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MPs call for greater focus on security in Brexit talks

The Home Affairs Committee said more attention needs to be given to complex technical and legal obstacles.

Britain and the EU risk sleepwalking towards a crisis unless greater emphasis is placed on security and policing links in Brexit talks, a Commons report has warned.

MPs said more attention needs to be given to complex technical and legal obstacles to striking a deal that would maintain the existing level of co-operation on tackling serious crime and terrorism.

The Home Affairs Committee welcomed ministers’ objectives for a security treaty to replicate current ties on Europol, the European Arrest Warrant and data sharing.

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Labour stock

But it accused the British Government of complacency over the timetable.

The report said: “The Government appears to assume that the UK’s dominant role in Europol and other forms of cooperation will make it easy to secure a bespoke future security relationship with the EU, going far beyond any forms of third country involvement to date.

“This attitude, along with lack of planning for alternative scenarios, suggests that the Government is at risk of sleep-walking into a highly detrimental outcome.”

Both parties in the negotiations should remain open to extending the post-exit transition period for security arrangements beyond December 2020, the Committee argued.

It said the EU “should not be so inflexible that it confines cooperation to existing models, but the UK should not be rigid about its own red lines”.

A host of measures and tools have come under scrutiny following the referendum in 2016.

They include: the European Arrest Warrant, a legal framework introduced to speed up the extradition of individuals between member states; the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), a database of real time alerts; and Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency.

Given the scale of cross border crime, trafficking and terror threats, we need security and policing cooperation more than ever Yvette Cooper, Home Affairs Committee chairwoman

Figures show  1,735 individuals were arrested in the UK on a European Arrest Warrant in 2016/17, while more than 1.2 million UK alerts were in circulation on the SIS II system at the end of last year.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, said: “Given the scale of cross-border crime, trafficking and terror threats, we need security and policing cooperation more than ever.

“We agree with the Government that the European Arrest Warrant, Europol capabilities and database access should be replicated in full, and that is in Europe’s interests too.

“But just because we all want something, it doesn’t mean it will happen, unless enough work is put in in time to overcome the genuine legal, constitutional and political obstacles we have uncovered.”

Last year ministers set out proposals for a bespoke deal on security links.

A Government paper said matching existing arrangements between the EU and other nations outside the bloc would result in “limited patchwork” and called instead for a “comprehensive” framework underpinned by a new treaty.

A Government spokesman said: “Both the UK and EU have made clear our shared commitment to keep all our citizens safe and continue the deep level of cooperation we have on security, law enforcement and criminal justice after Brexit.

“The draft agreement reached with the European Commission earlier this week means security cooperation with the EU can continue through the implementation period up to December 2020 – and we will be looking to secure a comprehensive new treaty on internal security co-operation that can begin directly after.

“The precise details of how this will work are of course a matter for negotiations with the EU but we have been preparing extensively including by seeking input from operational partners.

“We expect formal negotiations with the European Commission to begin shortly.”

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