Open Britain Background Briefing ‘No deal’ scenario threatens UK security

The Prime Minister has throughout this election campaign argued that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. Open Britain believes that is opposite of the case when it comes to security co-operation and walking away from the negotiations without any deal or arrangements in place would make the country less secure

Nobody voted to jeopardise their own safety or the security of the country in the referendum but that is precisely what could happen if the Government continues down its hard Brexit path and seriously contemplates walking away without a deal.   

The Current Situation

As an EU member state, the UK currently takes part in the following key aspects of European security co-operation:

  • The European Arrest Warrant (EAW): The EAW facilitates the process of returning criminal suspects, who have escaped a country in which they are accused of a crime, back to that country.[1] Between 2010 and 2015, the EAW enabled the return of nearly 800 criminals (including those convicted for terrorism offences) back to the UK to stand trial. Such extraditions under the EAW take an average of just three months, which is a significant improvement on the average of 10 months it takes to complete non-EU extraditions.[2]
  • Europol: Europol assists the 28 EU Member States in their fight against serious international crime and terrorism, including on issues such as drugs, human trafficking, terrorism and cybercrime.[3] It is at the heart of the UK’s security cooperation and security agencies in the UK use the databases and the information it provides daily.[4] 
  • Eurojust: The Eurojust system allows for EU member states to better deal with cross border-crime by coordinating investigations and implementing extradition requests.[5] 
  • The Schengen Information System is an EU-wide database on organised criminal and terrorist suspects, including 35,000 people wanted under a European Arrest Warrant. It includes alerts on suspected ‘foreign fighters’ people who have travelled to Syria and elsewhere to fight for ISIS. Our police and security services queried the database over half a billion times in 2016, equivalent to sixteen checks a second.[6] 
  • The European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) supports crucial information exchange between EU law enforcement authorities. ECRIS was established in April 2012 to create an efficient exchange of information on criminal convictions between Members.[7] 
  • The Prüm Convention allows for fast and efficient data exchange between EU Member States, including on DNA analysis files, fingerprint identification systems and vehicle registration data bases.[8]

Statements by the Prime Minister on Security Co-operation

The Government have underlined that any post-Brexit relationship with the EU should include security co-operation and that a failure to reach an agreement would harm security co-operation. Nevertheless, the Government has failed to adequately explain how in maintaining current levels of security co-operation, it will be able to implement one of its self-imposed Brexit red lines, which is ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the UK.

  • “The Schengen Information System … it’s about serious and organised criminals as well, it’s about identification of people who are travelling across borders. And as part of the negotiations we will be looking at that and at various other programmes and projects and arrangements of cooperation that we have currently as a member of the European Union which would lapse when we leave the European Union and to continue to have those in future. There will be a number of areas in those negotiations where currently the European Court of Justice has jurisdiction and as part of the negotiations we will need to be looking at how we can ensure that there is appropriate oversight of the use of those. But I’m very clear the European Court of Justice and its jurisdiction in the UK is going to be ended.”[9] (Theresa May 5 June 2017, Sky News). 
  • “In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.[10] (Theresa May, UK Article 50 letter to Donald Tusk, 29 March).
  • “With the threats to our common security becoming more serious, our response cannot be to co-operate with one another less, but to work together more. I therefore want our future relationship with the European Union to include practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and the sharing of intelligence material with our EU allies.”[11] (Theresa May, Lancaster House Speech 17 January 2017).

What happens if the UK leaves the EU with “no deal”

  • A Brexit with “no deal” would mean that the UK would automatically drop out of all of security and crime-fighting arrangements with the EU. This would fundamentally make the UK less safe. On security, even a ‘bad deal’ is better than ‘no deal’, if that ‘bad deal’ contained at least some future involvement in EU security measures. 
  • In addition to these immediate problems, the Government’s self-imposed red line of no longer being subject to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is incompatible with continuing to be a part of the vital measures on security co-operation described above, which are arbitrated by the ECJ. While the Government has regularly recognised the importance of these security and intelligence arrangements, it has provided no plan as to how it would deal with the problem created by their stated intention to leave the ECJ.
  • Leaving the EU does not change the security threats we face, but leaving the EU with no deal will severely damage our ability to protect ourselves and contribute to our international relationships in a world where criminals and terrorists do not respect international borders.