New cross-border policing procedures 'would take two years following Brexit'
The transition to new cross-border policing arrangements in the event of a Brexit would probably take two years, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has told MPs.
Mr Hamilton said that if the United Kingdom split from the European Union, new bilateral agreements would have to replace existing treaties on data sharing, extradition and investigations.
He added new arrangements would be more expensive, clunky and not as slick as the current systems.
"Some of the public commentary from within the broader policing community around the UK becoming a safe haven for organised criminals and terrorism and all the rest of it, personally, is not my position," he told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
The MPs were told new international justice agreements would have to involve rules on joint investigations to allow domestic laws to be used in a host country and a replacement European Arrest Warrant system for extradition.
They also heard agreements on sharing DNA records, fingerprints, biometric data and vehicle registrations of suspects and co-operation against terrorism under the Prum convention would also need to be rewritten.
The Chief Constable cited the example of bilateral treaties signed by Switzerland and Norway with EU states and the PSNI's good working relationship with US police and justice chiefs.
"I think all of this is probably doable with an exit," Mr Hamilton said.
"But it would be slower, complicated and more costly... from a practical policing perspective."
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr told the MPs that physical borders were becoming less of an issue for policing international organised crime.
He said that the increasing threat to security and law and order was coming from online criminals.
"The borders tend to be less and less relevant now," he explained.
"Organised crime gangs can operate largely with impunity I have to say in China or eastern Europe or in the Ivory Coast and can very effectively, with almost call centre organisation, extort and bribe, particularly around sexual impropriety in many other parts of the world."
The Irish border is 224 miles long with 292 crossing points and the committee was told there was "more or less unfettered access" into Northern Ireland from the Republic.
The officers said there was some evidence of illegal immigrants moving from the Republic to Northern Ireland and human trafficking, but not on the scale it had been portrayed in some quarters.
The PSNI put the figure as less than hundreds.
"The old style of border security... how effective they actually were in monitoring movement across the border and stopping terrorist attacks and so on, they actually became more of a target for attacks," the Chief Constable said.
The committee, examining the potential impact of a split from the EU on Northern Ireland, including relations with the Republic, also took opinions from business figures at Stormont.