Prime Minister Theresa May has conceded that the UK is set to lose direct access to vital EU security databases after Brexit with the current deal
Both the European Criminal Records Information Statistics (ECRIS) and the Schengen Information System II (SIS II) are likely to be shut off to British law enforcement, the prime minister told MPs.
Earlier, the security minister, Ben Wallace, claimed the deal she had struck opened the way for “the most comprehensive security relationship the EU has ever had with another country”. But, under questioning by the head of the Commons home affairs committee, May admitted that the UK was set to lose the current level access to crime fighting systems.
“We do not have the SIS II database and the ECRIS database specifically identified in the political declaration,” she told Labour’s Yvette Cooper. “What we do have is reference to exchange of information on wanted or missing persons and objects and of criminal records, which of course are what SIS II and ECRIS cover.”
Cooper accused her of “not being straight with people about the risks to security” contained in the political declaration – which accompanies the Brexit withdrawal agreement, but is not legally binding.
“You are still flannelling around this. You have not got agreement to it, and it is a risk,” the committee chairwoman told the prime minister.
The criticism was echoed by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), which said access played “a vital role in swiftly bringing child abusers to justice”.
“We have repeatedly pressed the Government to ensure that, whatever the terms of Brexit, the UK retains access to vital EU security tools that help keep our children safe,” a spokesperson said. “The prospect of losing these tools is a dangerous one and before we leave we need crystal clear guarantees that child safety won’t be compromised.”
UK police accessed ECRIS almost 100,000 times in 2016 and made over 500,000 queries to the SIS II system in 2017, according to EU statistics.
Protecting the public
Supporters of ECRIS argue it helps the police and immigration officials take action to protect the public by providing information about foreign criminals.
SIS II, meanwhile, gives the police real time access to data about individuals wanted for arrest in the EU, missing persons and people or vehicles requiring specific checks or discreet surveillance.
The Government’s ‘assessment of the security partnership’, published as the prime minister gave evidence to MPs, acknowledged there was no access agreement beyond the end of the transition period, ending in December 2020.
The paper stated: “The exact nature of future co-operation on this type of data sharing will be determined by the formal negotiations on the legal text.”
Image by Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, Open Government Licence v3.0