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Police chiefs to establish a safety net if access to EU security tools is lost

18 Sep 2018

A new national unit will assist police forces to use alternatives if the UK loses access to current EU data sharing and cooperation tools, such as the European Arrest Warrant or Europol systems.  

The contingency plans, agreed yesterday (September 17) by all chief constables, will see UK law enforcement revert to use of international police tools through Interpol, bilateral channels and Council of Europe conventions to enable extradition of suspects, trace missing people and share intelligence about crime and terrorism. 

A small team led by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) have reviewed the UK’s use of EU instruments and the operational risks posed by their loss as well as identifying alternative non-EU tools and processes for using them.

Following approval of the plans at a meeting of all chief constables in London, work will begin to establish the unit and recruit officers and staff.

It will be staffed by officers and staff from police forces, the National Crime Agency and the national Criminal Records Office (ACRO) with a central coordination team and a network of regional single points of contacts who will advise and help forces to use alternative mechanisms. Funded by the Home Office and hosted by the Metropolitan Police, the unit’s governance will be through the NPCC.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair Sara Thornton said:

“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.

“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.   

“We have agreed a model that minimises the risks and makes best use of already pressured police resources. It does not predict a worst-case scenario but it does prepare for it.

“It is vital our operational planning is joined up across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so we will be working closely with Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

“Our relationship with our European counterparts remains strong and we will continue to work together in the interests of UK and EU citizens.”

Police have agreed that some of the most important instruments are:

  • Schengen Information System II (SIS II)
  • European Arrest Warrant (EAW)
  • European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS)
  • Europol and Eurojust
  • European Investigation Orders

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Brexit, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin said:

“Criminals don’t respect borders - 70 per cent of transient organised crime groups operate in more than three countries.

“If we and EU partners were no longer able to use key instruments:

  • we would no longer be able to share real-time alerts for wanted persons, including serious criminals;
  • we would respond less swiftly to alerts for missing people on either side of the Channel delaying reuniting them with their loved ones;
  • our collective ability to map terrorist and criminal networks across Europe and bring those responsible to justice would be reduced.

“We remain hopeful that a deal that allows us maintain these capabilities can be struck.”

Chief constables also signed off plans to prepare for the possible effects of a no-deal Brexit, including public protest or disorder and possible disruption linked to transport and borders.

The plans will see a small team established that will review intelligence, assess threats and consider them against existing plans for civil contingencies, refreshing or developing new plans as required.  Plans will then be tested and exercised.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Operations, Chief Constable Charlie Hall said:

“Our first priority is to gather intelligence and establish a realistic threat assessment that distinguishes real from perceived threats. 

“At this stage, we have no intelligence to suggest there will be an increase in crime or disorder as a result of a Brexit deal or no deal. 

“Like other public bodies, we are preparing for possible outcomes and in each case we are working with the relevant government departments to ensure we are ready to respond.

“As you would expect these plans will need to be dynamic, and will change in response to what will undoubtedly be a changing threat assessment.”