Gerry Northwood OBE, COO of MAST, the international maritime security company, suggests that Britain should do more for the EU in order to strengthen its own security.

The EU Referendum debate has brought many different arguments to the fore about the effect a British exit could potentially have on the economy, trade and security, amongst other important topics. At MAST we certainly benefit from being part of the Single Market as certain areas of our business, such as the work we do with superyachts and shipyards, require the movement of people and goods around Europe.
However, it is the impact on security which, as a security company, we are naturally most interested in. At the higher strategic level Britain has always sought to have sufficient political influence in Europe to prevent any single European power gaining hegemony over Western Europe, and leaving will undoubtedly diminish Britain’s ability to counter-balance the present German dominance of the EU.
It will also send the wrong message to President Putin and others who would like to see the power and credibility of the EU and Western European NATO members undermined. Yet the potential existential threat that Russia presents to Britain’s security is mainly countered by our membership of NATO, and the frameworks for countering uncontrolled migration, Islamic terrorism, or international crime mainly stems from one on one agreements between individual states.
This does not mean that the EU does not have an important role to play in countering the various threats that Europe faces. In recognising this, the EU has conducted operations in the Balkans, Chad, the Indian Ocean and most recently in the Mediterranean. Successfully generating the collaborative structures to counteract piracy in the Indian Ocean made this the most successful mission for the EU to date, and one from which many good lessons can be drawn. It also exposed the level to which the EU needed to leverage individual member state expertise. In this case it was mainly UK expertise and influence which made the operational and legal framework possible.
The same applies to the Mediterranean and the operations currently being conducted to try and control the migrant flows. Unless individual Member States, and this includes the UK, step up to the plate and leverage on their historical relationships and bring the full weight of their diplomatic, military and legal expertise to the fore, the mission will fail. In other words, solving the problem of the migrant outflows from Syria and Libya, is something that Brussels is not well placed to resolve without meaningful support from Member States.
Like it or not, as an island nation situated off the North West corner of the European peninsular, our security is inextricably bound up with Europe and where national security is concerned, Britain has never acted alone. As probably the most successful nation state in Europe through 300 years of tumultuous history, Britain has always been on the winning side through forging successful alliances. It is therefore, important to recognise that the EU, despite its obvious weaknesses, plays a significant role in underpinning the security of its Member States. However, to protect Britain’s interests, we must be in and committed. The UK must lead, shape and where necessary, stiffen the EU, so that the security and general standing of Europe is enhanced. To leave would be to abandon a long standing national strategy, and the UK and Europe will consequently be more vulnerable to terrorist and criminal activity.  The EU needs us, as much as we need them, and we should stay in for business reasons as well as a broad range of security issues which impact on national security.  
 

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