British government uses failed Prevent as a bargaining tool in Brexit

TMay_article50

*PM signs Article 50 letter

By Asim Qureshi

The filing of Theresa May’s Article 50, ‘Brexit’, has raised questions around how almost every sector of public life will be impacted by the break in the political and economic Union. A letter from the UK Prime Minister suggested a veiled threat about cooperation on national security with European partners should there be a lack of trade agreements:

“In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the Fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.”

This message was somewhat reiterated by the UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who said of UK-EU counter-terrorism cooperation:

“If you look at something like Europol, we are the largest contributor to Europol. So if we left Europol, then we would take our information – this is in the legislation – with us. The fact is, the European partners want us to keep our information there, because we keep other European countries safe as well.”

Taking a dim view of the statements issued by the UK, leaders of the European Union expressed outrage that lives might be put at risk due to the UK ‘blackmailing’ the EU into keeping trade with the UK open. According to the leader of Socialist bloc at the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella:

“It would be outrageous to play with people’s lives in these negotiations. This has not been a good start by Theresa May. It feels like blackmail, but security is a good for all our citizens and not a bargaining chip. We still hope that Theresa May can get back on the right track … This was not a smart move.”

The narrative presented internationally by Theresa May, reflects the shift in mood more domestically in the UK when one year earlier, on 25 March 2016, the Home Office wrestled control all international cooperation on counter-terrorism from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

At CAGE we questioned the extent to which this coincided with the Home Office involving itself with international CVE programmes, while selling the Prevent agenda.

Selling a completely flawed product

The US-based journalist, Waqas Mirza, on seeking to gain information about the UK government’s psychology model for radicalisation, the Extremism Risk Guidance 22+ (ERG22+), submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Ministry of Justice.

On 11 November 2016, Mirza received a response from the Specialist Communications and Correspondence Manager, Liam Crossan-Maguire, who wrote back to explain that the ERG22+ would be withheld due to public interest concerns – a very normal response to secret government documents.

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Click to enlarge

However, on this occasion, the response resulted in information that had not been previously disclosed being released, namely that ERG22+ serves a profit motive:

Public interest considerations favouring withholding the information* 

  •  The ERG 22+ is the risk assessment tool. As such, release of the tool to the general public could allow for the production of a competing product to the market, prejudicing the commercial interests of the department and allowing us to get best value for money. 
  •  The public interest can be met elsewhere by disclosure of a summary document which outlines its usage without damaging the commercial interest of the department. 

*Partial response to the FOI seen by CAGE

 

In line with the assessment of CAGE, and despite the critique levelled against the ERG22+ study, the government intends on selling PREVENT on to other countries as a ‘marketable’ product with a commercial value attached.

UK based scholars, NGOs and interested members of the public are not permitted to scrutinise the science behind this government produced study, and yet the government deems it appropriate to sell it as a product abroad.

With Brexit now in motion, we will continue to see the government selling off its supposed expertise as a way of maintaining its relevance on the world stage – even where that expertise is based on a false science and flawed research.

Selling PREVENT in this environment only reasserts that British sovereignty away from the EU has little to do with the concerns of everyday Britons, but more to do with the privatisation and commercialisation of the UK’s public sector – including the security industry.

If ever there was a sign of the emergence of a national security industrial complex, then the selling of the false science of Prevent is it.


Read more: Global ‘preventing violent extremism’ policies will promote the failed policies of the UK

 

(CC image courtesy of Number 10 on Flikr)


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.