Brexit: Britain will be less secure without access to shared data

There could never have been a deal that would fully replicate or replace the shared security mechanisms enjoyed by members of the EU.

Today’s deal confirms the UK will automatically forfeit its membership of Europol, Eurojust, the European Arrest Warrant and real-time sensitive data-sharing agreements such as the Schengen Information System (SIS2) when the UK exits the transition period on 1 January.

These organisations and systems are not insignificant – so important is access to SIS2, that a senior British law enforcement officer described it as “a game-changer” in recent evidence to a House of Lords select committee.

With access to SIS2 turned off when the deal kicks in a week from now, finding some kind of effective substitute will be a huge security challenge in the short-term.

The figures speak for themselves. UK police access the SIS2 database around half a billion times every year.

Under the European Arrest Warrant, the UK extradited more than 11,000 wanted criminals between 2000 and 2019 and received hundreds in return.

And the UK co-operates with European partners on hundreds of cross-border criminal and terrorism investigations through Europol.

In his news conference following the announcement of a deal, Boris Johnson reassured the public the deal “protects our ability to catch criminals and share intelligence across the European continent in the way we have done for many years”.

However, you would expect the prime minister to spin the positives.

A document released by the European Commission around the same time was more circumspect but revealed plans for “a new framework for law enforcement and judicial co-operation”.

It also said the agreement includes “ambitious arrangements” for the sharing of criminal record information, DNA, fingerprints and air passenger and vehicle registration data. That’s good news.

So too is the provision for a fast-tracked extradition system to replace the European Arrest Warrant, which will be “unprecedented for a non-Schengen third country”, according to Brussels, and the news that DNA and fingerprint data will continue to be exchanged through the Prüm system.

So at face value (and we’re yet to see the detail of the deal or live the reality of it) the outcome would seem to be as good as could have been expected.

But ultimately it goes back to my first sentence: nothing could better, or mimic, what was already in place.

Britain will be less secure as a result of leaving the EU, at least in the immediate future.

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