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Bri­tain’s Se­cret In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice di­rec­tor used a rare pub­lic speech to out­line threats fac­ing Bri­tain and the need for more di­ver­sity in se­cret agent ranks.

MI6 chief Alex Younger, known by the code name “C”, told stu­dents at his alma mater, the Uni­ver­sity of St. An­drews in Scot­land, that Bri­tain will for­tify its in­tel­li­gence ties to Euro­pean coun­ter­parts even though Bri­tain is leav­ing the Euro­pean Union next year.

“The im­pli­ca­tions of the Brexit de­bate have been set out by min­is­ters,” Younger said in his se­cond speech since tak­ing the top job at Bri­tain’s in­ter­na­tional in­tel­li­gence ser­vice four years ago.

“For our part as SIS, we will al­ways work with our sis­ter agen­cies to strengthen our in­dis­pens­able se­cu­rity ties in Europe.”

He said ad­ver­saries like Rus­sia view them­selves as be­ing in a state of “per­pet­ual con­fronta­tion” with Bri­tain and the West. He cited the “fla­grant hos­tile act” of the use of the lethal nerve agent Novi­chok on ex-Rus­sian spy Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter Yu­lia in the English city of Sal­is­bury as a prime ex­am­ple.

The spy­mas­ter said MI6 helped ex­pose the per­pe­tra­tors and co­or­di­nate the ex­pul­sion of Rus­sian diplo­mats from NATO na­tions and other al­lies that fol­lowed the British gov­ern­ment’s de­ter­mi­na­tion that the Rus­sian state was likely be­hind the at­tack. The ex­pul­sions dam­aged Rus­sia’s in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing, he said.

“Our in­ten­tion is for the Rus­sian state to con­clude that, what­ever ben­e­fits it thinks it is ac­cru­ing from this ac­tiv­ity, they are not worth the risk,” he said.

He en­cour­aged stu­dents to seek em­ploy­ment at MI6 even if they don’t fit the typ­i­cal pro­file of an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer.

“I want to speak to young peo­ple who have never seen them­selves in MI6. It doesn’t mat­ter where you are from,” he said. “If you want to make a dif­fer­ence and you think you might have what it takes, then the chances are that you do have what it takes, and we hope you will step for­ward.”

MI6 deals with in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity chal­lenges. The of­fi­cial threat level in Bri­tain is set at “se­vere,” in­di­cat­ing that in­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts be­lieve an at­tack is highly likely.

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