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Former MI5 chief: UK is net contributor on EU security

Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Britain is the largest contributor to security collaboration in the EU, a former spy chief has said.

Ex-MI5 director general Lord Evans of Weardale highlighted the UK's input on information flows and expertise.

He told a Lords Committee there was a "mutual benefit" from co-operation with Europe on security.

"It's not something where we are coming with nothing to add," Lord Evans, who was head of the agency between 2007 and 2013, said.

"In fact we add, I would think, considerably more than we get in a number of areas of co-operation in Europe on national security."

Lord Evans said the UK is a "net contributor" in terms of the "information flows and expertise" that it provides, adding that the country is "very good at security".

He said: "We have been investing in terms of money, legal powers and capabilities for a long time."

"That means that we are able to contribute heavily to the security of our European friends."

"We benefit from that as well but we contribute a great deal. Probably, I would say, the biggest contribution of any of the countries in the European Union."

Giving evidence to the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee, Lord Evans described engagement with European partners on national security matters as "extremely important" during his tenure as director general.

While much of that co-operation took place outside EU institutions and measures, he highlighted the dependence of the law enforcement community on bodies and tools such as Europol and the European Arrest Warrant.

Lord Evans also raised concerns that the UK's departure "means a well informed and relatively influential voice on issues of national security... will not be there".

He said: "That is one of the things that would most worry me because we have been able through our diplomatic influence to steer the EU away from one or two national security traps."

A host of measures and tools have come under scrutiny following the referendum in 2016, and questions over post-Brexit arrangements intensified in the wake of terrorist attacks in the UK and Europe.

Senior figures in policing and counter-terrorism have highlighted the role played by the European Arrest Warrant, a legal framework introduced to speed up the extradition of individuals between member states; the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), a database of real time alerts; Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency; and the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).

The Government is seeking a bespoke deal on security co-operation with the EU.

A blueprint published last year called for a "comprehensive" framework to be underpinned by a new treaty.

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