The Balance: Brexit and national security

by Luke Lythgoe | 11.05.2016

As the referendum campaign heats up, a cacophony of experts is weighing in on all manner of topics. It can be hard to keep track of who has spoken out on what, and it’s easy to form an impression that both sides have their own experts so neither has much of an advantage. But this impression of equivalence is often wrong. Prompted by a typically frustrating moment on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, InFacts has catalogued which experts have said what on one salient issue: Brexit and national security.

On May 8, Marr invited Vote Leave frontman Michael Gove onto his programme. Grilling his guest on security questions (watch from 09:20), Marr pointed out that Britain’s former counter-intelligence chief had come out in favour of the Remain side. Gove quickly responded by reeling off three other experts who he claimed were in his corner. As far as most of Marr’s viewers were probably concerned, the upshot was a stalemate.

In an ideal world, of course, issues would be decided on their merits. But since Marr-style moments are common in political contests, InFacts has done its best to compile a definitive list of security and intelligence experts who have come out for one side or the other.

Inevitably, compiling the list has involved some judgment calls. We’ve limited it to experts on public security and counter-terrorism, leaving out more general foreign policy heavyweights – for example, the 13 former US secretaries of state and defence who recently came out against Brexit.

We have also left out security experts who, while cited frequently, are not clearly on either side. An example is Ronald Noble, former head of Interpol. The Leave camp frequently quotes his November 2015 complaint that the EU’s open borders are “like hanging a sign welcoming terrorists to Europe”. But Noble’s New York Times column was an attack on Schengen, of which the UK is not a member; it was not an argument for Brexit. On the other hand, we have included Richard Walton and Michael Hayden in the Leave column, even though they have argued that leaving the EU wouldn’t have a great impact on UK security rather than making an affirmative case that leaving would make us safer.

The resulting compilation of security experts is below. You can click on the links to read about each expert’s intervention.

(*or argues Brexit would have little impact on UK security)
Theresa May
Home Secretary (2010-present)
Philip Hammond
Foreign Secretary (2014-present), Secretary of State for Defence (2011-2014)
Michael Fallon
Secretary of State for Defence (2014-present)
Malcolm Rifkind
Chair of Intelligence and Security Committee (2010-2015), Foreign Secretary (1995-1997), Secretary of State for Defence (1992-1995)
David Blunkett
Home Secretary (2001-2004)
Rob Wainwright
Director of Europol (2009-present)
Bernard Hogan-Howe
Commissioner of Metropolitan Police (2011-present)
Jens Stoltenberg
Secretary General of NATO (2014-present)
John Sawers
Chief of MI6 (2009-2014)
Jonathan Evans
Director General of MI5 (2007-2013)
Eliza Manningham-Buller
Director General of MI5 (2002-2007)
David Petraeus
Director of CIA (2011-2012)
Jon Day
Chairman of Joint Intelligence Committee (2012-2015)
Pauline Neville-Jones
Minister of State for Security and Counter Terrorism (2010-2011), Chairman of Joint Intelligence Committee (1993-1994)
Peter Carrington
Secretary General of NATO (1984-88)
Javier Solana
Secretary General of NATO (1995-99)
George Robertson
Secretary General of NATO (1999-2003)
Jaap De Hoop Scheffer
Secretary General of NATO (2004-09)
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Secretary General of NATO (2009-14)
Edwin Bramall
Chief of Defence Staff (1982-1985)
Michael Boyce
Chief of Defence Staff (2001-2003)
Jock Stirrup
Chief of Defence Staff (2006-2010)
Alan West
First Sea Lord (2002-2006)
Mark Stanhope
First Sea Lord (2009-2013)
Mike Jackson
Chief of the General Staff (2003-2006)
Richard Dannatt
Chief of the General Staff (2006-2009)
Rupert Smith
Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (1998-2001)
Richard Shirreff
Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (2011-2014)
John Kiszeley
Director General of the Defence Academy (2005-2008)
Rob Fry
Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (2003-2006)
Ben Hodges
Head of US Army in Europe (2014-present)
Liam Fox
Secretary of State for Defence (2010-2011)
Penny Mordaunt
Minister of State for the Armed Forces (2015-present)
Richard Dearlove
Chief of MI6 (1999-2004)
Charles Guthrie
Chief of Defence Staff (1997-2001)
Richard Walton*
Head of Counter Terrorism Command at New Scotland Yard (2011-2015)
Michael Hayden*
Director of CIA (2006-2009), Director of NSA (1999-2005)

Remain: 32    Leave: 5

The bottom line is that experts favouring “remain” vastly outnumber those favouring “leave.” Remember this next time you witness a Marr-type moment.

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    InFacts will add to this list as more experts speak out, or if omissions from our table are brought to our attention. The list was last updated on June 18.

    Edited by Sebastian Mallaby

    2 Responses to “The Balance: Brexit and national security”

      • Ah! So, that will be a HUGE difference. A single politician pro brexit still against the overwhelming majority of military/security/police personnel plus politicians who are saying “better remain”.