Countdown to Brexit: 89 days – The Met joins MPs in urging the Government to: “stop being complacent” about the Nation’s future security
At the moment of Brexit – 23:00 GMT on Friday 29 March 2019 - the UK ceases to be a member of European law enforcement agencies such as Europol and Eurojust. It will no longer be a member of the European Arrest Warrant scheme that enables EU nations to ‘fast-track’ the extradition of criminal suspects.
The Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee has raised serious concern that the UK has not managed to secure long-term access to key criminal databases and tools for security cooperation after the UK leaves the EU - and that the loss of these capabilities would make the country less safe.
In an extended interview on BBC Radio 4, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick - the UK's most senior police officer – said that: “the public could be put at risk if the UK leaves the EU in March without an official agreement”.
A ‘no-deal’ Brexit will threaten access to EU-wide criminal databases and make it harder to extradite people from abroad. She told the BBC the Met was talking to other police forces across Europe about contingency arrangements, in case they are needed.
The Prime Minister has said she wants the UK to have: “the most comprehensive security partnership with the EU of any country outside the bloc”.
Meanwhile MP’s have urged the Government to: “stop being complacent.”
The Home Affairs Committee also warns that – even with a Withdrawal Agreement in place - there is a “significant risk that transition arrangements will expire before all the new security arrangements are agreed, leaving a security shortfall.”
Their report raises serious concern that there is no security backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement; that negotiations on the future security partnership have not even started; and that a new security treaty will need time to go through full ratification in 27 remaining EU member states. Based on the evidence it has received, the Committee warns it will be near-impossible to get a full new security treaty in place before December 2020.
The Government is: “urged to stop being complacent and to provide clarity on the implications of the deal it has reached with the EU. It is seriously damaging that the Government is not being open with Parliament on the implications of the deal.”
The report condemns the Home Office for its successive failures to publish an Immigration White Paper in time for the Parliamentary vote on the Government’s deal.
The Chair of the Committee, Yvette Cooper, MP commented: "We are worried about the prospect of a security downgrade as a result of this deal. It doesn’t include the key criminal databases that the police and border force check 500 million times a year to keep us safe. Nor is there a security backstop to make sure that the transition arrangements don’t run out before a new security treaty can be implemented.
“As it stands, this deal will see us lose access to key criminal databases like SIS II and ECRIS, as well as the European Arrest Warrant, Europol and other tools for security cooperation, without any assurance that we will secure replica arrangements for the future. We know that this would mark a significant downgrade of our security and policing capabilities, and the police have made clear we would be less safe as a result.”
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, it is simply impossible to negotiate and ratify a new security treaty before March 2019.
Extracts from the Home Office Committee Report to Parliament
The absence of clear detail on the long-term relationship is deeply concerning.
The Committee is “extremely concerned” about the lack of progress on negotiations on future security cooperation. There is no security backstop,
The Committee is “dismayed” by the Government’s failure to plan adequately for the continuity of future security cooperation with the EU.
The UK will continue to participate in Europol activities if there is a ‘deal’ with a transition period. However the Government is no closer to achieving its goal of agreeing a future relationship that goes beyond the agency’s existing agreements with nations outside the EU if there is no-deal or at the end of any transition period.
The Political Declaration does not include any detail on the UK’s future relationship with Europol. If negotiations fail to provide a bespoke arrangement that maintains existing capabilities, it will mean a security downgrade and that the Government has failed to achieve its objective.
The Committee is “extremely concerned” by the ‘own national’ exemption that will apply to UK-EU extradition during the transition period – if there is one.
It is unclear what this will mean for victims of serious crimes committed in the UK by EU nationals, including murder, rape and child sexual abuse. This will be particularly vital if victims will have to travel to EU countries to participate in criminal trials.
EU data systems
The absence of any reference to SIS II or ECRIS in the Political Declaration is a serious concern - the Committee is “extremely disappointed” by the EU’s current resistance to agreeing to continued shared access.
Losing access to SIS II will cause a significant downgrade in policing and security capability at a time when threats are increasing. UK agencies check SIS II over 500 million times a year and there is no adequate contingency. Losing access will make the UK less safe.
Borders and customs
The Committee is “extremely concerned” by the lack of clarity about what the customs and border arrangements post-Brexit. There is no assurance that there will not be additional checks and controls at the border – which does not reconcile the Government’s objectives of achieving an independent trade policy and frictionless trade.
It is “deeply unhelpful and unsatisfactory” that the Government’s Immigration White Paper will not be published in advance of Parliament’s vote on the deal – even though that has been delayed to 14 January 2019 – despite having been promised almost 18 months ago.
The Government has provided a distinct lack of information on its immigration proposals – an unacceptable way for the Government to operate.
House of Commons: Home Affairs Committee – “Home Office preparations for the UK exiting the EU”
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