Scot Gov echoes UK police chiefs warning of dangers posed by no-deal Brexit

Alasdair Clark

The Scottish Government said they are continuing to push for influence over negotiations with the EU

IN THE WAKE of warning from police chiefs in England that a no-deal Brexit would pose a threat to public safety, the Home Office have refused to detail how “contingency plans” would work with Scotland’s devolved policing system. 

The UK Home Office have insisted that their planning for a no-deal Brexit will maintain safety and security, despite concerns raised by English police and crime commissioners [PCCs] about the impact of the UK failing to negotiate continued access to specialist databases used to fight cross-border crime. 

PCCs do not exist in Scotland, where policing and justice is devolved, but the Scottish Government has indicated similar concerns about the impact that leaving the EU could have, including the loss of agreements which provide protections for victims of crime across the EU.

In a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) said that “considerable resource” would be required to operate without the shared EU tools currently available, potentially risking public safety and operational efficiency. 

The letter, which was leaked to the media, said: “These negotiations come at a time when the in-country threat from foreign national offenders targeting the UK from abroad is increasing, and when international cooperation is a key element of the fight against crime. 

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“Michel Barnier’s comments during his speech of 19 June 2018 in Vienna assume that the UK Government will be unable to negotiate a security treaty which allows access to EU and Schengen only database and instruments, such as: the Schengen Information System (SISII); the European Arrest Warrant; Europol; Joint Investigation Teams; European Investigation Orders; Prüm; and the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).

“This is despite the clear willingness of EU Member States wanting to continue working closely with the UK post-Brexit on policing, security and justice.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly asked for greater influence over negotiations to protect the independence of Scotland’s devolved justice system and recently produced a white paper discussing the impact leaving the EU would have on Scotland’s justice system. 

“We risk being left behind as our European counterparts develop more effective tools to deal with present and future threats.” Scottish Government spokesperson

Responding to the letter, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “From cybercrime to human trafficking and terrorism – international crime has never respected borders. Scotland’s police and prosecution services have built strong links with their EU counterparts over many years to help keep people safe.

“Withdrawal from the current regime of co-operation, including the European Arrest Warrant system, could mean returning to a more fragmented system of seeking assistance across borders. We risk being left behind as our European counterparts develop more effective tools to deal with present and future threats.  

“Though we would prefer not to be leaving the EU, the Scottish Government stands ready to play a constructive role in exploring solutions. Our independent justice system means Scotland’s voice must be heard and we continue to push the UK Government for real and meaningful input into the negotiations with the EU.”

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Responding to the concerns raised by English counterparts, detective chief superintendent Clark Cuzen of Police Scotland said: “Since the result of the EU Referendum in June 2016, Police Scotland have been working closely with colleagues nationally and internationally to ensure a continuity of service to our communities.”

The Home Office refused to comment on how it would work the devolved justice systems across the UK in relation to its contingency plans, but a spokesperson said: “There is widespread recognition that the UK and EU can most effectively combat security threats when we work together. It is important we maintain operational capabilities after Brexit – and we will continue to make this case to the European Commission.

“We are confident that an ambitious agreement on future security cooperation can be reached – but it is the duty of any responsible government to prepare for every eventuality, including no deal.

“With that in mind, we are working closely with operational partners on contingency planning so we can ensure the safety and security of our citizens in all scenarios.”

Picture: CommonSpace

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