Nope, Priti, Brexit won’t make us safer

by Nick Kent | 02.12.2019

Claim: “The consequence of EU laws limiting our border capability is brought home to me every day… After Brexit we will take steps to strengthen our border and improve the security of the UK.”

Priti Patel, The Times

InFact: The Home Secretary has announced a five-point plan. Much of it can be implemented without quitting the EU, and we’ll be less safe if we don’t keep its crime-fighting tools.

1. Ban on EU citizens with serious criminal convictions entering the UK

EU citizens can already be banned from entering the UK, provided they constitute a “genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat”. The problem is not the absence of a power to stop them but knowing that they are convicted criminals in the first place. 

That’s why the EU has two crucial databases, the Schengen Information System (SIS) and the European Criminal Records Information System, which enable UK border force officers to identify people of concern when they arrive. The SIS was consulted by UK police 539 million times in 2017 alone. 

After Brexit we will lose access to these EU databases – and other vital tools – unless Boris Johnson agrees to follow lots of its rules without any longer helping write them. That’s something his manifesto says he will not do, pledging there will be “no political alignment with the EU”.

2. Ban on the use of EU identity cards in place of passports

Banning the use of identity cards as an entry document because some countries’ cards are easy to forge is unlikely to make much difference; criminals will forge passports instead. The main consequence will be to deter groups of school and college students from coming to the UK because parents will have to pay for their children’s passports. Meanwhile, we could lose access to the EU’s electronic information system (FADO) through which Member States inform one another about fake identity cards and other travel documents.

3. US-style electronic visa-waiver scheme for visitors to the UK 

The E-visa scheme was announced in 2018 and replicates the new E-visa system that the EU will be introducing. As a result, UK citizens will face new and costly bureaucracy when they want to travel to the EU.

4. Recording the entry and exit of all visitors to the UK through biometric passports

Entry controls have always been applied in the UK and exit controls were reintroduced in April 2015. Neither has anything to do with EU membership. Biometric passports are issued according to regulations adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (part of the UN) not the EU. We can use them to control exit and entry next now.

The trouble is that those exit controls are ineffective. The Chief Inspector of Borders & Immigration said in 2017 that “the Home Office over-promised when setting out its plans for exit checks” and then closed the programme to valid their effectiveness “prematurely”. 

The Tories have also briefed the Sun that entry and exit checks will let them identify EU citizens who overstay the three-month travel limit after Brexit. The snag is that it won’t help the government deport them, as it won’t know where they are unless it introduces other checks. 

What’s more, we don’t need Brexit to remove EU citizens who cannot support themselves financially or have failed to find a job. Other EU countries such as Belgium already do so. We just haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity.

5. Advance data on goods consignments to the UK to cut the “£5 billion” of VAT and other revenue lost due to fraud

Presumably the Tories plan to require importers to notify the authorities in advance of the arrival of a consignment of goods. While useful, this will not stop smuggling. Criminals will make false declarations, as they do now. What’s more, the BBC’s fact check team has questioned the Tory claim that £5 billion is being defrauded through the existing system.

We don’t just benefit from multiple EU crime-fighting databases – including those to check fingerprints and passengers before they get on airplanes. We are also central players in Europol and the EU justice network (Eurojust), and regular users of the European Arrest Warrant. The Tories don’t even mention the European Arrest Warrant in their manifesto despite it being an essential tool enabling the police to quickly deport EU criminals from the UK or to bring wanted criminals (including terrorists) back to the UK. 

Pretending that Brexit will free the UK from EU rules when it means that the country will be less secure is classic Johnson bluster. How much does he really care about fighting crime?

Tags: Categories: Brexit

2 Responses to “Nope, Priti, Brexit won’t make us safer”

  • The thing that most bothers me most about Priti Patels’ new immigratiion regime, (and will bother thousands of others when they find out for themselves), is the proposed Visa for EU nationals. People are extremly naive if they don’t realise this is bound to be reciprocated for UK nationals travelling in Europe. Yet in all the speeches from Patel and other ministers on their proposed immigration policy, never a word is mentioned about how that will rebound on UK nationals. What this and previous UK nationals have taken for granted, being able to live, work or study across Europe, will be taken away.
    Not that Theresa May was any better the way she brushed aside any who raised the issue, or indeed referring to those seeking to benefit from freedom of movement as ‘citizens of nowhere.’
    Having to apply for a Visa to visit Europe, will remove all the spontaneity of deciding to go for a long weekend to Amsterdam or Barcelona. Things like attending Champions League matches will need planning months in advance.

    You can bet the tourism industry in this country won’t be celebrating. Faced with having to apply and pay for a Visa, many EU nationals will just avoid the hassle and travel elsewhere. The complete opposite of trying to stimulate cultural exchanges.

    Judging by her policy proposals to date, you can’t reach any conclusion, other than that Priti Patel appears to be someone hopelessly over promoted.

  • “EU migrants have been able to “treat the UK as if it’s part of their own country” for too long, Boris Johnson said yesterday as he reprised the core message of Vote Leave’s 2016 EU referendum campaign.” (The Times)

    That statement on its own disqualifies Johnson from being PM. EU migrants don’t have voting rights, they have been treated abysmally in the aftermath of the 2016 vote. It is pure dog whistle politics of the lowest form from Johnson. Not a million miles from Pre-war Germany.