Restart Brexit talks because UK is ‘less safe and less secure’, Tory group tells Boris Johnson

‘Every day that passes is storing up problems ... the government cannot simply cross its fingers and hope’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 17 February 2021 20:47
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Today's daily politics briefing

Talks to rebuild security cooperation with the EU must restart now after the Brexit deal left the UK “less safe and less secure”, a Conservative group says.

Boris Johnson is accused of “not being ambitious enough” after the agreement shut down access to vital criminal databases, including records of stolen identities and wanted people.

Ejection from the European Arrest Warrant system means “some criminals will not be extradited”, while leaving Europol means the UK will lose crucial influence, a report says.

Significantly, it has been carried out for the Conservative European Forum (CEF) – led by Tory heavyweights David Lidington and Dominic Grieve – and written by a former head of the Bar Council.

“It is plain that we have lost important tools for tackling crime,” said its author, QC Guy Mansfield.

“Speed is crucial and the loss of real time access to important databases will have a serious impact on our ability to tackle a host of issues associated with international organised crime.”

Sir David, Theresa May’s former deputy, said: “Criminality today does not respect national frontiers and our security systems must reflect this reality. The UK and EU must now urgently conduct talks to strengthen security cooperation.”

And Mr Grieve said: “Every day that passes is storing up problems, as systems run more slowly and with less cooperation between security agencies. The government cannot simply cross its fingers and hope.”

The criticism comes after the prime minister – unlike his predecessor – chose not to pursue a separate security agreement in last year’s frenzied Brexit negotiations.

Leaving the SIS II database of suspected terrorists and organised criminals – checked 603 million times by UK police in 2019 alone – means relying on slower information-sharing after requests.

The UK has also sacrificed the ability to initiate joint investigations through Europol and Eurojust, and EU states will no longer have to extradite their nationals to the UK.

The CEF vowed, last month, to press Mr Johnson to seek to improve on the Christmas Eve agreement due to turmoil for exporters and creative artists, as well as the security fears.

Its report points out that so-called “successes” are not gains, but simply rescued access to the Passenger Name Records (PNR) and European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) databases.

Lord Sandhurst added: “I do not wish to see the UK less safe or less secure as result of our changed relationship with the EU.

“This is not a debate about sovereignty, trade or tariffs. It’s about security and, as a Conservative, I believe that the security of the UK and its citizens must always come first.”

However, No 10 has shown no enthusiasm to return to the negotiating table since Mr Johnson signed what he called his “fantastic” deal.

A new “partnership council” with the EU has yet to be set up, and the government has insisted the agreement cannot be reopened.

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