Policing Minister Brandon Lewis has notified Parliament of the Conservative Government’s intention to opt-in to Regulation (EU) 2016/794 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Co-operation (Europol), in line with its right to do so under Protocol 21 to the European Union (EU) Treaties.
The new regulation affords a legal footing to the new framework for Europol and replicates much of the UK’s own approach to tackling online terrorism propaganda and cyber crime.
In an explanatory memorandum, laid before Parliament on Monday 14 November, the Policing Minister put forward the Home Office’s intention to opt-in to the revised Europol framework outlined in the regulation. This regulation replaces the existing regulation that governs the operation of Europol on 1 May 2017.
This decision will now be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny, after which time the European Commission will be notified of the UK Government’s intention.
Europol is an agency which aims to strengthen and facilitate co-operation in preventing serious crimes and combating organised criminality, in particular where crimes affect two or more EU Member States.
The UK has been a member of the agency since its creation in 1998, and chose to opt-in back in 2014 when the UK negotiated the right to choose which justice and home affairs matters of which it would be a part.
A new opt-in decision is now required following changes to the legal framework underpinning the agency.
Cross-border crime: the reality remains
Brandon Lewis stated: “The UK is leaving the EU, but the reality of cross-border crime remains. Europol provides a valuable service to the UK, and opting-in would enable us to maintain our current access to the agency until we leave the EU, helping to keep the people of Britain safe. We now await the outcome of the scrutiny process.”
The revised Europol framework was first proposed on 27 March 2013 and adopted on 11 May this year. Revisions include giving a clear mandate to the EU Internet Referrals Unit (which replicates the UK’s approach to tackling online terrorist propaganda) and giving the existing European Cyber Crime Centre a clear mandate as a “union [centre] of specialised expertise for combating certain types of crime”.
Now that the Government has notified Parliament, the intention to opt-in will be thoroughly examined and assessed by the House of Commons and House of Lords EU Scrutiny Committee. The Government will then notify the European Commission of its position.
The Government is exploring numerous options for co-operation with Europol once the UK has left the EU, but it’s too early to speculate at this stage what any future arrangements may look like.