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Assurance needed over post-Brexit terrorist threat

The Labour Party has demanded ‘urgent assurances’ over Britain’s ability to combat crime and terrorism after the end of the Brexit transition period.

Government ministers have so far evaded questions on the looming downgrade, insisting that the UK will remain a ‘global leader on security’. This is despite senior law enforcement leaders having written to MPs warning of a ‘major operational impact’ from the loss of EU databases and mechanisms, even if a security deal is struck before 31 December.

In a letter seen exclusively by The Independent, Conor McGinn, Labour’s Shadow Security Minister, demanded a response to a warning from the National Police Chiefs’ Council that ‘even with contingencies in place, fallback systems will be slower, provide less visibility of information/intelligence and make joined-up working with European partners more cumbersome’.

Martin Hewitt, chair of the MPCC, said in a letter to parliament’s Home Affairs Committee that police leaders had been ‘quite clear’ on the need to retain EU tools since the 2016 EU referendum.

McGinn asked what assessment had been made of the scenario British law enforcement will find themselves in on 1 January, and what additional planning was being undertaken in light of ‘serious warnings regarding the efficacy of contingency plans’.

The National Crime Agency said that even if a security deal is struck in the coming weeks, access will still be lost to vital databases and legal mechanisms. Alongside the NPCC, the NCA said that British authorities would no longer be able to use the Schengen Information System (SIS II), which contains 4.6 million UK alerts relating to people and objects and is integrated with Britain’s Police National Computer. Its replacement will be Interpol notices and diffusions, which must be searched manually and currently contain far less information relevant to the UK.

The NCA also warned that the UK would have less access to information on terrorists trying to enter the country if Britain is removed from the Passenger Name Records database.

McGinn said: “The safety and security of the British people should have been a top priority for the government in these negotiations. Instead, as deadlines fast approach, respected policing and security figures have raised serious concerns that continuing uncertainty – or worse still, an end to security cooperation and data sharing – will hamper the UK’s fight against crime and terrorism.

“Mr Brokenshire [the Security Minister] needs to urgently provide assurances and clarity to our law enforcement agencies and the British public.”

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