Police across the UK are well prepared for the country to leave the European Union (EU) with or without a deal, the two police chiefs leading law enforcement planning have said. Preparations for a potential loss of EU law enforcement tools and powers are now complete. A new unit, the International Crime Co-ordination Centre created in September last year, has established a network of officers with expertise in international policing to assist front line officers in using contingencies in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
A no-deal exit from the EU would mean UK law enforcement losing access to the Schengen Information System II (SIS II), the European Arrest Warrant, the European Criminal Records Information System, Europol and the European Investigation Orders.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) lead for Brexit, said: “We are well prepared for an EU exit, and better prepared for a no-deal exit than we were in March or April. We’ve used the last six months to mature our contingency planning, speed up processes where we can and train around 10,000 officers in using alternative arrangements. This includes discussing legislation with the Home Office that would close the capability gap we face around the power of arrest if we lose the ability to use the European Arrest Warrant.”
Martin continued: “We’re ready to use alternative arrangements to the current EU tools and powers, but they’re not like-for-like replacements. In all cases the replacements are slower, less effective and more bureaucratic for officers than our existing set-up. Existing EU tools allow us to respond quickly and intelligently to crime and terrorism impacting the UK and the EU. They make us better at protecting the public. We want to avoid leaving without a deal because that would see us lose access to those important tools. Our relationship with our European counterparts remains strong and we’ll continue to work together in the interests of UK and EU citizens alike.”
Planning for potential scenarios
Operational plans for a range of potential scenarios, including protest, crime and emergencies, have been finalised and tested. Officers have been taking part in exercises with colleagues from the other Emergency Services and local resilience forums to ensure a joined-up response. The National Police Co-ordination Centre has also tested its established plans to move officers around if necessary through mutual aid. This process is routinely used multiple times every year.
Chief Constable Charlie Hall, the NPCCs’ lead for operations, observed: “Our planning considers what might happen and the worse case scenarios. We’re not predicting these outcomes, but we are preparing for them. We expect protests to occur, whatever the outcome of our exit from the EU. We’re prepared to police protest activity across the country. Protests to date have been predominantly peaceful and we’ll continue to monitor intelligence in our efforts to ensure this continues. We will always seek to facilitate the right to peaceful protest, balancing the right to protest with disruption to local communities. We work with protest organisers to achieve this.”
Hall went on to state: “The public can help us keep protests safe by being vigilant for anyone or anything that looks out of place or suspicious and reporting it. Police officers are trained and equipped to maintain public order and we’ve established plans to ‘surge’ officers within force or mobilise them across the country if necessary.”
Police forces will be keeping records of costs arising from operational planning to leave the EU, but it’s not yet possible to give an estimate.