NOTE: This content is old - Published: Friday, Feb 15th, 2019.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner has warned again that a No Deal Brexit would put the people of North Wales in real danger.
Arfon Jones fears the police will be powerless to arrest foreign crime suspects on the spot if Britain loses access to European databases and agreements.
It would not be possible, for example, for North Wales Police to detain suspects until a warrant was obtained from the courts even when checks showed an individual was wanted overseas.
That meant, he said, that suspected offenders could abscond if the police had to rely on measures that were slower and more bureaucratic than existing arrangements.
Mr Jones said: “This is exactly the situation I warned about two years ago and I am worried as we edge nearer the Brexit precipice that the people of North Wales will be put at risk if the folly of a No Deal departure comes to pass.”
The commissioner spoke out after the issue was raised by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, the national policing lead for Brexit.
According to Deputy Commissioner Martin, currently if an officer carries out a “name check” on someone they encounter, it is automatically run through both UK and European databases.
Without access to the EU tools, the officer would have to check a separate Interpol system which could take up to 66 days, he said: “We could not arrest that person in front of us, while with an European Arrest Warrant we can do it instantaneously.
“The officer has to go to a magistrates court to get a warrant under the 1957 convention of extradition.
“Criminals are entrepreneurs of crime… if there is a gap to exploit I’m sure some of them probably would.”
Mr Jones, a former police inspector, first raised the potential dangers of crashing out of the EU soon after referendum in June 16. He said: “All these important tools we currently use for security and policing are now at risk and could soon be denied to our police forces.
“Brexit may risk putting UK and North Wales in jeopardy. After all this cooperation is used to help North Wales Police guard against terrorism, serious organised crime including modern slavery and human and drugs trafficking.
“A hard Brexit will mean starting from scratch, negotiating individually with each country and using instruments that we currently use for countries outside the EU and that will mean extradition will be slower and more difficult, and criminals will evade justice and will find it easier to operate in the UK.
“The Crown Prosecution Service are planning for a worst case scenario. The Home Office have received £350 million in transition funding and the Border Force will receive £60 million of that.
“I challenged the Assistant Director of the UK Border Force who was unable to answer my questions around how policing and security looks like for the Common Travel Area but she did say that the CTA will remain.
“But that requires a single market and a Customs Union and Mrs May says we will be leaving both.
“Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have moved on much since the referendum following which I asked the Security Minister, Ben Wallace about policing the Common Travel Area and his stock answer was that the Home Office were aware of the ‘vulnerabilities’ of the Common Travel Area but in the last two years they don’t seem to have done much about those vulnerabilities.
“However, it’s become increasingly clear that a hard Brexit will mean a hard border and that will not only be on the island of Ireland but also at Holyhead with the disruption to the flow of goods and services we have seen for 40 years and without the reassuring co-operation with European policing bodies.
“The intractable issues that have led to the proposed Backstop have been looming large since the word go and they are still a major stumbling block, making the disaster of a No Deal or a bad deal Brexit ever more likely.”
The European Arrest Warrant was adopted by the European Union to facilitate the extradition of individuals between Member States to face prosecution for a crime, or to serve a prison sentence for an existing conviction.
On average, the UK issues over 200 European Arrest Warrants seeking the extradition of individuals to this country.
Yet following the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, the Government has stated that it intends to remove the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (CJEU) in the UK.
“Any operational gap between the European Arrest Warrant ceasing to apply after Brexit and a suitable replacement coming into force would pose an unacceptable risk to the people of the UK” – an all party EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee report published last year states.