No-deal Brexit poses serious risk to public safety, say police leaders
Exclusive: leaked letter warns home secretary of significant loss of operational capacity
A no-deal Brexit poses a substantial risk to public safety, with police officers instantly losing vital access to cross-border investigative powers and databases, the home secretary has been told in a letter from the national body of police and crime commissioners.
In the leaked document marked official sensitive the police leaders urge Sajid Javid to immediately draft contingency plans, warning that officers faced a significant loss of operational capacity should the UK crash out of the EU in March.
They say that they are becoming increasingly concerned that such a loss of capacity could pose significant risks to our local communities, and urge the home secretary to act swiftly to address their fears.
The letter from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) cross-party Brexit working group was drafted after consultation with the National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). The document expresses alarm that the government does not appear ready for such a crisis.
Over the weekend, the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, suggested that the UK now appeared poised to crash out of the EU owing to the intransigence of the Brussels machine. He put the chances of a no-deal Brexit at 60-40.
The European commissions Brexit preparedness unit, operating under its German secretary general, Martin Selmayr, has already said it would switch off the databases if a deal was not struck in the coming months.
The APCC letter says British police make regular use of 32 different law enforcement and national security measures that depend on EU membership.
These include the European arrest warrant under which 1,735 arrests were made in the UK last year and more than 10,000 people were extradited since 2004 and the Schengen information system (SIS), a vast database used by police to search for terrorist suspects, missing people and to check vehicle registrations and passport details. The SIS was checked 539m times by British officers in 2017.
The UK courts additionally depend on the European criminal records information system to establish the history of foreign offenders.
The crime commissioners say forces will need to spend extra time and money on suboptimal techniques to fight home-grown and foreign criminals unless a Brexit deal is struck.
The letter, signed by three commissioners representing the Conservatives, Labour and independents, says: Considerable additional resource would be required for policing to operate using non-EU tools and that such tools would be suboptimal potentially putting operational efficiency and public safety at risk.
Recruitment, vetting and training of staff to use these tools would take a substantial amount of time. We are therefore concerned that a no deal scenario could cause delays and challenges for UK policing and justice agencies, it says.
The EU and the UK have said they wanted to agree terms on a deal by the time of a leaders summit in Brussels in October, though the timescale appears increasingly optimistic.