Britain’s former spy chef today warned there intelligence sharing was being put at risk by Brexit as the UK became more distant from the EU.
Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, said ministers were wrong to insist that security partnerships would continue as they do now.
He said the exchange of data with EU allies was vital to tackling threats and would be eroded by Brexit.
Theresa May is due to address security issues around Brexit on Saturday when makes a major speech in Munich.
Sir John Sawers (file image), the former head of MI6, said ministers were wrong to insist that security partnerships would continue as they do now
Sir John told Prospect: ‘My concern on the intelligence and security front is over the exchange of data.
‘Data is now central to the way in which security services in particular monitor threats … the rules on exchange of data are going to be set in the EU and we won’t be round the table with our voice, with our weight, stressing the vital importance of these data exchanges to our national security.’
He added: ‘Right now, we have ended up turning our back on Europe and not having a real welcome mat laid out for us in Washington and we’ve got to work out which way we want to turn and be prepared to pay a price one way or the other.’
The former spook also warned that Mrs May was poorly suited to the challenge of delivering Brexit.
He said: ‘I don’t think she’s a natural at engaging on these big political issues with foreign leaders.’
Best for Britain chairman and former Foreign Office minister Lord Mark Malloch Brown seized on the intervention.
He said: ‘When a former head of MI6 breaks ranks like this it shows the level of conflict and disruption inside Whitehall.
Theresa May (pictured last night at Buckingham Palace) is due to address security issues around Brexit on Saturday when makes a major speech in Munich
‘Britain is adrift abroad as well as at home. We are no longer led just buffeted by daily news headlines.
‘This interview shows the level of anxiety that rudderless Government is generating.’
Mrs May and Mrs Merkel will hold talks at the German Chancery on Friday – the day before the PM gives a major speech in Munich on Britain’s security relationship with the EU post Brexit.
It is part of a strategy by the British Government to try to bypass the EU and go straight to the heads of EU member states to press their Brexit case.
Number 10 have wanted to get the Brexit transition deal signed off by the Brussels club by the end of the month so we can move on to talks about or future trading relationship.