 April 2016, http://whatukthinks.org/eu/questions/do-you-think-britain-would-be-more-or-less-at-risk-from-terrorism-if-it-left-the-eu/

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