Government urged to change stance on oversight of EU judges to maintain cross-border exchanges of information
National security will be put at risk unless the Government concedes ground in the Brexit talks to ensure the flow of vital intelligence data, according to warnings as part of a parliamentary inquiry.
The prime minister will be told to drop her resistance to EU judges overseeing the cross-border swapping of information, or weaken the fight against terrorists and organised crime.
Indications have come in advance of the publication by the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee report on the threat of an immediate end to data transfers by police and the security services on Brexit departure day in March 2019.
A source who has seen the report told The Independent: “The committee will say a transitional arrangement is crucial if the Government is not going to put national security at risk.
“It will say it has little confidence that a new deal can be struck in time ̶ so the status quo makes sense, which involves oversight by the European Court of Justice.”
The source added: “The committee was taken aback by ministers' inability to give any clear direction as to how they intend to deal with this enormously complex issue.”
At stake is Britain’s access to intelligence sharing through the Europol law enforcement agency and to the Schengen Information System, which holds an 8,000-name watchlist of suspected terror suspects.
Without a continuing agreement, separate deals would have to be struck with individual police forces and intelligence services ̶ with the danger that vital information will "fall between the cracks", experts fear.
Now the committee will call on Britain to pursue a transitional deal, because it will take up to three years for an “adequacy decision” from Brussels - the necessary approval for data to be freely exchanged. And it will suggest this can only be achieved by conceding continuing oversight by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ̶ a red line for Theresa May in the Brexit talks so far.
The peers will also strongly criticise the Home Office for failing to explain how it plans to avoid a sudden loss of intelligence, when giving evidence to the inquiry
The report, to be published by the Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee on 18 July, is expected to warn that security data sharing with the US could also be lost because it is also currently covered by an umbrella agreement with the EU.
Also at risk is Britons' control over their own personal and financial data, vast amounts of which is held in the US, rather than in Britain.
Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford left the committee in the dark when she gave evidence in April. She was unable to say what a transition arrangement might look like, telling peers: “I am not being unhelpful. It is just that I cannot.”
Image by McKay Savage, London, CC BY 2.0 through Wikimedia Commons