Britain’s most senior operational police officers have expressed concern over Brexit and said it will take years of “onerous” work if the UK is to retain the same level of cooperation with Europe that it needs to combat international organised crime, human trafficking and terrorism.
Lynne Owens, director general of the National Crime Agency (NCA), Britain’s equivalent of the FBI, said that her European crime-fighting colleagues had been shocked by June’s Brexit vote, but were keen to continue cooperating.
“In its bluntest form,” she said, “We must be able to continue to exchange information. We must be able to understand the movement of criminals and criminal behaviour.”
Her deputy director general David Armond is now chairing a group of senior UK crime and anti-terrorism enforcement officials to tell the Conservative politicians negotiating Brexit what kind of Europe-wide operational cooperation needs to be retained.
Mr Armond said: “Obviously, we are concerned. To protect the public in our country we need the ability to share intelligence fast-time, to exchange information and to cooperate operationally.
“It’s going to be a lot of work over the next few years to make sure we are in the right place. It’s going to be sleeves rolled up, hard yards to get to that position.”
He added that under the current, pre-Article 50 provisions for European cooperation in crime fighting, “there are certain mechanisms that exist within Europe at the moment that make some of that fairly straightforward”.
One particular concern about Brexit, Mr Armond said, was the European Arrest Warrant which since 2004 has made it easier to extradite criminals fleeing UK justice in the EU, helping to ensure fewer British gangsters seek sanctuary in places such as the Costa del Sol, once nicknamed the Costa del Crime.
Mr Armond said: “Things like the European Arrest Warrant are going to be tricky. We can’t stay within that. We have got to negotiate a series of new treaties with overseas territories about extradition.” The issue of Europol membership was, he added, was “interesting”.
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
And, Mr Armond admitted, the NCA was also in the midst of working with the UK Home Office to lobby for a common set of EU standards over firearms deactivation – a measure whose necessity was proved by the way terrorists involved in the Charlie Hebdo and November 2015 attacks in Paris used deactivated weapons that were made live again with relative ease.
Achieving common standards and getting other EU nations to move toward the UK’s stricter firearms deactivation requirements, he admitted, “will of course be more difficult outside the EU than in”.
He insisted, however, that the French attacks had shown the importance of the issue and thus ensured that “policy makers are much closer to reaching a conclusion”.
While acknowledging the difficulties, Mr Armond was careful to qualify his comments by refusing to accept that Britain would lose crime-fighting capacity post-Brexit. He insisted that arrangements could still be made to ensure the UK law enforcement agencies remained involved in Europe-wide cooperation.
He said: “It is not our job to wave bleeding stumps and say the world is going to end. Brexit is not a disaster. It is a complex set of arrangements, but I am confident we will get there. It will be onerous, but so is the whole issue of extracting the UK from the EU – that applies to the whole business of government.”
Until Brexit happens, he said, the UK remains a full member of Europol and “working full tilt”. The UK, he said, currently has one of the largest liaison bureaux in The Hague working with the EU employees who form Europol’s inner core. This allows the UK “to run fast-time operations with any group of member states”.
Post-Brexit, he said, the UK might be able to become an “operational cooperation only” nation, like countries within the European Economic Area. This would ensure Britian could still join international operations, although intelligence sharing with Europol would then have to be done indirectly, via liaison officials. The UK would also remain a member of Interpol.
In comments that may raise eyebrows in other EU countries, Mr Armond also suggested it might be possible for the UK’s Brexit negotiators to suggest staying inside the European Arrest Warrant system but outside the EU.
“There is no example of a nation that is not part of the EU being involved in the European Arrest Warrant set-up,” Mr Armond said, “We could theoretically, if the Government decided it was a sensible approach, start with saying ‘We are so interlinked in relation to our security, we would like to continue to be members of that particular aspect of the EU’. Then out of that negotiation will come a sensible set of arrangements.”
Pointing to the success of Briton Rob Wainwright, who took over as Europol director in 2009, he said: “The Europeans need us as much as we need them – probably more so. Europol under UK management has become much stronger. I can’t envisage a situation where we can’t continue to do business with Europe.
“And of course we already work with international partners all round the world. We are very experienced in doing this, sometimes with very difficult countries.”Reuse content