The Scottish Government has warned the long-term future of the UK’s relationship with the EU police force remains at “serious risk” despite the signing of a new legal agreement.
The Home Office yesterday announced the UK will opt in to a new framework which allows for continued membership of Europol.
However, it remains unclear what the UK’s links will be with the law enforcement agency following Brexit. The UK government said it was “exploring options for co-operation” for when the UK leaves the EU but said it was too early to speculate on what future arrangement may look like.
Policing minister Brandon Lewis yesterday notified parliament that the government intends to sign up to a new regulation relating to cooperation with Europol, which will guarantee cooperation in the short-term.
Mr Lewis said: “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 keep the people of Britain safe.”
The Scottish Government has previously urged its UK counterparts to sign up to the new framework, warning failure to do so would have “serious implications” for policing and would “impact on live operations”. Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “I’m very pleased that the UK government has now agreed to opt in to the new Europol regulation as this will give Police Scotland and their law enforcement partners some comfort in the short-term at least.
“Organised crime and terrorism do not respect borders and it is essential that Police Scotland can access the information systems, support and technical expertise available through Europol, not only to help make Scotland safe but also to contribute to making Europe more safe.
“While we welcome this decision, it only provides a temporary solution and protects our participation in Europol only while we remain part of the EU. In terms of the potential implications of the UK Brexit vote in the longer-term, membership of Europol and participation in the European Arrest Warrant and other key areas of justice co-operation remain at serious risk.
“We must ensure that our law enforcement agencies can continue to have the same level of access to Europol as they currently enjoy. This is critical to help them tackle organised crime and terrorism effectively and to keep our communities safe. I look forward to discussing these issues further with the Home Secretary.”