Brexit latest: Jeremy Hunt says no-deal may hit exchange of secrets between security services

NIcholas Cecil
Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt delivers a speech at the British embassy in Paris: AP

Jeremy Hunt today warned of “friction” in information-sharing between British and EU security services in a “no deal” Brexit scenario.

In a speech in Paris, the Foreign Secretary also stressed that the success or failure of future Brexit talks could shape Anglo-French relations for decades.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron has taken a hardline on Brexit, and Mr Hunt gave his address in French as he called for the “political will” to break the deadlock in negotiations and make progress on a future trade deal.

“We have offered a framework for our future relationship which should give confidence that we are not going to pursue a race to the bottom, and would allow our economic and security relationships to continue, not as they were before, but on a dependable basis,” he said.

He emphasised that the UK would “remain tied by bonds of friendship and commerce for decades to come”, adding: “The alternatives do not deliver that certainty. They make a choice for friction: at our border with queues at Dover and Calais, in the exchange of information between our security services and in greater divergence in our rules. That would seem to me to be a mistake.”

MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the Met Police are seen as among Europe’s best agencies. A disorderly Brexit could hamper swift information sharing, for example regarding passenger databases to check for criminals and terrorists. Security experts and government sources said that vital intelligence to prevent terror plots would be passed on speedily.

However, former Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson and ex-French prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve warned: “A fragile or fractured relationship between the UK and France would jeopardise our security as much as that of other countries around the world.”

Mr Hunt said Brexit talks were in the “crucial endgame”, as the Government works up an acceptable “review mechanism” for the proposed backstop to resolve the Northern Ireland border row.

“The answers we give could determine the shape of Franco-British relations, and of relations between Britain and her European partners, for many years, perhaps decades, to come,” he said.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis believes that the “probability” is that Theresa May’s proposed Chequers Brexit blueprint will not get through the Commons. He also urged the Prime Minister to release the Attorney General’s full legal advice on the backstop.

Amid warnings of food and drug supplies being hit if there is “no deal”, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab reportedly said he had not fully appreciated the importance of the Calais to Dover crossing.

“I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this,” he is said to have told a tech event last night. “But if you look at how we trade in goods, we are reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing.”

Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe said it had around a week’s stock of food in its distribution centres and border delays would see cost rises or hit freshness.