UK Police divert vital resources into preparing for a no-deal Brexit
The UK Police service is now having to divert key resources from the priorities of today in order to prepare for Brexit.
The scope of the scenarios currently being addressed include: how to cope with protests and disorder - and the denial of access to vital EU information in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Simon Kempton, operational lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said it was “highly concerning that with Brexit only six months away we still don’t know what the policing landscape will look like.”
The Home Office, meanwhile, has allocated £2m for a dedicated new unit of 50 police officers and staff who will prepare for the possibility of public disorder; protests and disruption on transport and at borders; and picking up on the earlier ‘more bureaucratic’ method of accessing information, currently accessible via shared databases.
Brexit planning is adding further strain onto forces that are already dealing with a huge rise in 999 calls, violent crime, the terror threat and government cuts. Kempton: “My worry is that the officers used to staff this unit will need to be diverted from other already stretched areas, thus creating more capacity and back-filling issues.”
Britain risks losing access to 40 tools including: Europol; the European arrest warrant; and Schengen Information System II (SIS II) – a huge database containing information on terrorists, criminals, missing people and objects, to which there is no alternative.
The UK may also be locked out of the European Criminal Records Information System and Eurojust if an agreement to allow continued cooperation is not struck.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said in June that the UK would lose access to the European arrest warrant and no longer have a managing role on Europol.
He said that while the EU was open to exchanging intelligence with the UK, it could not be based “on access to EU-only or Schengen-only databases”.
One of the UK’s most senior officers warned fall-back plans agreed by chief constables this week were still “slower, more bureaucratic and ultimately less effective” than the systems currently used.
“There have been discussions about cancelling officers’ rest days and putting a moratorium on leave in the weeks and even months immediately pre and post 29 March.”
Sara Thornton, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council said: “Existing EU tools allow us to respond quickly and intelligently to crime and terrorism in the UK and the EU - they make us better at protecting the public.
“The alternatives we are planning to use, where they exist, are without exception slower, more bureaucratic and ultimately less effective.”
Under current systems it would take an average of six days to check if a foreign national has criminal convictions in their home country, but in the event of no-deal that would extend to an estimated 66 days.
For every one person currently arrested on a UK issued European Arrest Warrant, the UK arrests eight people on warrants issued by other member states.
British officers checked the EU-wide Schengen Information System over 500 million times in 2017 as their equipment simultaneously searches SIS II and the police national criminal database.
The EU will lose UK intelligence as Britain is currently one of the biggest contributors to Europol and leads half of its operational coordination meetings.
Post Brexit, UK law enforcement will revert to using Interpol under European Conventions to: enable criminals to be extradited; trace missing people; and share intelligence about crime and terrorism.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, the NPCC lead for Brexit, warned that the UK and EU may no longer be able to share real-time alerts for wanted persons, including serious criminals. “We would respond less swiftly to alerts for missing people … and our collective ability to map terrorist and criminal networks across Europe and bring those responsible to justice would be reduced.”
Last week, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick revealed that her force was preparing for potential disorder around Dover having undertaken threat assessments and preparing for all “possible outcomes”.
Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee warned that Britain was on course for a “catastrophic” Brexit security deal that could allow criminals and terrorists to go free. MPs condemned both UK and EU negotiators for endangering the security of their citizens by refusing to cross political “red lines” and called on the UK to submit to European Court of Justice jurisdiction.
In August, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) wrote to the government warning a no-deal Brexit would put public safety at risk and reduce policing capacity in Britain. Brexit Partners covered this in further detail in a previous Insight:
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