Belfast Telegraph

PSNI chief warns UK no closer to replacing vital EU police protocols

By David Young, PA

There will be serious consequences for policing if the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is not replaced with a similar mechanism after Brexit, the PSNI Chief Constable has warned.

But George Hamilton said no visible progress has been made on replacing critical EU policing frameworks that enable close cross-border co-operation between officers north and south.

He told the Lords EU committee, sitting at Stormont yesterday, there would be "very real operational consequences" if the EAW and other protocols that enable evidence and information sharing between the Garda and PSNI were not mirrored post-Brexit.

He described the removal of the EAW as the "biggest practical vulnerability".

Northern Ireland's most senior officer said he had been raising the issues for 18 months but had not seen any evidence of movement.

He suggested the PSNI may have been too "timid" in emphasising its concerns, for fear of stepping into the political sphere.

"I don't feel we are in a better place than we were 18 months ago," Mr Hamilton told the visiting peers.

"We feel a certain concern and lack of assurance actually that we are saying the same things now that we were saying 18 months ago but, probably because of the plethora of other issues that need to be addressed in Brexit, we are not seeing on the policing and criminal justice front enough direction, clarity and ask about what we need."

Mr Hamilton made clear that the structures could be replicated in other ways post-Brexit.

"We are not saying there is no alternative to those EU frameworks, but there does need to be some alternative arrangement and I guess our concerns, without moving to a panic stage, is the clock is ticking and we are getting not that far away now from when we are going to need these instruments and pieces of legislation in place," the Chief Constable said.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson opened his contribution to the committee hearing in Parliament Buildings with strong criticism of the Republic's government, referring to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as "naive", and saying that the all-island economy was a nationalist myth.

He also defended his party's decision to torpedo a first draft of December's UK/EU paper that enabled Brexit talks to move to future trading relations.

The DUP ultimately reluctantly approved an amended version of the text that made clear Northern Ireland's place in the UK's internal market would not be affected post-Brexit.

Mr Wilson said: "The reason why we intervened was because we were alarmed at what the initial document looked like and despite the agreement we have with the government in Westminster we do have a duty to protect Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom and we moved quickly to do that and I hope lessons have been learned from that.

"It wasn't an attempt in any way to humiliate the Prime Minister, or to cane her, or put us in the driving seat."

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