Europol-UK relationship in jeopardy after Brexit

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Europol headquarters

Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier suggested the UK would be removed from Europol after leaving the EU during a speech in Berlin.

Speaking at the Berlin Security Conference, Barnier said that while he understood the vote to leave was a sovereign decision, it was also a rejection of closer European security and defence ties. He declared Europol and the European Defence Agency areas the UK would not be able to cooperate on.

Europol is an intergovernmental security agency that pools information from national law enforcement bodies and is a key mechanism in combatting cross-border crime in the European Union. It also provides information on irregular migration. However, it has no officers and does not act as a ‘federal’ crime agency.

The UK government had previously made a case for a “bespoke relationship” in a “future partnership” paper, signalling a willingness to continue cooperating on security matters.

However, Barnier appeared to snub these hopes, stating the “Defence and Security Union will have to be developed without the British” and said that it was a “logical” result of leaving the European Union.

The disclosure comes as the European Union pushes ahead with plans for a combined defence force and greater cooperation of security forces. A so-called “European army” was a key highlight of Britain’s Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum.

In addition to internal EU criminal investigations Europol also has agreements with the USA, China, and Russia.

The UK had planned a treaty to remain part of Europol once it leaves the EU, but Barnier’s comments add another dimension of complexity to the Brexit negotiations.

However, a Europol spokesman said “If there is political will in Downing Street and Brussels they will find a way to keep the door open for UK to stay in Europol — but it could take years to negotiate the access to Europol for a non-Schengen, non-EU country.”

Image credit: European Union