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UK to opt in to EU police data sharing



Home Office minister reveals that the Government will press ahead with Prüm Convention.

Police will share millions of DNA samples, fingerprints and vehicle registrations with crime fighting agencies across the EU, despite the Brexit vote, it has emerged.

Prime Minister Theresa May has risked the anger of hardline Brexit supporters by deciding to opt in to a series of EU-wide anti-crime measures under the so-called Prüm Convention.

Parliament supported opting back into the convention last December - a decision required following the previous government’s 2014 block opt-out of EU crime and justice measures. But ministers had refused to say if the decision would be derailed by the June decision to leave the EU.

Now Brandon Lewis, a Home Office minister, has revealed the Government will press ahead in a letter sent to a House of Commons committee which is investigating the issue.

Co-operation is essential

The decision will come as a relief to the police and security services, whichhave argued that EU-wide co-operation is essential to catch foreign criminals and terrorists who commit offences in Britain. Senior officers had spoken of their fear that having to renegotiate vital information sharing would take years, leaving dangerous gaps in intelligence in the meantime.

It will also raise their hopes that Britain will also remain a member of Europol - a decision that must be made by the end of the year - and continue to enforce the EU-wide arrest warrant.

But some Brexit supporting MPs have attacked moves to tie Britain into EU police and criminal justice measures, on the grounds of cost and democracy.

New IT systems

They argue it will involve spending millions of pounds on new IT systems to allow EU members to search the UK’s databases of DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration details.

Some have disputed a guarantee that only the personal details of people who have been convicted of an offence in the UK will be handed over to a foreign police force. And they have attacked the placing of Britain's DNA and fingerprint databases under the control of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) - which May has vowed to break away from.

One Brexit supporting Conservative MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said she would be writing to David Davis, the Brexit secretary, to demand the move be only temporary.

She said: "I have no problem with data sharing if it's important in fighting crime, but as long as that data remains under our control. It will be unacceptable to the British people - who have voted to regain control of their nation - to find out that their most important data, such as fingerprints and car registrations, will continue to come under the ruling of the ECJ."

Exchange of data

Lewis revealed the decision in a letter to the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, which assesses all draft EU legislation brought before Parliament.

He wrote: "The government does not envisage the initial timeline for implementing Prüm being affected by the decision to leave the EU, and is continuing with the implementation of Prüm.

We are confident that the exchange of data will start to take place in 2017."

Lewis added that it was "premature to speculate" on what sort of agreement the UK would seek to reach after leaving the EU.


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