The Crime Terror Nexus was delighted to launch its first paper on The Crime Terror Nexus in UK and Ireland at The Institute of International and European Affairs, Dublin. This paper presents an overview of links between crime and terrorism (the crime-terror nexus) in the United Kingdom and Ireland, highlights potential risks, and make series of recommendations for how such risks can be mitigated.
Based on our review, it seems clear that organised crime in Britain and Ireland has become a multi-faceted, entrenched and dynamic phenomenon, and that the threat from terrorism – be it jihadist, far-right, or Northern Ireland related – will preoccupy security agencies in both countries for years to come. Though illicit activities are notoriously difficult to measure, we have found evidence for links between crime and terrorism in three areas: 1. Among paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, which have been deeply involved in organised crime in Northern Ireland and across the border; 2. In British prisons where criminal and terrorist milieus have connected and cross-fertilised; 3. Among British jihadists whose criminal skills may be used for terrorist purposes.
Our recommendations include action on prisons, terrorist financing, better data collection, information sharing and collaboration between security agencies as well as between government and non-government actors. However, the most urgent area of action is with regards to Northern Ireland. With Brexit, and the prospect of “regulatory divergence” between North and South, it is vitally important to avoid creating additional incentives for cross-border smuggling, which thrives wherever tariffs, taxes, and regulations inhibit the free exchange of goods. Put simply, the “harder” the border, the greater the pay-offs for organised crime. We also recommend that the British government set up an independent inquiry into the involvement of paramilitary groups in organised crime, as well as commit to taking action based on its recommendations.
This paper is part of a Europe-wide survey that will produce similar reports for all European Union member states. The aim is to generate a more holistic understanding of threats from crime and terrorism, and promote new and innovative ways of tackling them.