Leaving the European Union risks undermining the police’s ability to fight crime by taking the UK out of “mission critical” databases, according to a House of Lords report.
A cross-party group of peers has urged the government to secure a transition deal to avoid “a cliff edge” in data transfers when Britain leaves the EU – an issue deemed urgent for the police as there are no clear alternatives to existing ties with Europe.
“It is hard to see how they are going to replicate 100% of what we currently have and each percentage drop-off makes us and our citizens less safe,” Paul Condon, a crossbench peer and former Metropolitan police commissioner, told the Guardian. “Any arrangement that makes it harder to cooperate or harder to use the European arrest warrant makes us less safe.”
Inside the EU, the UK works with other police forces through Europol and has access to several databases, including the Schengen information system – a trove of data on criminal suspects, missing people, vehicles and documents.
“The reality is that our membership of Europol, our access to European databases are now absolutely integral to how we police in this country,” said Lord Condon, who headed the Met police between 1993-2000.
“I was hugely disappointed that neither the leavers nor the remainers said a single word in the buildup to the referendum.”
He said the government was “saying the right things” but had failed to come up with a route map to replicate current arrangements.
“There is a slight arrogance that says: ‘They need us more than we need them.’
“What that ignores or downplays is the legal complexities of what these structures are.”
He pointed to the “great irony” that Theresa May made the case for the UK to opt into 35 EU police measures while she was home secretary.
“Only two years ago the prime minster saw the European court of justice as being a very worthwhile price to pay for access to these vital databases [and]…