Other sites of influence

We should not forget that the UK state machine is used to informal methods of cooperation in security matters, not least given its past membership of the Trevi intergovernmental complex (1977-1993).[1] On 2 September 1977 the UK joined Trevi’s ad hoc and new structures to give officials (the Home Office, police, immigration, customs, and security agencies) unprecedented access to decision-making, with MI5 as the central contact point on intelligence matters and the Metropolitan Police’s European Liaison Section dealing with policing matters.[2] A senior officer at Scotland Yard described the process:

“Once you get your proposal agreed around the individual working groups, you will get a ministerial policy decision at the end of the current six months. You must remember that the largest club in the world is Law Enforcement - and in Trevi you have that plus ministerial muscle.”[3]

The Trevi set-up was later incorporated into the EU machinery with the adoption of the Treaty of Maastricht, a decision that started the development of the EU’s now-substantial internal security machinery.

Beyond the Partnership Council and Specialised Committee, the UK will retain an ongoing influence on affairs in the EU and elsewhere through the UN, the Five Eyes and other security agency clubs, and other groupings such as the G6 and G7. The UK also remains a member of NATO and Interpol (the latter being a major focal point for the UK’s policing plans), and officials continue to cooperate with EU institutions, agencies and member states, for example in Libya.[4]

As Rob Wainwright, former head of Europol, told the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, the UK is aiming to build:

“…a new architecture of global security co-operation, a very healthy part of which is Europe. This goes to what the UK’s future vision state is, of an architecture that can connect the power of the Five Eyes alliance, the Interpol community and Europol.”[5]

In a world undergoing fundamental shifts in the balance of economic and political power, there is of course no guarantee that this project will work as intended. Nevertheless, the UK’s ongoing international influence certainly gives it a good starting point.

UN security Council

The UK is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (alongside China, France, Russia and the USA), and as such will retain significant influence over the shape of the developing global state security machinery. Security Council resolutions must be implemented by all UN member states, and are also implemented by the EU, on occasion with gusto – in 2015, the European Commission proposed ‘gold-plating’ anti-terrorism rules by piling additional powers on top of those promulgated by the Security Council,[6] a move subsequently approved by the Parliament and Council.

Those powers, set out in the 2017 Directive on combating terrorism,[7] were the result of a 2014 Security Council Resolution requiring new criminal law measures to detect and prevent the movement of foreign terrorist fighters.[8] A further Security Council Resolution in 2017 mandated the use of Passenger Name Record and Advance Passenger Information systems and the establishment of ‘watchlists’ and biometric databases for tracking travel,[9] which is being enforced through a series of International Civil Aviation Organisation standards[10] and a host of projects launched by UN agencies. In 2019 the Security Council determined that organised crime should also come within the remit of these systems.[11]

In terms of international influence, it is also noteworthy that the EU is continuing to use UK sanctions listings as a basis for adding individuals to its own sanctions list. A Council document from the end of June 2021 proposed adding a number of individuals to the EU’s sanctions list based on decisions of the UK Foreign Secretary. There is no reference to Brexit in the document, merely a discussion of the ways in which the UK’s anti-terrorism legislation is substantively and procedurally equivalent to the EU’s.[12] EU member state representatives in COREPER were invited to approve the list,[13] which they did in early July.[14]

The ‘G’ clubs

The UK also remains in the ‘G’ groupings of states – notably the G6 and the G7. The G6 (Group of Six) brings together interior ministers from France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK.[15] It was founded in 2003 and meets in secret every six months. The USA and the European Commission also attend meetings.[16]

In 2006 the UK House of Lords condemned the group’s secret-decision making, saying that if the decisions it had made were taken forward, they “would involve important changes to current EU thinking and to declared [UK] Government policy.”[17] It was recently described by a government minister as “one of the most important long-term, multilateral forums in which to discuss priority home affairs issues with some of our closest security partners”[18] – perhaps a case of the government blowing both its own trumpet and those of its remaining international allies, but noteworthy nonetheless.

Then there is the G7 (formerly the G8), which has a number of sub-groups active in devising strategies and polices. For example:

“The G8 Roma-Lyon Group mainly focuses on strategies relating to public security in an effort to combat terrorism and transnational crime. It gathers experts who are all civil servants from the G8 members, mainly from justice, foreign affairs and law enforcement services and intelligence agencies. The Group consists of several sub-groups dealing with different aspects of transnational crime.”[19]

Russia was thrown out in 2014,[20] making the group the G7: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA. The European Commission also attends.

The Five Eyes and clubs of spies

The UK is a founding member of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence network established by the 1946 UKUSA Agreement. The UK and USA were later joined by three former British colonies, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, ideal members to engage in global surveillance and signals interception because of their geographical locations. The UK’s ‘eyes and ears’ are under the control of GCHQ, which has its headquarters in Cheltenham and a large base in Cyprus which monitors the Middle East. It also monitors all cross-Atlantic communications from its listening post in Bude, Cornwall.

The international influence and scope of the spying carried out by the Five Eyes (and extended formations such as the Nine Eyes and Thirteen Eyes) were made plain by the Snowden revelations.[21] The head of GCHQ is on the record as saying that security and intelligence agencies – who also cooperate on a bilateral and multilateral basis with their counterparts in EU member states, for example through the Counter-Terrorism Group and the Club de Berne – will not be affected by Brexit.[22]

The Five Eyes states – who now refer to themselves as the “Five Countries” – have also taken it upon themselves to cooperate on a range other matters, setting up a Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group, a Border Five and a Migration Five, with a Five Country Ministerial meeting providing an overarching political framework.[23]

It is also unlikely that undercover police operations will be significantly affected by Brexit – indeed, even while the UK was part of the EU, the police units deploying ‘spycops’ such as Mark Kennedy did not bother to inform their counterparts abroad when agents were present on their territory.[24] In October last year, the European Surveillance Group – a merger of three separate networks of police units dealing with undercover and covert operations, from both EU and non-EU states, including the UK – started reporting directly to the Council of the EU’s Law Enforcement Working Party. The aim of the merger was to create “a pan-European expert group in the field of surveillance,” to “strengthen the tactical and technical capabilities of the European surveillance units.”

Next section


[1] Tony Bunyan, ‘Trevi, Europol and the European state’, Statewatching the new Europe, 1993, https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/news/handbook-trevi.pdf

[2]  Home Office Circular, https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/semdoc/assets/files/keytexts/ktch2.pdf

[3] Tony Bunyan, ‘Trevi, Europol and the European state’, Statewatching the new Europe, 1993, https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/news/handbook-trevi.pdf

[4] “With support from EUBAM, from the IcSP-funded Counter-Terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa Project (CT MENA), from the CT expert from EUDEL and from the UK, the National Counter Terrorism Team (NCTT) developed a national CT strategy for Libya, in-line with international standards.” See the document available here: https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/march/libya-interceptions-of-people-fleeing-by-sea-increase-as-eu-border-mission-seeks-two-year-extension/

[5] House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, ‘Oral evidence: UK-EU security co-operation, HC 1087’, 10 February 2021, Q214, https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/1678/html/

[6] ‘EU to gold plate international anti-terrorism obligations with "urgent" new law’, Statewatch, 2 December 2015, https://www.statewatch.org/news/2015/december/eu-to-gold-plate-international-anti-terrorism-obligations-with-urgent-new-law/

[7] ‘Directive on combating terrorism’, Statewatch European Monitoring and Documentation Centre (SEMDOC), https://www.statewatch.org/semdoc/legislative-observatory/criminal-law-and-policing-post-lisbon/adopted-measures/directive-on-combating-terrorism/

[8] United Nations Security Council, ‘Resolution 2178 (2014)’, 24 September 2014, https://www.undocs.org/S/RES/2178%20(2014)

[9] United Nations Security Council, ‘Resolution 2396 (2017)’, 21 December 2017, https://undocs.org/S/RES/2396(2017)

[10] Council Decision (EU) 2021/121 of 28 January 2021 on the position to be taken on behalf of the European Union in reply to the State Letter sent by the International Civil Aviation Organization as regards Amendment 28 to Section D of Chapter 9 of Annex 9 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2021.037.01.0006.01.ENG

[11] United Nations Security Council, ‘Resolution 2482 (2019)’, 19 July 2019, https://undocs.org/en/S/RES/2482%20(2019)

[12] Council of the EU, ‘Council Common Position 2001/931/CFSP on the application of specific measures to combat terrorism and Council Regulation (EC) No 2580/2001 on specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities with a view to combating terrorism - statements of reasons’, 10005/21, 29 June 2021

[13] Council of the EU, ‘Council Decision and Implementing Regulation on restrictive measures to combat terrorism - Common Position 2001/931/CFSP – review’, 10006/21, 30 June 2021

[14] Council of the EU, ‘Summary record – Permanent Representatives Committee’, 11022/21, 23 July 2021, https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-11022-2021-INIT/en/pdf

[15] ‘Brexit means... the UK staying in the G6’, Statewatch¸ 6 April 2021, https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/april/eu-uk-brexit-means-the-uk-staying-in-the-g6/

[16] ‘G6 Interior Ministers plus the USA: Meeting of G6 interior ministers at Schloss Moritzburg’, Statewatch, 2 June 2015, https://www.statewatch.org/news/2015/june/g6-interior-ministers-plus-the-usa-meeting-of-g6-interior-ministers-at-schloss-moritzburg/

[17] ‘G6-G8-Prum: Behind closed doors - policy-making in secret intergovernmental and international fora’, Statewatch, September 2006, https://www.statewatch.org/news/2006/september/statewatch-news-online-g6-g8-prum-behind-closed-doors-policy-making-in-secret-intergovernmental-and-international-fora/

[18] ‘Domestic Abuse Bill’, Hansard, 24 March 2021, https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2021-03-24/debates/D7FA1B25-208B-4A89-974D-982C78A4B250/DomesticAbuseBill

[19] European Commission, ‘Group of Eight Roma-Lyon Group, Migration Experts Sub-Group’, undated, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/pages/glossary/group-eight-roma-lyon-group-migration-experts-sub-group_en

[20] Tom Batchelor, ‘Russia announces plan to permanently leave G8 group of industrialised nations after suspension for Crimea annexation’, The Independent, 13 January 2017, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/russia-g8-kremlin-crimea-ukraine-vladimir-putin-g7-g20-a7525836.html

[21] Statewatch Observatory, ‘The Snowden Revelations: EU-UK-GCHQ-USA-NSA: Data surveillance’, https://www.statewatch.org/observatories/the-snowden-revelations/

[22] “We're leaving the EU but not Europe. And 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,” Jeremy Fleming told the BBC. Source: ‘GCHQ director urges co-operation after Brexit’, BBC News¸20 June 2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44542490

[23] ‘'Five Country Ministerial' - official "communiqué" short on substance’, Statewatch¸ 24 August 2020, https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/august/five-country-ministerial-official-communique-short-on-substance/

[24] Chris Jones, ‘Secrets and lies: undercover police operations raise more questions than answers’, Statewatch, August 2013, https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/analyses/no-249-undercover-police.pdf


Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.

Report error