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Brexit, though still uncertain in many regards, has been asking fundamental questions of the relationship between the UK and the European Union on a multiplicity of levels. With regards to domestic and international security, a ‘no-deal’ scenario, it seems, will ultimately disrupt the exchange of intelligence material between British and continental security agencies.

Recently, a leaked letter addressed to the Home Secretary reflected these risks. In the letter, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) shares its concern for a ‘no-deal’ scenario, as they claim this would “cause delays and challenges for UK policing and justice agencies”. A key challenge is that there are 32 Law Enforcement and National Security Measures (LENS), that have been developed over more than 40 years of cooperation between the UK and the EU, that the UK would lose access to in the case of failure to enact a withdrawal agreement. As clearly stated in the letter, this would mean dangerously undermining the operational capacity of all police and law enforcement agencies in the UK.

In the absence of a UK-EU security deal, the UK will also see its access to and use of other security instruments and platforms heavily limited. Michel Barnier, chief Brexit negotiator for the European Union, warned in a June 2018 speech that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario would mean the removal of the United Kingdom from such programs and tools as the second-generation Schengen Information System (SIS-II), the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), and the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).

Given that 3.5 million EU citizens live in the UK, and approximately 800,000 UK nationals live in the EU, it is essential that the UK and EU continue to proficiently cooperate to ensure their security. Indeed, this has been done and accomplished mainly relying on SIS-II. This is a large-scale IT system that supports internal security and the exchange of information on people and objects between national police, border controls, customs, visa and judicial authorities. SIS-II has proven fundamental in assisting authorities, and their European counterparts, in sharing information regarding the movement of people within the Schengen Area.

In a statement made earlier this year, the security minister, Ben Wallace MP, warned of the catastrophic implications of failing to reach a security agreement with Brussels, as this would mean the removal of the UK from ECRIS. Much like SIS-II, this platform enables the exchange of criminal records information between Member States. Based on a decentralised architecture, where each Member State designates a Central Authority that acts as a single point of contact, this is a precious tool to security agencies as it allows for greater operational flexibility and, differently from SIS-II, also provides information on third-country nationals and stateless persons. ECRIS represents an immensely valuable platform for UK security agencies. The UK is the second most active member on ECRIS in terms of issued requests for information to other states, with an overall number of about 100,000 in 2018.

Finally, in their post-Brexit policy strategy, the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) has warned that a ‘no-deal’ scenario, involving the renunciation of the EAW on behalf of the UK, would jeopardise the ability of the UK government to cooperate with both Europol and Eurojust, respectively EU-wide law enforcement and judicial agencies. Intended to increase the speed and ease of extradition, the EAW has proven fundamental for British security agencies that have issued about 33,000 warrants in the last eight years, making the UK the second most active country after Germany.

The ability to compromise will ultimately be a decisive factor in securing a Brexit deal. It remains to be seen how and if the political actors on both sides will be willing to do so when the conversation comes down to being able to guarantee the security of their respective constituencies and citizens.

Arturo Morselli is a student at King’s College London studying for a BA in Religion, Philosophy and Ethics. He is currently undertaking a week’s work experience with Bright Blue. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue.