As the June 23 referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the EU approaches, we will hear plenty from both sides about the risks of staying or leaving. But what are the implications for national security and indeed the security industry? David Ward of Ward Security argues that now is the time for pragmatism.
Scaremongering is the word most associated with the Brexit debate, and while both sides of the argument are keen to make the accusation against the other, both the pro and anti EU camps are equally guilty of using tactics of fear to make their case. The upshot is; that many people, myself included, and indeed many industries, really are no clearer about whether it will be better for the UK to be in or out of the EU.
Unfortunately, pragmatism appears to be in short supply, and as it stands many people who have already decided how they‘ll vote appear to be making their decisions on purely emotional grounds.
The truth is; that nobody can state with any conclusive certainty what will happen should the people of the UK vote to stay in or leave the EU. So perhaps in such an atmosphere of uncertainty the wise approach is to plan for the worst, regardless of whether we stay or leave.
What this means in practice is that the security industry should be working now to ensure that its processes, communications and systems are as robust as can be. If we leave the EU there will be clients that operate across the continent and which still need to be protected. They will be focussed on what Brexit means for their businesses, so we need to understand their needs and work with them to be a reassuring force if this is the case.
Perhaps the real issue is that of economic uncertainty and what it will mean for the security industry’s client base. Some quarters are warning of major corporations leaving or downsizing their UK operations, and indeed some companies have themselves suggested the same. Whether these somewhat dramatic threats come to fruition or not, most commentators admit there will almost certainly be a period of economic upheaval that will have an as-yet unknown influence on industry and commerce, putting extra pressure on budgets that will be felt by service suppliers. At the same time, periods of economic upheaval typically mean many organisations need to increase their levels of security.
From a broader perspective, while some quarters are warning of a possible loss of intelligence ties, I don’t believe we will suffer in this regard if we leave. As a nation we have very robust security ties and intelligence leads into the City of London and they will be maintained, no matter what.
Regardless of whether we leave or stay, the issue of border security needs to addressed. We need to protect our borders and ensure integrity of access control, and make sure as a nation we have the resources to locate and remove people who shouldn’t be here.