Counter-terrorism cooperation could be hurt by Brexit

by Luke Lythgoe | 12.04.2016

Myth: Counter-terrorism cooperation wouldn’t be hurt by Brexit

InFact: Even if the UK continued to collaborate on swapping intelligence, it would lose its leading role setting EU security strategy

More information

Former MI6 spy chief Richard Dearlove has described the security cost to Britain of Brexit as “low”. He should know – except that he stopped heading the secret service in 2004 and his arguments fail to consider how European intelligence cooperation has become indispensable to less covert law enforcement.

For example, the UK currently shares information on suspects and missing persons via the Schengen Information System – a best-of-both-worlds scenario in which our EU membership allows us to access intelligence despite not being part of the Schengen Area. The UK will soon join EU countries sharing DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data, with plans to share passenger flight information in the future. As part of Eurojust we rely on investigations by other members to provide evidence in UK courts.

UK law enforcement uses these intelligence-sharing frameworks to prosecute cross-border criminals. No other country outside both the EU and Schengen is party to these agreements, meaning the UK’s readmission would set a precedent.

Eurosceptics may argue Britain’s intelligence clout would allow continuation of these arrangements, but they cannot know. Even if all 27 other states wanted to maintain cooperation, arrangements would need to be renegotiated after a vote to leave – something Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has described as a “bureaucratic nightmare”.

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European Arrest Warrant

One security tool the UK would lose is the European Arrest Warrant, the EU-wide system for speedily extraditing criminals.

The warrant has also proved effective in terrorism cases: the failed 21 July London bomber Hussein Osman was brought back to the UK from Rome within eight weeks of a European Arrest Warrant being issued. Compare that to the Algerian Rachid Ramda, wanted for his role in the 1995 Paris Metro bombing at a time the European Arrest Warrant didn’t exist. Ramda’s return to France from Britain took 10 years to agree.

A place at the table

Brexit would also mean leaving Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency. The UK could of course continue cooperating with Europol if it negotiated a similar agreement to that of Norway. But this would limit cooperation to sharing information via liaison officers representing Britain at Europol.

What the UK wouldn’t be able to do is help set Europol’s priorities. Europol chief Rob Wainwright, incidentally a Brit, told the BBC’s Today programme that Britain is a “driver” of EU security policy. It seems foolhardy to give up this leadership role at a time when security threats are increasingly planned and coordinated across borders.

This article is an adaptation of a piece that previously appeared on InFacts.

Edited by Geert Linnebank

One Response to “Counter-terrorism cooperation could be hurt by Brexit”

  • According to the Wikipedia: “Europol cooperates on an operational basis with: Albania, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Republic of Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, the United States and Interpol.
    It has strategic agreements with: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Customs Organization.”

    It is therefore plainly obvious that Brexit will cripple any attempt we make to combat terrorism. So I will change my vote to “Remain”. By the way, I am mad.