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Shared, not stirred: GCHQ chief says Europe needs British spies

Director insists collaboration will continue after Brexit

The head of GCHQ has publicly called for security co-operation with Britain's EU allies to continue after Brexit.

In a speech made at NATO's Brussels headquarters yesterday, Jeremy Fleming pointedly said that the intelligence agency has "worked with our European colleagues to share understanding of how to protect our democratic elections" as well as doing a host of other useful things, such as attributing the NotPetya malware to state-backed Russian hackers.

"Almost everything that we achieve in GCHQ is dependent on our partners," said Fleming, "and of course it includes the increasingly strong partnerships we have with all of our European allies."

Noting that Brexit means "leaving the EU but not Europe", Fleming clearly stated that cross-border co-operation with EU countries' security agencies will continue after the UK formally leaves the political bloc.

Negotiations are ongoing amid attempts by EU-aligned MPs in Parliament to keep the UK a part of the EU's core institutions in what they see as a rearguard action to stop the cliff-edge catastrophe of leaving the bloc.

"After Brexit the UK will continue to work with the EU and the EU Member States. We have excellent relationships with intelligence and security agencies right across the continent. For example, in the last year we've played a critical role in the disruption of terrorist operations in at least four European countries. Those relationships, and our ability to work together, save lives," stated Fleming.

Britain's role in the Five Eyes global spy alliance, in which member countries agree to share intelligence gained through legal and not-so-legal methods, is seen by some in the UK as a powerful lever over the EU in the Brexit negotiations.

Access, however filtered, to Five Eyes intelligence for the purpose of thwarting terrorist attacks and disrupting political groups is one of the few remaining pieces of leverage that Britain has to negotiate itself a favourable settlement by the mid-2020s, when the country is expected to have departed the EU.

"We mustn't let the sharing of intelligence information lag behind the pace of the threat," warned Fleming, who was speaking after meeting NATO officials and ambassadors from NATO member countries. ®

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