The threat of terrorist attacks in Britain will increase if UK authorities fail to find a compromise with the European Union and leave the bloc with no deal, said Sir John Scarlett former head of MI6. "The simple answer is yes", Sir Scarlett told The National when asked whether a no-deal Brexit will make the country more vulnerable to terror attacks.
At the moment, Britain and the EU have a data sharing agreement that allows London to use the bloc's databases on criminal records, including information on terrorists, but a no-deal Brexit would mean that the country's intelligence services and law enforcement won't be able to access it.
Sir Scarlett, who headed the nation's secret intelligence service MI6 from 2004 to 2009, said the lack of data sharing will not only put the United Kingdom at greater risk of terror attacks, but also "potentially weaken" Britain's ability to respond to the jihadist threat.
The official noted that last year there were "21-terrorist-related attacks" in Europe, including in London. The stabbing attack that occurred last November started at Fishmongers' Hall and then continued on London Bridge. Two people died and three were injured as a result of the attack. The perpetrator was previously convicted on terror charges, but had been released from prison and attended rehabilitation courses.
Sir Scarlett's view was echoed by Sir Julian King, the UK's last commissioner to the European Union, who said that Britain will find itself in an immediate crisis if the Boris Johnson government fails to strike an agreement with Brussels.
"UK [intelligence] data that was held in EU systems could – indeed would – be deleted, if there was no data adequacy arrangement covering how you share data", Sir Julian Kin said.
In 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Downing Street is now in the process of negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels, but negotiations have been stalled and London has passed the deadline for seeking an extension to the transition period, which ends on 31 December. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other senior officials previously said that a no-deal Brexit would be good for Britain. Johnson said this scenario will give the country "full control" over its laws and rules and allow it to sign trade deals with other countries.
Earlier this month, the PM set 15 October as a deadline to secure a deal with the European Union hinting that London will walk away with no deal if the sides fail to reach an agreement by that time. Should that happen the United Kingdom will trade with the European Union on World Trade Organisation terms – meaning its products would be subjected to tariffs.