Britain's fight against international crime and terrorism – and even the Met's renewed hunt for Madeleine McCann – have been put at risk by the Government's proposal to stop co-operating with Europe's cross-border policing body, police and politicians have warned.
Ministers are this month expected to withhold support for a revamped Europol, including a merger with the European Police College (Cepol), amid complaints that the shake-up could restrict the independence of British forces. The Government claims the policy is in line with a wider plan to opt out of more than 130 EU law and order measures in an bid to cut EU influence over policing and justice in the UK.
But critics claim the refusal to opt in to the changes to Europol, which supports national police forces by gathering, analysing and sharing information and by co-ordinating operations, would exclude the UK from vital efforts to tackle cross-border crime.
The Association of Chief Police Officers called the move a "massive step back for UK policing". The House of Lords EU Committee urged the Government to remove the Europol regulation from its "block opt-out" plans, and continue participating in the pan-European policing regime. Europol's director, Rob Wainwright, told the committee: "It is undeniable that the demands of fighting international crime and terrorism require an ever-increasing level of co-operation between the member states."
The Home Office minister Lord Taylor said the Government had not yet made a decision.