Brexit and the pandemic have doubled uncertainties in the UK.
The priorities of the National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom are no longer valid.
The UK is confused over a strategy for the new situation.
Big data can help the UK set its new national security strategy.
Brexit ended UK’s 47-years of membership in the EU. The pandemic also hampered Britain’s previous agenda for Brexit. Britain now faces complex threats from a myriad of sources. Hence, its national security priorities have shifted and need to be updated.
Brexit and the coronavirus outbreak opened a new and challenging chapter for Britain. The country faces an urgent policy challenge in the face of unforeseen events, including internal unrest, immigration, health, the economy and territorial integrity. The challenges began with trade barriers on 1 January this year.
Brexit weakened London’s position as a global financial hub, because Europe was its most important export market and the largest source of foreign investment.
An official independent budget centre, which evaluates the British Government’s economic plans, estimates that the country’s economic output could be cumulatively 4% lower over the next 15 years than when it was in the EU.
In addition, the pandemic has prevented the UK from providing effective medical care. At the same time, many jobs were lost to it, requiring financial support for the unemployed. Britain was already facing budget and service problems before Covid-19 and these have now been doubled in volume.
These issues, in addition to those mentioned in the UK National Security Documents, have created long-term uncertainties as to how to manage them.
In fact, the issues listed as UK’s national security priorities ten years ago were mostly international; but now, with Brexit and the pandemic, these have given way to domestic security priorities of a more complex nature.
Thus, the vision of Britain’s national security strategy can no longer be the slogan of “A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty” as it was ten years ago.
In other words, domestic issues in the UK supersede its issues on the international stage, reversing the hierarchical pyramid of its national security priorities.
Past Priorities of the UK National Security Strategy
The National Security Strategy describes situations in which threats arise and how they may develop in the future.
Over the past few years, the UK National Security Strategy has described how – in an age of uncertainty – it has created structures that allow the country to respond quickly and effectively to new and evolving threats.
Some of the key points for the UK National Security Strategy include:
• Hostile attacks on cyberspace
• A possible military crisis between the UK and its allies
• A major accident or natural disasters (e.g. a pandemic)
British Confusion in Formulating Strategy
By failing to plan for these challenges, the UK national security strategy is weaker in defending the country against future threats.
The lack of a support plan and “prioritisation of political interests” have marginalised national security; moreover, new security challenges, such as the “emerging domestic terrorist threat” and the immigration crisis, have exacerbated the problem.
Even in defence and the military, the capabilities of the armed forces have been compromised by a reduction in the defence budget and a significant drop in GDP.
The Current Dangers of British National Security
British priorities in the post-Brexit era are mostly domestic due to factors such as the pandemic. These priorities must be considered based on the actual risks involved and can be enumerated in the following areas:
Short- to medium-term disruption of imports (e.g. food, minerals) essential to the UK
Disruption of oil and gas supplies to Britain or further price volatility as a result of wars, accidents and major political unrest
Risk of major instability, insurgency or civil war as a result of inability to provide financial support to the four countries
Significant increase in the level of organised crime
Although these risks are now real to the UK, the conditions of uncertainty have weakened the foundations of policy-making and priorities must be constantly monitored. This can be done with big data.
Big Data, a Strategy for Prioritising UK National Security
The national security strategy must not place political interests over policies and priorities. Rather, it must be based on maintaining national security.
Therefore, planning for new security situations should start immediately, beginning with a thorough analysis of the changed security environment.
The UK can use big data to do this. Of course, there are always limitations and every danger cannot be predicted, because there is inherent uncertainty in human behaviour.
Data has become the most valuable commodity for the world’s leading businesses and sits right at the heart of innovation across multiple industries.
Today, with the development of data mining tools and software, access to information in databases and data warehouses has become possible.
Data mining is a very important tool that helps to generate new ideas and make the right decisions in businesses and government.
Data provides integral insights for the public sector as well as the private sector, enabling effective strategies to be developed. Now is the time for data to help the UK set its national security priorities. Decisions and policies must adapt to the speed of change. Big data can alert governments to the pace of change and shifting priorities.
As a result, Britain is now – and for the next five years – facing the risks of major or natural disasters, disintegration of the planning and decision-making structures, budget problems and the inability to finance jobs and public health. Therefore, it must prioritise the drafting of a new national security document. These risks are at the highest level of priority. Changing these priorities is possible in conditions of uncertainty and should be flexible. The future is always full of uncertainty, and the constant monitoring of priorities with big data eliminates the possibility of falling into the abyss of strategic confusion.