Is Brtain really that great at spying?

in busy •  last month

Apparently the EU thinks so.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the EU's deputy negotiator Sabine Weyand thinks the UK is bugging EU meetings and is finding out stuff before the EU has even had a chance to tell the member states.

Here is what happened. After Theresa May issued the detail of her Chequers proposals, the EU went through them with a fine tooth comb and then Sabine Weyland gave a presentation in Brussels saying she thought the plan would give Britain a major advantage and cost the EU more than a No Deal.

Within hours of this, Britain was on the phone asking the EU, could they please not circulate that presentation to the member states as Mrs May wanted to sell her plan in person as she made a whistle-stop tour around Europe to talk to heads of governments.

The EU was flummoxed. How on earth did the UK know what was in their presentation? Were they being bugged?

Britain denied bugging, it was a "crazy" idea, said the official spokesman - according to UK officials the explanation was simple: they had friends in Brussels who had helpfully passed on the presentation slides.

Of course it's easier for the Europeans to believe that MI6 is bugging them than that they have a leak on their side.

It's not just the James Bond stuff. It's the fact that in real life the UK remains one of the strongest countries in the world at spying and intelligence. For example in 2009, under Gordon Brown's government, London hosted two G20 summits for world leaders eager to discuss the financial crash amongst other things.

MI6 and GCHQ used the occasion to spy. They helpfully set up internet cafes for all the attendees and their staff - which were bugged. They eavesdropped on phone calls and read emails - the Russians and Turks were particular targets. The only people Britain shared this intel with were the Americans.

So of course Brussels assumes the UK is tracking everything they do and say. Martin Selmayr, one of the senior Brussels bureaucrats, has taken to posting hard copies of documents rather than emailing them, such is the fear of the British spy.

However, anyone who understands old school British spy methods will know that the UK hasn't given up on the tried and trusted method of simply turning someone on the target's staff to your side.

Which means Brits were likely telling the truth when they protested in injured voices that they'd simply been sent the presentation slides "by a friend in Brussels". Part of the reason the UK is so good at this stuff is that they tend to stick closely to the truth. And they let Brussels know that they knew what was in those slides deliberately.

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To the question in your title, my Magic 8-Ball says:

My sources say no

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