Brexit deal 'will make UK safer', Priti Patel says

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The post-Brexit deal will make the UK safer, Home Secretary Priti Patel says, despite concerns from police chiefs about a lack of access to data.

She said the UK would be "more secure through firmer and fairer border controls" after 31 December.

The deal allows cooperation on security and policing, but Brussels said the UK will no longer have "direct, real-time access" to sensitive information.

This includes a major database on people and items such as stolen guns.

The UK-EU trade deal - a 1,246-page document which has been seen by the BBC but not published by the government - will be voted on in Parliament on 30 December, with the UK set to exit existing trade rules the next day.

In the run-up to the UK's separation from the European Union, police chiefs raised concerns about losing access to databases and the European Arrest Warrant.

Ms Patel said the UK would continue to be "one of the safest countries in the world" and she was "immensely proud" of the package agreed with the EU.

She said: "It means both sides have effective tools to tackle serious crime and terrorism, protecting the public and bringing criminals to justice.

"But we will also seize this historic opportunity to make the UK safer and more secure through firmer and fairer border controls."

The Home Office said the post-Brexit agreement included streamlined extradition arrangements, fast and effective exchange of national DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data and continued transfers of Passenger Name Record data.

The basics

  • A Brexit deal has been agreed, days before a deadline. It means that the UK and the EU can continue to trade without extra taxes being put on goods - but we don't know all the details yet.
  • What took so long? The UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 and actually left on 31 January 2020, but leaders had until the end of 2020 to work out a trade deal.
  • There are big changes ahead. Although it's a trade deal that has been agreed, there will also be changes to how people travel between the EU and UK, and to the way they live and work.

From July 2021, the UK will receive advance data on goods arriving from the EU into Great Britain, something which was not previously possible under EU rules.

But the UK will lose access to the EU's Schengen Information System II (SIS II) database of alerts about people and items such as stolen firearms and vehicles.

The EU has said it is legally impossible to offer SIS access to the UK.

Earlier this month Steve Rodhouse, director general of operations for the National Crime Agency, warned that losing access to the database would mean alerts relating to around 400,000 investigations in European countries would disappear from the UK's national computer on 31 December.

"Investigations could take longer, and it could mean that serious criminals are not held to account as quickly," he said.

'Capability gap'

BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani said that while the agreement did appear to protect continued security and policing cooperation it "downgrades what British police can achieve - and how quickly".

"As expected, the UK will have to unplug its connection to an enormous real-time database that shares alerts on wanted or missing people," he said.

In November, National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) lead for Brexit, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin told peers that while contingency plans were being made the loss of access to SIS was "still a capability gap and it will have a massive impact on us".

He said his team had checked the system 603 million times last year.

Following the announcement of the deal, the NPCC said while it welcomed a deal between the UK and EU it was working with the government to "fully understand the detail of the security agreement and how it will be implemented, and ensure we are prepared for any changes to the way we currently operate".

BBC Reality Check correspondent Chris Morris said while the UK has reached an agreement on extradition and will be able to sit in on meetings of Europol - the cross-border security agency - "on a par with the best other countries have achieved", the speed at which the UK gets important data and the influence it has on decisions has been reduced.

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