Brexit: Public will be 'harder to protect' if UK leaves EU with no deal, police chiefs warn

National Police Chiefs' Council speaks out, saying it would have to explore 'slower, more bureaucratic' alternatives if no Brexit deal is reached

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 18 September 2018 14:43
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Michel Barnier: UK government needs dose of “realism” about EU security cooperation post-Brexit

Police chiefs say it will be “harder to protect” the public if the UK crashes out of the EU, in the latest warning against a no-deal Brexit.

The head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said officers would have to fall back on “slower, more bureaucratic” systems if they lose access to EU-wide security co-operation.

At stake are crucial law enforcement tools including membership of Europol and the European Arrest Warrant, and access to the Schengen Information System database of criminals and terror suspects.

Sara Thornton, chairman of the NPCC, spoke out as plans were unveiled to explore the alternatives for British policing if no Brexit deal is reached.

She warned: “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.”

And she added: “It will make it harder for us to protect UK citizens and make it harder to protect EU citizens.”

If the UK crashes out of the EU without a security agreement, it could be forced to try to strike bilateral deals with individual law enforcement agencies across Europe.

However, even with a deal, Brussels has warned that the UK’s weak data protection rules mean it is set to reject Theresa May’s call for a “deep and special partnership” on security.

It is offering only a “slightly” better security agreement than it has with other non-EU countries, a report highlighted last week.

The NPCC’s warning comes hard on the heels of Philip Hammond, the chancellor, cautioning that a no-deal Brexit risks setting back the British economy a full decade.

Virendra Sharma, a Labour supporter of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain campaign, seized on the comments, saying: “Brexit is putting our vital security co-operation at risk.

“Organised crime and criminals do not stop at the cliffs of Dover, and Britain gains from being part of the European Arrest Warrant and Europol.

“Working together to catch criminals shows starkly how dangerous a no-deal Brexit could be. The Conservatives seem to want to go back to the bad old days of the Costa del Crime.”

However, speaking on a visit to Japan, Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, again claimed Britain had nothing to fear from crashing out, while arguing it was not “in anyone’s interest for that to happen”.

“The UK will flourish and prosper as one of the strongest economies in the world whatever the outcome of these talks,” Mr Hunt said, speaking in Tokyo.

But Ms Thornton added that “the loss of these tools and the limitations of the alternatives will be felt in European countries too”.

“The UK is one of the biggest contributors of intelligence to Europol systems and leads half of its operational coordination meetings.

“For every one person arrested on a UK issued European Arrest Warrant, the UK arrests eight people on warrants issued by other member states.”

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