Britain ‘sleepwalking’ to security crisis: MPs

Complex legal issues surrounding extradition and data sharing are not being properly addressed, says influential committee

Delegates carrying papers arrives for a meeting of EU General Affairs ministers, Article 50, at the Europa building in Brussels, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
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Britain is sleepwalking towards a security crisis because of the failure to deal with complex legal issues around Brexit, an influential group of MPs warned on Wednesday.

Lawmakers said that the UK could lose vital intelligence data and allow EU criminals to escape justice unless they addressed the problems urgently.

The government had appeared to assume that it was in the shared interests of the UK and the EU to decide a “swift and easy agreement” but failed to recognised the scale of the task facing them, according to MPs on the home affairs committee.

“Given the scale of cross border crime, trafficking and terror threats, we need security and policing cooperation more than ever,” said its chairwoman Yvette Cooper. “But there is a serious risk we will lose some of the vital data and extradition arrangements if there isn’t urgent work by both the UK and EU to deal with the trickiest issues.”

Some of the most difficult problems are linked to the European Arrest Warrant, which makes it easier for suspects to be arrested and returned to EU nations where they are wanted for criminal offences.

Some EU members, such as Slovakia and Germany, specifically bar such extraditions to non-EU nations.

The European police intelligence organisation, Europol, has stepped its efforts to combat terrorism after a series of attacks across the EU highlighted intelligence sharing efforts between nations.

Britain said it wants to retain membership of the organisation – its outgoing head is British – but membership will form part of the discussions between the UK and the EU.

The two sides earlier this week agreed a “large part” of the agreement that would lead to an orderly withdrawal by the UK before 2021 when the UK expects to be free of European Union rules.

But updating the laws and the complex rules on sharing data could take longer than that, the MPS warned.

“Much more urgency needs to be given to this whole area. Otherwise, we risk sleepwalking into a crisis,” said the committee.

“Policing cooperation, extradition arrangements and data sharing are too important to lose or diminish. The costs of failure are unthinkable.”