The ability to share information and collaborate with international partners is essential to tackle serious and organised crime
The ability to share information and collaborate with international partners is essential to tackle serious and organised crime. The EU law enforcement tools that the UK currently uses are some of the most efficient and effective mechanisms for partnership working that are available anywhere in the world.
UK access to these tools helps law enforcement, both in the UK and across Europe, to protect European citizens. We want to maintain access to the tools and ensure the future agreement allows us to keep shaping and joining future innovations in this area.
We have been clear with international partners that our commitment to working together is unchanged – and the message we hear from them is that they are committed to working with us and see the significant value of UK access to these EU tools.
Key tools identified by the NCA and NPCC include the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), Schengen Information System (SISII), European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), Europol and Eurojust. These tools enable us to work more effectively with EU partners. They help to share data rapidly, inform prompt and effective action, and coordinate and drive joint action (including shaping strategic priorities).
Without maintaining the current access we have, we will be less effective. For example, prior to the implementation of the European Arrest Warrant in 2004, fewer than 60 individuals a year were extradited from the UK. Since 2004, the EAW has enabled the UK to surrender over 10,000 individuals accused or convicted of a criminal offence to other Member States.
Without access to databases and judicial tools, our response to crime across Europe will become more fragmented. Our ability to track criminals’ movements, monitor sex offenders and locate fugitives will be reduced. For example, access to overseas conviction data allows us to more quickly identify those individuals who pose a threat to our communities (for instance, by identifying a history of sexual offending). Equally, the value of SISII is that it gives officers on the street (both in the UK and EU) immediate knowledge of whether a person is wanted in a member state.
European law enforcement is more effective when we take coordinated action against shared priorities. A lack of access to these European tools would mean a reduction in the ability of the UK to contribute to keeping Europe safe.
The negotiations and outcome need to reflect that vital cooperation. The opportunities which technology provides will continue to develop and the agreement needs to cater for this. Otherwise, future solutions will be harder to deliver and may be less broad in coverage. We don’t want to end up with a number of fragmented systems in Europe.
UK law enforcement is preparing for all possible outcomes, including drawing up contingency plans should we no longer have access to EU law enforcement tools. These contingency processes would be sub-optimal, and in many cases not an exact match. In some cases, more than one measure may be needed to obtain the same result, and the lack of automation of these fall back measures would make processes much more labour intensive and time consuming.
The NCA and the wider UK law enforcement community remain committed to maintaining close relationships with EU partners to make most effective use of the tools and processes available to us after the UK leaves the European Union.