UK will be ‘less safe’ after Brexit, says former Metropolitan Police chief

Sir Ian Blair rejects Priti Patel’s claim nation will made safer through ‘tougher’ post-Brexit powers

Adam Forrest
Monday 04 January 2021 13:15
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The former Metropolitan Police commissioner has said the UK will be less safe now the country has left the EU and the Brexit process is complete.  

Sir Ian Blair’s remarks came after Priti Patel claimed the nation could be made safer after exiting the bloc by police and security agencies being handed “even tougher powers”.

Sir Ian rejected the suggestion, and pointed to the loss of the European Arrest Warrant and a major EU database which had been accessed more than 500 million times a year by British police.

“We’ve lost powers,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday. “We’ve lost full access to Europe-wide, real-time, interrogatable databases on criminal records, DNA, fingerprints, criminal intelligence.”

Sir Ian, the Met chief between 2005 and 2008, added: “The police have been quietly beating the drum, saying, ‘This is going to make us less safe’. And I’m afraid that is what is going to happen.”

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Ms Patel claimed banning foreign criminals who have served more than a year in jail from entering the UK would be among the “stronger powers” which could soon be given to British authorities.

However, the EU has made it clear that under the agreement struck before Christmas, the UK would not enjoy the same level of “facilities” on policing and security issues as before. An EU briefing note said the UK would no longer have “direct, real-time access” to sensitive databases.

One of the biggest changes for police and security officials will be the loss of the Schengen Information System II (SIS II) database, which officers had been able to search automatically alongside the Police National Computer.

Priti Patel claims UK authorities will get ‘stronger powers’

Lord Ricketts, the former national security adviser, agreed with Sir Ian’s assessment on the post-Brexit security losses. 

“I don’t see how we can be more safe by leaving a close partnership with nearest neighbours," he said.

The cross-bench peer, who chairs the Lords’ EU security and justice sub-committee, told Today: “I don’t think there’s a dividend [from Brexit] – we’re in damage limitation mode. We now need to … hope our operational forces and colleagues across Europe will be as helpful as possible to find workarounds.”

He added: “The home secretary talks about banning foreign criminals who have been more than a year in jail. Okay, that’s good. But that depends on knowing who has got that sort of criminal record. The EU has a database for that. We are no longer able to access it directly.”

Although the UK has also lost membership of EU law enforcement agency Europol following the transition period, it is hoped UK could still strike up an “associate” relationship with the agency in a similar way as the US.

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