Why police chiefs are worried about a no-deal Brexit

Leaked letter to home secretary warns of ‘significant loss of operational capacity’ if UK leaves bloc without agreement

UK police
(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

A no-deal Brexit scenario will put public safety at risk and reduce policing capacity in the UK, leaders of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) have warned the Government.

In a leaked letter - marked “official sensitive”, according to The Guardian - the elected commissioners urge Home Secretary Sajid Javid to immediately draft contingency plans. Officers face “a significant loss of operational capacity” should the UK crash out of the EU in March without securing an agreement, the letter says.

According to the APCC, which represents 40 UK police and crime commissioners, British police make regular use of 32 different law enforcement and national security measures that depend on EU membership.

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“The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier outlined in June that once the UK leaves the bloc, it will be excluded from these tools,” reports Politico.

Among these measures are the European Arrest Warrant, “under which 1,735 arrests were made in the UK last year and more than 10,000 people were extradited since 2004”, says The Guardian.

The UK would also be excluded from the Schengen Information System (SIS), a vast database used by police to search for terrorist suspects, missing people and to check vehicle registrations and passport details. The SIS “was checked 539 million times by British officers in 2017”, adds the newspaper.

The police and crime commissioners say that “unless the Government is able to negotiate the retention of these measures, police and law enforcement agencies face a significant loss of operational capacity”, reports Police Professional, an online journal for law enforcement professionals.

“We are increasingly concerned that such a loss of capacity could pose significant risks to our local communities,” the letter states. “These shared tools, measures, initiatives and capabilities which have been developed over the last 40 years of cooperation across the EU have saved many lives. We must find ways to protect these mutually important capabilities when the UK leaves the EU in order to ensure the safety and security all our citizens.”

If this is not achieved, “considerable additional resource would be required for policing to operate using non-EU tools, and such tools would be suboptimal - potentially putting operational efficiency and public safety at risk”, the letter continues.

“Recruitment, vetting and training of staff to use these tools would take a substantial amount of time”, causing “delays and challenges for UK policing and justice agencies”, it concludes.

The publication of the letter comes as the i news site reports that “plans to ask police chiefs to cancel officers’ leave in the two months after Brexit have been discussed in Whitehall as the Government readies itself for the worst-case scenario of social unrest” in the event of no deal.

Over the weekend, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox suggested to The Sunday Times that the UK now appears poised to crash out of the bloc, owing to the “intransigence” of the Brussels machine. Fox put the likelihood of the UK and the EU not agreeing a deal at “60-40”.

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