Lon­don at­tack in­ten­si­fies ques­tions on coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts un­der Brexit

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY ISAAC STAN­LEY-BECKER for­eign@wash­post.com

lon­don — The man who brought ter­ror to the heart of Lon­don on Wed­nes­day was Bri­tish-born, and author­i­ties have given no in­di­ca­tion his plan­ning un­folded transna­tion­ally. But the at­tack at the Palace of West­min­ster had in­stant ram­i­fi­ca­tions for Europe and for the globe, not least be­cause of the in­ter­na­tional pro­file of those killed or in­jured, among them Bri­tons, Amer­i­cans, Ro­ma­ni­ans and Ital­ians.

An­other rea­son the at­tack sowed wider un­cer­tainty was that it un­der­scored ques­tions about the terms of Bri­tain’s planned exit from the Euro­pean Union. At stake, an­a­lysts said, may be the fu­ture of po­lice co­op­er­a­tion and in­tel­li­gence shar­ing, which have been hall­marks of Euro­pean coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts. Strikes sim­i­lar to the one at the cen­ter of the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment Wed­nes­day have fre­quently in­volved peo­ple or weapons travers­ing state lines.

“What’s now ob­vi­ous is that when a mo­tor ve­hi­cle is used as a weapon, we’re all at risk,” said Ben­jamin Bowl­ing, a scholar of global polic­ing at King’s Col­lege Lon­don. Whether the case is do­mes­tic or in­ter­na­tional, he said, “you need proper shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion and a strat­egy in re­la­tion to peo­ple who are com­mit­ting acts of this kind across bor­ders. With­out law­ful pro­cesses for shar­ing in­for­ma­tion and work­ing to­gether post-Brexit, that kind of co­op­er­a­tion be­comes much more dif­fi­cult.”

The at­tack im­me­di­ately re­newed de­bates over im­mi­gra­tion and bor­der pol­icy, dom­i­nant is­sues in last year’s ref­er­en­dum in which Bri­tish vot­ers de­cided to leave the bloc. This week, then, was an­other oc­ca­sion for far-right politi­cians and pun­dits to ar­gue for tight­ened con­trols. Nigel Farage, the for­mer leader of the U.K. In­de­pen­dence Party, asked on Fox Busi­ness: “We al­ready have a prob­lem with home­grown ter­ror­ism. Why on Earth would you add to it by bring­ing peo­ple in?”

The shadow of Brexit was per­haps clear­est, though, in a meet­ing Thurs­day be­tween Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski, who chairs Poland’s right-wing Law and Jus­tice Party, about the terms of the Bri­tish de­par­ture. Ear­lier in the day, Pol­ish Prime Min­is­ter Beata Szydlo told a Pol­ish tele­vi­sion sta­tion that “it is im­pos­si­ble not to con­nect” ter­ror­ism and im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy. It was the same day Bri­tish of­fi­cials iden­ti­fied the per­pe­tra­tor, who was shot dead at the gates to Par­lia­ment, as 52-year-old Khalid Ma­sood, a Bri­ton whose birth name was Adrian Rus­sell Ajao.

Kaczyn­ski told me­dia out­side Down­ing Street that the meet­ing fo­cused on the fate of Pol­ish cit­i­zens in Bri­tain. But the most press­ing ques­tion about Brexit fol­low­ing Wed­nes­day’s at­tack is not about work visas, an­a­lysts and for­mer diplo­mats said. At risk, de­pend­ing on the out­come of exit ne­go­ti­a­tions, are core law en­force­ment and se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions, they said.

In the event of a de­ci­sive break from Europe, Bri­tain would re­tain bi­lat­eral in­tel­li­gence re­la­tion­ships but lose ac­cess to mul­ti­lat­eral an­a­lytic tools, as well as bi­lat­eral mech­a­nisms in­volv­ing po­lice and ju­di­cial author­i­ties, said Gijs de Vries, a for­mer E.U. coun­tert­er­ror­ism co­or­di­na­tor and Nether­lands politi­cian and a fel­low at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics. Var­i­ous Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, such as MI5 and MI6, would con­tinue to co­op­er­ate with Euro­pean part­ners, he said.

“What would change is the com­ple­men­tary ex­changes at the an­a­lyt­i­cal level,” he said. “For ex­am­ple, what pat­terns do we see through­out Europe of travel by po­ten­tial ter­ror­ist sus­pects? Th­ese ques­tions are dis­cussed in the Euro­pean Union In­tel­li­gence and Sit­u­a­tion Cen­ter.”

In the area of po­lice and ju­di­cial co­op­er­a­tion, Bri­tain could lose ac­cess to nu­mer­ous ve­hi­cles of in­for­ma­tion ex­change, said de Vries, who helped write the E.U.’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­egy in 2005. Those in­clude the as­so­ci­a­tion’s law en­force­ment and ju­di­cial agen­cies, as well as data­bases that store se­cu­rity de­tails, such as DNA, fin­ger­prints and ve­hi­cle in­for­ma­tion. It could lose ac­cess to le­gal in­stru­ments that al­low mem­ber states to quickly ex­tra­dite crim­i­nal sus­pects, as Bri­tain did with a sus­pect who fled to Italy after a failed sec­ond at­tempt at sub­way bomb­ings in 2005. The first round killed more than 50 peo­ple.

Bri­tain must de­cide whether to re­quest ac­cess to th­ese in­stru­ments as part of its ne­go­ti­a­tions, de Vries said. If it does, that will en­tail con­tin­ued po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion with Euro­pean part­ners.

“If you want to opt in to th­ese things, it means you stay part of the club in a num­ber of par­tic­u­lar ar­eas,” he said. “If the Brits put sovereignty above se­cu­rity, ev­ery­body loses.”

Other ex­perts sug­gested that Bri­tain’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in po­lice and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion would out­last Brexit, par­tic­u­larly given that the or­gans of in­tel­li­gence­shar­ing were not the source of Euroskep­ti­cism pow­er­ing the leave cam­paign.

“My start­ing point is that there’s no con­crete rea­son why in­tel­li­gence co­op­er­a­tion shouldn’t con­tinue and be quite good,” said James de Waal, a for­mer Bri­tish diplo­mat and a se­nior con­sult­ing fel­low at Chatham House, a re­search in­sti­tu­tion based in Lon­don. “Th­ese are things that will have to be set­tled and ne­go­ti­ated.”

In a re­port re­leased in De­cem­ber, the E.U. com­mit­tee of the House of Lords la­beled se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion one of the gov­ern­ment’s “top four over­ar­ch­ing ob­jec­tives in the forth­com­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

A spokesman for the Home Of­fice said pre­serv­ing se­cu­rity and stop­ping ter­ror­ism are among the prime min­is­ter’s 12 ne­go­ti­at­ing ob­jec­tives.

“As part of the ne­go­ti­a­tions, we will dis­cuss with the E.U. and mem­ber states how best to con­tinue co­op­er­at­ing on se­cu­rity, law en­force­ment and crim­i­nal jus­tice,” the spokesman said.

To la­bel some­thing a pri­or­ity is not the same as guar­an­tee­ing a so­lu­tion, Bowl­ing said.

“The gov­ern­ment does not want to re­veal its hand — fair enough,” he said. “Mean­while, the ac­tual prac­ti­cal ne­go­ti­a­tions of how this is go­ing to work — what the U.K.’s re­la­tion­ship with Europol and the Schen­gen In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem is go­ing to be, how it will run the Euro­pean Ar­rest War­rant, which de­pends on the reg­u­la­tory frame­work of the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice — th­ese are all re­ally im­por­tant ques­tions.”

And this week’s at­tack brought a stark real­ity into fo­cus: “We are mov­ing rapidly to­ward the edge of a cliff,” he said.

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