The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (ACT) contains substantial provisions for cooperation on internal security, including policing and justice matters. However, the ATT represents a “degradation of security”, particularly for the UK, even though the deal did not cross any of the UK’s red lines.
The first threat to British internal security concerns the problems in Northern Ireland.
UK and EU internal security measures are based on political will, as evidenced by the lack of codification of the ATT.
Problems with the Northern Ireland protocol put internal security arrangements at risk. The ACT allows both parties to modify the agreement according to changing needs through greater operational and strategic cooperation. If political will is affected by the problem with Northern Ireland, future cooperation is even more at risk, preventing increased internal security capacity for both the UK and the EU.
Additionally, cooperation is important to mitigate the potential challenge in the relationship regarding regulatory standards.
The UK now relies on compliance with EU internal security regulations, in particular data protection standards for the exchange of criminal data, placing importance on effective cooperation between key police and justice practitioners in each security agency.
Regulatory divergence in the field of homeland security threatens, given the operational importance of cooperation between the UK and the EU. Post-Brexit, the UK must still comply with EU data protection standards if it wishes to continue sharing data, information and intelligence on the terms already agreed.
It has been suggested that the UK intends to reform elements of data protection rules inherited from the EU, which could lead to the EU terminating the relevant internal security agreements (and therefore removing access to relevant data operations), as high data standards represent a fundamental constitutional right, again jeopardizing the internal security capacity of the UK and the EU.
“Significant operational losses”
Although the main benefit of the agreement is operational, since the UK has retained access to the Prüm decisions (and can opt for future extensions), the PNR (Passenger Name Records) and ECRIS (European Criminal Records Information System), the ATT represents a harmful agreement for the United Kingdom.
It has suffered significant operational losses which diminish its influence on the European security architecture.
Notably, the EU has denied the UK access to the Schengen Information System II (SIS II), the most widely used and important information-sharing system for security and border management. in Europe.
Via SIS II, national security agencies provide “alerts” on wanted and missing persons, lost or stolen property and entry bans; and is immediately and directly accessible to all police at street level and other law enforcement authorities. The third largest user, the UK used SIS II 603 million times in 2019.
Post-Brexit, the UK lost access to 40,000 arrest or surrender alerts, showing the UK’s value to Europe’s internal security capability, thanks to data sharing operations. EU data.
Understandably, the EU rejected requests for access to UK SIS II to protect the legal framework underpinning state membership, accepting UK membership would set a dangerous precedent by allowing a ‘third’ country to gain access to an EU institution despite rejection of the necessary membership, in this case Schengen.
Instead, the UK relies on Interpol’s I-24/7 database, whose warning notices (equivalent to SIS II alerts) are processed manually within the UK Crime Bureau before reaching frontline police services, which means delays and increased resource requirements. It also lacks real-time data alerts, leaving the UK dependent on the goodwill of EU member states to ‘double up’ the data in both systems (requiring extra effort on their part) .
Such reliance represents not only the operational weakening of UK internal security, but also the UK’s loss of influence in an area over which it previously had significant influence.
Goodbye Europol and Eurojust
In addition, the UK is no longer a member of Europol and Eurojust, the EU agencies for law enforcement cooperation and criminal justice cooperation.
British contact points have been installed in each agency, but the UK has ceased to participate in any institutional decision-making, administration or management, and will no longer play any role in shaping the future development of the institutions on which it reports. still.
Previously, the UK was one of the main voices on Europol’s board, with civil servant Sir Robert Wainwright as director of Europol between 2009 and 2018, and the second largest contributor to Europol’s information systems. ‘Europol.
Losing his institutional clout, Wainwright argues that informal co-operation is essential for the UK, with the TCA outlining a basis for co-operation to build on, further illustrating the potential risk that loss of political will could entail.
Ultimately, Brexit has reduced Britain’s role in European internal security, presenting new risks.
The greatest impact comes from the loss of British influence and the new reliance on the informal influence and goodwill of its European counterparts. The security provisions of the ACT mitigate the risks, but do not fully ensure the continued mutual benefit of shared internal security practices, with the EU having to protect its own legal framework.
Instead, Britain must expand the TCA’s co-operative measures, attempt to recover (some of its) lost influence, ensure operational harmony through national contact points and improve I-24/7 .
While potential discrepancies over regulatory data standards and growing friction arising from the Northern Ireland Protocol show how the UK stands to benefit more from European internal security post-Brexit.
Either way, the UK government considers the ATT a success, with the best possible deal along the red lines on either side, as Britain has refused to accept any role for the ECJ.
Such a perception underscores how British attitude has changed, recognizing the weakening of influence and operational limitations as a success in an area where it previously held significant influence. Britain must increase cooperation wherever possible to avoid further breaches of internal security, maintain political will and comply with EU regulations.