Boris Johnson: 9/11 commemorations show ‘failure of terrorism’
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk Dr Adrian James, a former Scotland Yard detective, and now Reader in Police Studies at Liverpool John Moores University did not see Brexit impacting intelligence work. When asked how important a role intelligence sharing is in the prevention of terrorism, in particular, in a post-Brexit era, he said: “I’m not sure that withdrawal from the EU is as significant as some might think.” He added: “The UK always contributed more than it took out and withdrawal has had only limited impact on other conduits – Interpol, bilateral agreements and so on.”
However, Dr James acknowledged that the terror threats have changed.
He said: “The threat from lone actors is in addition to the pre-existing threats. That means that the police and security services resources are spread even more thinly.”
Dr Dan Lomas, a lecturer in security studies from Brunel University also spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk.
He said: “Liaison and sharing of info were in debate during Brexit negotiations, but liaison between security services is done without EU and political systems, unlike with policing.”
Dr Lomas also discussed how varying levels of intelligence have been affected by Brexit.
On this, he said: “The UK can bring a lot to the table, but the impact of Brexit has only affected the lower levels of security, for example in organised crime, but terrorism and larger events still have wider interests.”
The Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) headquarters in London
Government Communications Headquarters, the UK’s listening post
The analysis comes as a lone violent non-state actor attempted to cause major damage in a taxi outside Liverpool Women’s hospital.
A combination of a failed explosive device, as well as the heroics of the driver, David Perry, prevented a more catastrophic outcome.
Agreeing with Dr James on how thinning resources was a major problem in fighting terrorism was Dr Natalie James, the head of the counter-extremism unit at the University of Leeds.
She said: “Resource limitations in terms of security provisions, monitoring those who operate alone is far more complex, time-consuming and quite frankly more difficult than those that operate in groups.”
Speaking of how technology has added to the dilemma, she said: “Online spaces add to the ease with which extremist ideologies, terrorist manifestos and guides can be found, and the gaps between domestic legislation and transnational social media company regulation make it very difficult to create laws around online content.”
The Queen on a recent visit to the Security Services (MI5)
Forensic officers at the scene of the recent Liverpool bombing
Questions have been raised on how the UK is better able to protect itself in light of recent events.
Education and integration emerged as the key factors in the prevention of terrorism in the UK.
However, with budgets becoming ever tighter, Dr Adrian James expressed the benefits of reaching out, but the downfalls of financial support to do so.
He said: “We need PREVENT or something that probably would look similar. I am concerned that budgetary cuts have impacted policing’s reach into communities. Definitely, something that needs to be reviewed.”
The Government’s PREVENT strategy is to reduce the threat to the UK from terrorism by stopping people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.
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Timeline of the Liverpool bombing
Adding to the notion of education being the best method of detecting, deterring and disrupting terrorism, Dr Natalie James also discussed the notion of stopping hatred.
She said: “Education is fundamental to the challenges we face in relation to extremism and terrorism, but also more broadly around division and hatred.”
She added: “Education is a space for the skill development of critical thinking, media literacy, communication, and community building – all of which are, I believe, the foundations for individuals who, when they come across problematic ideas – be they linked to extremism online, hatred in their communities, wider divisive headlines in the media, or something else – are able to pause and reflect critically on what they are seeing and hearing, rather than simply accept what they are being told.”
The Covid-19 pandemic added to the problems that security services now face, in particular as more online traffic became the norm during lockdown.
Many suggest that mental health issues become more apparent during lockdown, and hence saw many people turning to more extremist views.
Speaking of the problem this causes to counter-terrorism and extremism, Dr Natalie James said: “The links between mental health and engaging in extremism aren’t yet proven, but what we do know is that loneliness and isolation, no doubt heightened for some during the pandemic, have an impact on the so-called processes of radicalisation.”
Low-level crime prevention will be most affected by Brexit
She also said: “We also know that radicalisers and those purporting extremist narratives find safe hiding in some online platforms and research has demonstrated how easy it is for people to move from mainstream platforms to niche ones where these narratives can be extremely problematic and concerning.”
Concluding, she said: “These two things together have almost certainly provided more easily accessible spaces where extreme narratives are readily available for those vulnerable to latch on to this kind of rhetoric. “
Dr Adrian James also said: “I think there is sufficient evidence now to say that the World Wide Web provides many new opportunities.”
In light of the recent incident in Liverpool, the Government raised the security threat level from substantial to severe, meaning an attack is “highly likely.”
Britain has seen varying forms of violent non-state actors performing on their land, and the methodology of this has changed over the decades.
With Britain priding itself as a multi-cultural society, the notion of education, integration and prudence is key to preventing further acts.
Now the UK is out of the European Union, some have called for Britain to rejoin Europol in order to share intelligence.
Yet, on a wider scale, Britain’s security services still enjoy sharing intelligence with its allies.