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How will Brexit affect the security and defence sector?

January 19, 2021


CLD Fencing examines the way in which Britain’s exit from the European Union could impact the UK’s security and defence sector.

After months of discussions and negotiations – with speculation of a no-deal Brexit looming – the UK and the EU came to a deal which came into effect on December 31 2020. Whilst this trade deal allows the UK to form a future relationship outside of the EU, what exactly were the fears if Britain had left with a no-deal?

There were a multitude of worries around a no-deal Brexit, including: increasing prices and trading through the World Trade Organisation; imposed tariffs putting industries under pressure; longer queues for lorries with additional border checks; co-operation on security and data-sharing issues.

However, even with a trade deal in place and the UK having left the EU, there are still uncertainties for certain industries on what the impact will look like for them in the coming months.

Looking specifically at the security and defence sector, large changes involve a major overhaul of processes and procedures. Subsequently, it begs the question: “what were the reservations from the security industry for a no-deal Brexit and how do they compare to the trade deal the UK has received?”

One of the main uncertainties for the defence sector and a no-deal Brexit was the impact it would have on their supply chains. Like many industries, the security and defence sector relies on international trade and any additional costs or pressures would have caused issues. 

Predictions were made that rising costs were coming, paired with the considerable delays with border checks and control. These predictions were solely on the premise of a no-deal Brexit. However – according to BBC News – the deal states “there will be no taxes on goods (tariffs) or limits on the amount that can be traded (quotas) between the UK and EU from January 1 [2021].” Although this means that fears of increasing prices have been avoided, there are new procedures being put in place at the borders which could result in some disruption.

Whilst the deal states there won’t be tariffs or quotas on trading goods, an additional worry the security industry had was how future communication and sharing security information (with access to databases) would work in relation to possible threats. When the UK remained in the EU, they had full access to security databases as well as being a member of Europol, the agency that co-ordinates cross-border police co-operation like human trafficking and counter-terrorism measures.

In another BBC News report it was suggested that a no-deal Brexit would “mean cutting off co-operation on the fight against shared threats, from crime, cyber-crime to violent extremism and terrorism.” However, even with the deal in place the UK is no longer a member of Europol and will not have automatic access to the security databases and information they once had. So, what will happen in terms of relationships and communication in the future?

The UK has co-operated with European partners on hundreds of cross-border criminal and terrorism investigations, and leaving Europol means re-organising hundreds of these processes with new arrangements for each country.

However, though the UK is not a member, it will still have a presence within the headquarters, in a similar arrangement to the US. According to INews, the UK will be an ‘associate’ of Europol, meaning they still have a close operational relationship regarding security information and potential threats. This relationship will however come with limitations and barriers.

When we look at the impact of Brexit on the security and defence sector compared to the predicted outcome of a no-deal, the industry isn’t facing much disruption thanks to the trade deal the Government negotiated. However, many in the security and defence sectors will be left to ponder: “will there be any future issues that may arise?”

Written and originally published by CLD Fencing

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