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Thursday, May 31, 2018

The threat to our security posed by Brexit

There is no doubt that many people will be focussing on French intransigence as the reason why the UK's membership of a European Union security system that helps to identify foreign criminals and which is designed to keep the public safe is under threat.

The problem though, as with all negotiations, is that when a party puts everything on the table they may not get all that they want.  In other words. we voted to come out of the EU so we have no right to expect we can continue to enjoy all the benefits of membership without being part of the club and paying the fee.

Thus, it is hardly surprising, as the Times reports, that despite Ministers saying that Britain’s participation in the so-called Prüm Convention is “clearly in the national interest”, that is now in doubt. It was something that many of us were predicting during the referendum. I take no pleasure in being proved right.

The government wants a guarantee that it can continue to access and share vital DNA, fingerprint and vehicle information with other European countries after Brexit. The system allowed French and Belgian authorities to identify the terrorists responsible for the Paris attacks in November 2015.

As the paper says, the dispute is the latest sign that Theresa May is struggling to strike a post-Brexit security deal. As with the row over Britain’s participation in the Galileo satellite project, the European Commission insists on upholding rules that limit the sharing of sensitive information with third countries:

Britain’s refusal to subject itself to the oversight of the European Court of Justice presents another hurdle to sharing information. Initially Britain had been confident that its capabilities in law enforcement and intelligence would help to overcome “ideological” objections as other member states prioritised security. The disagreement over Prüm is the latest confrontation to undermine that belief. Although France is backing Britain’s demand for full access to the £14 billion Galileo system after Brexit, it is taking a tougher line on the DNA database than other European states.

Countries including Germany are said to be supporting Britain’s attempt to take part but France is insisting that the decision be referred to the European Commission.

Prüm is one of a number of EU crime-fighting tools, including the European Criminal Records Information Exchange System and the Schengen Information System (SIS), that Britain wants to continue to use.

British police disclosed that they had carried out 539 million checks on SIS last year and warned this month about being frozen out of the “critical” databases. Steve Smart, director of intelligence at the National Crime Agency, told a parliamentary hearing: “The impact of losing access to those datasets is that more bad people will get into the UK and it will be harder for us to find and deal with them.”

This is another fine mess that the Brexiteers have got us into.
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