- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

THE HAGUE — It’s one of those ironies that could only happen in the transnational, cross-cultural politics of the European Union: The EU’s top counterterrorism cop hails from a nation that will soon no longer be part of the bloc he protects.

Europol Director Rob Wainwright, who began his career in the British intelligence service, finds himself running the EU’s top intelligence and law enforcement apparatus at a moment when his home country is in the process of negotiating its divorce from the EU following last summer’s Brexit vote.

It’s an irony that is not lost on Mr. Wainwright.

“It’s a little bit up in the air,” he said in an interview with The Washington Times. “It creates a bit of uncertainty, which is unsettling, but I think there is an understanding in Brussels and in London of the high importance of getting a good security deal” in the negotiations now underway on the terms of the separation.

Asked how Brexit might affect Europol, Mr. Wainwright said in an interview, “We’re working very hard behind the scenes to make sure that the Brexit deal that is made has a major security component that protects, therefore, the space around information-sharing on crime and terrorism.”

Mr. Wainwright noted that British intelligence agencies traditionally held sensitive information very close to the chest, especially when facing domestic insurgencies such as the Irish Republican Army’s campaign of violence during the 1980s and early 1990s.

“To use the U.K. as an analogy, for years our major terrorist problem was a homegrown problem of the IRA bombing the crap out of our major cities, and I was part of the response to that at the time that was the early part of my career,” he said.

But he stresses that the globalized nature of modern terrorism requires that nations once accustomed to keeping secrets now reach out and share information across borders.

“What we have now are people not from within our community, they’re people stretched right across parts of Europe, operating right across Europe, so the response necessarily has to be more international than the architecture of counterterrorism that we initially built.”

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