Expert View

Johnson’s crime-fighting promises ring hollow

by David Hannay | 15.08.2019

Many will have welcomed the government’s announcement that more police will be recruited and more resources provided to the Crown Prosecution Service. Less welcome, however, is the fact that the government’s stated intention of leaving the EU, if necessary without a deal, on 31 October will snatch away with the left hand a great deal more than it is offering with the right so far as protecting the country’s internal security is concerned. Naturally the government said nothing about that risk – this is no moment to frighten the horses even more than they are already alarmed.

Those EU policies and instruments for fighting crime which will cease to apply in the UK on  November 1 if we crash out really do matter. If you doubt that, just pay attention to what the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, and the chief police officers in Scotland and Northern Ireland have had to say on that matter – and they are no scare-mongering Remainers .

What are the key instruments and policies we will have lost if we wake up on November 1 outside the EU and without a deal? 

(1) First and foremost the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) which enables us to bring back to the UK for trial, rapidly and with little scope for legal delays, criminals who have taken refuge in other member states (remember all those who were sunning themselves on the Costa del Crime before the EAW came into effect); and also to extradite in a similarly expeditious way criminals from other member states who have holed up in the UK. Getting them back or getting rid of them is in our national interest.

(2) Membership of Europol and Eurojust (and of the Joint Investigation Teams set up by them) which help to investigate and prosecute the increasing amount of criminal activity which takes place across international borders.

(3)  The systems for rapid information, often in advance, about criminals, suspected terrorists, people traffickers, drugs and weapons smugglers who are in, or are trying to get into the UK: the European Criminal Information System, the Schengen Information System, the Prum data exchanges, covering DNA and number plate details.

(4) The Passenger Name Recognition system for increasing airline security, which the UK, against considerable resistance in the European Parliament, ensured applied to flights between the member states as well as to long haul flights.

Quite a tally, you might think. And all this applies too to law enforcement cooperation between the two parts of Ireland which, until these EU instruments and policies existed, was highly politicised and hard to operate.

What will we get in place of all that protection? Precious little. For extradition we would have to rely on cumbersome Council of Europe procedures which are slower, more costly and more open to legal interference. For the rest, we would be beggars for seats as close to the EU table as we could get, but always treated as a third country with less access and less rights.

So it is no good the government pretending that its recent announcements will compensate for these losses. They will not. For one thing the extra police and resources for the CPS will take time – probably quite a lot of time – to be effective, whereas the EU losses will be immediate. 

In any case, this is not an either/or choice. There will be more resources to help fund the government’s own policies if we do not leave without a deal, indeed if we do not leave at all. It is high time all this was explained by the government in detail and in clear and plain terms as they tell us blithely that leaving without a deal will not hurt – or at least will not hurt very much.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “Johnson’s crime-fighting promises ring hollow”

  • @David Hannay

    to compare those annoucements in light of EU police cooperation is understandable, but you should have started your article by mentioning how any announcements by Boffo is always all guff and no substance :

    1) the extra 20k bobbies aren’t going to be recruited and trained by Brexit day, but over 3 years. Worse, the expected leaving/retirement rate of the police force will be between 24k and 27k, meaning there will be a shortfall of around 5k by 2022 – contrary to what the government and its media propagandist are trying to suggest.

    2) the extra 10k prison cells are not extra capacity, but a decade-long “promise” by the Tory to upgrade/refurbish existing prison cell. Cue, no new prison facility or extra prison guard recruitment program has been announced.

    3) and whatever the howls of “tough on crime” by Tory MPs (many of which convicted criminals, felons or disgraced ministers), the courts already are creaking at the seams just to process the most important cases, not all those presented by police investigation, or a more “hostile environment”.