Loopholes in UK’s Post Brexit Deal Raise Security Fears

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The UK is missing out on “significant” access to EU policing data due to the Brexit deal it signed up to late last year. That’s according to a new House of Lords report. 

The report found new post-Brexit law enforcement arrangements to be “complex” and “untested”. There was also a warning that it was likely to take far longer for important information to get to UK police officers working on the frontline.

The UK has lost direct access to EU databases containing fingerprints, criminal records and information about wanted people. Instead, it now has access to what could be called ‘data-lite’ and is restricted to particular information such as air passenger intelligence. 

Lord Ricketts is chairman of the Lords EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee which examined the Brexit deal. Although he said the UK had succeeded in avoiding a “cliff- edge departure,” he concluded that there were “grounds for considerable caution.”

The UK can no longer access around 40,000 alerts related to investigations in other European countries. 

He stated that new arrangements were “complex and untested, and their effectiveness will depend crucially on how they are implemented at the operational level.”

The report flagged up the UK’s loss of access to the EU’s criminal database known as the Schengen Information System (SIS II). That means the UK can no longer access around 40,000 alerts related to investigations in other European countries. 

This is seen as a “most significant gap” for law enforcement. The SIS II replacement means data is available in “a matter of hours, not seconds.”

The report made a further warning. It says future information sharing between the EU and UK could mean that the EU would hold the UK to “higher standards” on data protection. Any new agreement could therefore be withdrawn “if the UK chooses not to stay aligned with EU data protection rules in the future.

“The provisions on data protection are particularly fragile. If the UK does not remain in step with changes to EU data protection laws, or if the UK is found to have breached fundamental rights when handling personal data, then this could trigger the suspension, or even termination, of all the justice and security cooperation.”

Responding to the report, 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.”

Extradition could be denied [Image: hafakot, Shutterstock]

At least 10 EU countries now say they won’t extradite their own nationals in the future to face prosecution in the UK because of Brexit.

A further issue has been raised around extradition. At least 10 EU countries now say they won’t extradite their own nationals in the future to face prosecution in the UK because of Brexit. Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden are invoking constitutional rules as a reason not to extradite their own nationals to the UK. 

According to a letter from the Home Office this amounts to “an absolute bar on the extradition of own nationals” to the UK. Austria and the Czech Republic say they’ll only extradite their own nationals to Britain if they decide to give their consent.

It means that British authorities may have to attempt prosecutions in other countries, or circulate wanted criminals on an Interpol database in the hope they leave their home nation and can be caught somewhere else.

Before Brexit, the UK had been part of the European Arrest Warrant system. That meant there was a straightforward and smooth extradition procedure between EU states. It’s been used in the past to hand over terrorists, drug smugglers and murderers.

If the UK is found to have breached fundamental rights when handling personal data, then this could trigger the suspension, or even termination, of all the justice and security cooperation

Richard Martin, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), is in charge of post Brexit planning. 

He concluded that in situations when countries refuse to extradite suspects, police have two choices, “One is we work with the Crown Prosecution Service and decide whether it is in the public interest to try and prosecute these individuals in their home countries. 

“The second is we circulate them anyway on Interpol because as soon as they enter another country they’re fair game, so we can arrest them in that country and bring them back.”

When challenged, the government says there is excellent cooperation with EU member states on a wide range of law enforcement and criminal justice issues. The problem is, as the new House of Lords report clearly concludes, none of the new rules have been truly tried and tested yet and there are huge gaps in the sharing of vital data. 

[Header Image: kb-photodesign, Shutterstock]