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  1. ITV Report

Former MI6 chief: Leaving the EU could boost UK security

Former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, has said leaving the European Union could boost UK security.

Sir Richard Dearlove said getting out of the EU's free movement rules could boost security. Credit: Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire/PA Images

His comments directly contradict those made by Home Secretary Theresa May who has said being a member of the EU helped "enhance" security.

Writing in Prospect magazine, Sir Richard also suggested that there were "vastly varying levels of professionalism in intelligence and security" across the EU's 28 member states and suggested that some of them leaked like "colanders".

The Former Secret Intelligence Service chief added: "Would Brexit damage our defence and intelligence relationship with the United States, which outweighs anything European by many factors of 10? I conclude confidently that no, it would not."

Whether one is an enthusiastic European or not, the truth about Brexit from a national security perspective is that the cost to Britain would be low.

Brexit would bring two potentially important security gains: the ability to dump the European Convention on Human Rights - remember the difficulty of extraditing the extremist Abu Hamza of the Finsbury Park Mosque - and, more importantly, greater control over immigration from the European Union.

– Former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove

The European Convention on Human Rights is not an EU creation, instead it covers the Council of Europe members.

Sir Richard said "few would notice" the loss of the European Arrest Warrant, and insisted that the UK's security and intelligence relationship with the rest of Europe would probably hardly change at all.

It is difficult to imagine any of the other EU members ending the relationships they already enjoy with the UK.

Furthermore, counter-terrorist and counter-espionage liaison between democratic allies is driven as much by moral considerations as by political ones.

If a German intelligence agency learned of a plot targeting London it is certainly not going to withhold the intelligence from MI5 simply because the UK is not an EU member.

– Former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove

However, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told Channel 4 News he did not accept Sir Richard's analysis.

He said: "What is very clear to me as the Defence Secretary charged with helping to keep this country safe ... is that we should not be leaving international organisations or intelligence-sharing partnerships, that would be exactly the wrong thing to do.

"On the contrary, when you are faced with a terrorist threat we should be sharing as much information as possible and we should be coming to the aid of our allies and friends rather than walking out on them."