Government must take 'urgent' action to ensure police access to EU crime data

Police chiefs have “no idea” what resources they will have access to next month, while Brexit negotiations hang in the balance, MPs have warned.

Dec 11, 2020
By Website Editor
Yvette Cooper

As a no-deal Brexit looms, calls have been made for the Government to “urgently explain” what is being done to avoid a “security downgrade” if access to criminal databases is lost.

The changes could have “major operational impact” on investigations, according to police chiefs.

It has emerged that the Government will “actively delete” 40,000 alerts on dangerous criminals and wanted suspects on December 31.

Meanwhile, the UK may also lose access to another database detailing information on people who have already claimed asylum in other countries, unless an agreement for after Brexit is put in place.

Yvette Cooper, chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, told the PA news agency: “Security should have been a top priority for both sides in these negotiations but now we are just three weeks away from the end of the transition period with no agreement in place.

“Police and Border Force currently have no idea what tools they will still have access to in a few weeks’ time.

“The Government must urgently explain what they are doing to ensure there is an agreement on security cooperation, no matter what the final outcome is on trade, fisheries and other issues.

“We need assurances that action is being taken to get new systems in place in time, so that national security and public safety are not put at risk”.

Last month, senior police officers at the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) wrote to the committee expressing their concerns over the effect a no-deal Brexit could have on policing and security.

The committee said their warnings made clear that without an agreement UK authorities would lose the ability to use a “wide range of enforcement tools” and that some “important security capabilities” – particularly access to the SIS II (Schengen Information System) criminal database – would be lost even with a Brexit deal.

In one of the letters, NPCC chair Martin Hewitt warned that under a no-deal Brexit “the fall-back systems will be slower, provide less visibility of information and intelligence and make joined-up working more cumbersome”.

Losing access to SIS II would have a “major operational impact”, he said.

Likewise, not being able to look at Passenger Name Records (PNR) would have a “major impact” on counter-terrorism policing and work tackling serious and organised crime.

Not being able to use the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) would mean it could take months instead of days to access records.

Steve Rodhouse, director general of operations at the NCA, warned in a separate letter that this could mean “capability will be notably reduced” and could affect “public protection”.

He also said Europol is the tool “we are most concerned about from a serious organised crime perspective”.

On Thursday (December 10), Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt insisted the Government had measures in place to ensure the security of UK citizens in any outcome and intelligence would continue to be shared between countries.

She told MPs: “We will not compromise on security. This has been an absolutely key part of our preparations on any outcomes.”

An NPCC spokesperson added: “We are working closely with all law enforcement partners and government to ensure we are prepared for any eventuality. Contingencies are in place in the event of a non-negotiated outcome.”

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