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When it comes to security, UK is safer in EU

by David Hannay | 20.02.2019

David Hannay is a member of the House of Lords and former UK ambassador to the EU and UN.

The home secretary, Sajid Javid, has written to EU counterparts urging them to ensure everything is ready for the disruption no-deal Brexit might bring to security on March 29. Below InFacts imagines a reply to that letter from an unspecified small European country – let’s call it Ruritania.

Dear Home Secretary,

I received your letter asking me and our other EU colleagues to consider what steps we could take, in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, to mitigate the damage to our mutual ability to combat the risks of terrorism, people trafficking, drug smuggling and other forms of serious international crime.

I am relieved that you seem to appreciate just how serious that damage would be. This is not surprising, perhaps, since your law enforcement agencies make more use of the EU’s information sharing than most other member states.

Yet sometimes, reading the reports of our embassy in London sends to us, I have the impression that many supporters of Brexit in the UK Parliament believe that ditching the European Arrest Warrant, leaving Europol and Eurojust, and ceasing to participate in the systems for exchanging information about criminals, would be a blessed release.

Take the European Arrest Warrant, for example. I would deeply regret it if I could no longer seek the speedy extradition of criminals who have committed serious crimes in my country and who were in the UK; and instead had to fall back on the slower, more cumbersome and less effective procedures of the Council of Europe’s Convention. Meanwhile, of course, the criminal in question would remain at large in your country.

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I note that, in the 1990s, it took several years for you to extradite to France a terrorist who was subsequently convicted of bombing the Paris Metro. It is also worth mentioning that Ireland, a member state with which, in the past, you had quite a few problems over extradition, pulled out of the Council of Europe Convention when it ratified the European Arrest Warrant.

I am particularly baffled because, as recently as 2014, your prime minister – then home secretary, and my colleague in the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council – told your Parliament that it was “in the national interest “ for the UK to keep the EAW and all the other main instruments of security cooperation. At the time it was perfectly legal under the EU treaty for you to opt out of all of them.

Since then the challenges from serious international crime we all face have got a great deal worse and the need to work closely together has increased.

Our embassy in London frequently reports you and your colleagues as saying that leaving without a deal on March 29, and causing us all the problems you are asking us to mitigate, is the “default” option for Downing Street. I am afraid my English, learned when I studied in your country, is a bit rusty. So I consulted the dictionary and found that “default” is a word most normally associated with bankruptcy. Does that mean you are likely to be bankrupt at the end of March?

In any case there are a number of possible solutions which are in your own hands. You could change some of those red lines your prime minister has imposed on your negotiators? Or you could make use of the option under Article 50 to extend the cut off period of two years? I am sure you are familiar with that possibility, since it was drafted by one of your own civil servants. Would any of us be likely to refuse such a request for more time? You could always try asking.

Yours sincerely,

Minister of the Interior, Republic of Ruritania

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

One Response to “When it comes to security, UK is safer in EU”

  • I voted to remain in the EU for many reasons, and security was a priority.

    Having just read David Hannay’s Article I wonder if you could give me the facts as regards movement of EU nationals after Brexit from Ireland into the UK. The proposed lack of any borders either in Ireland or in the Irish Sea concerns me. As I see it EU nationals will have have every right to travel into S Ireland from other EU countries and from there into N Ireland. If there are no checks on the UK mainland, then trafficking, illegal immigration and smuggling will surely follow?