Loss of access to EU crime database concerning, say peers

The loss of access to EU policing data has been branded concerning by peers, who fear new law enforcement arrangements put in place after Brexit are “complex” and “untested”.

Mar 26, 2021
By Website Editor
Lord Ricketts

The Lords EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee examined security provisions in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) introduced after the UK left the EU, warning “significant areas are missing” and “many important details are still to be agreed”.

The report highlights the UK’s loss of access to the EU’s Schengen Information System II (SIS II) criminal database as the “most significant gap in terms of lost capability”.

The committee described this as an “area of concern” and recommended Parliament monitor whether alternative arrangements were providing equivalent access to information.

Government officials previously insisted the UK is not missing out on intelligence about wanted criminals after losing access to SIS II alerts about people and stolen items such as guns and cars, which it has been using since 2015.

As a result some 40,000 alerts on dangerous criminals and wanted suspects had to be deleted at the end of December at the end of the transition period.

British negotiators had sought to maintain access to the system as part of a deal, following concerns raised by police chiefs, but the EU said it was legally impossible to offer access to any country not in the Schengen area, including the UK.

The findings also described new extradition arrangements as “ambitious”.

Committee chair Lord Ricketts, a former national security adviser, said: “This agreement enables the UK to continue to cooperate with the EU in the areas of security and justice, including on the sharing of key data and on extradition.

“The Government has therefore succeeded in avoiding an abrupt end to years of effective UK-EU joint working in these areas, which would have put the safety of citizens in the UK and across the EU at greater risk.

“There are, however, still grounds for considerable caution.

“These are a complex and untested set of arrangements and their effectiveness will depend crucially on how they are implemented at the operational level. This will require continued parliamentary scrutiny.”

National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs’ Council bosses have previously expressed confidence in the agreement.

Home Office minister Kevin Foster said: “The UK agreed a comprehensive security agreement with the EU that ensures the UK continues to be one of the safest countries in the world.

“We continue to work closely with domestic and EU partners to monitor the new arrangements and have excellent cooperation with EU member states on a wide range of law enforcement and criminal justice issues.”

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