As Brexit Looms, What Would a No-Deal Scenario Mean for Police?

As Prime Minister Theresa May appeals to Brussels for a short delay in the Brexit negotiations, people everywhere are wondering how a no-deal outcome would affect them. One police chief said it could create problems for British police wanting to detaining foreign suspects and for police trying to bring British criminals living as fugitives in Europe back to the UK for trials.

In an interview with Vikram Dodd of the Guardian in February, Deputy assistant commissioner Richard Martin said “Criminals are entrepreneurs of crime … if there is a gap to exploit I’m sure some of them probably would.”

Martin is heading up preparations for national police to deal with whatever Brexit scenario comes to pass, though any kind of exit from the EU is sure to have a significant impact in how the British national police do their job.

As Theresa May requests an extension of Brexit, a no-deal is looking like one of the most likely outcomes, which would lead to the loss of access to the SIS-2 database, a log of outstanding suspects and convictions that police across Europe rely on. The British police used this database 539 million times last year. “If we exit the EU without a deal that gets switched off overnight,” said Martin.

Police would also lose the ability to arrest foreign suspects through the European arrest warrant. This warrant allows a quicker extradition process and gives police the chance to arrest a suspect if they suspect another country has put out a warrant for them.

If British police do spot a suspect they believe is wanted for crimes in France, for example, they would be unable to detain that person even if there was an international warrant via Interpol out for their arrest.

“We could not arrest that person in front of us, while with an EAW (European Arrest Warrant) we can do it instantaneously,” Martin said in the interview. “The officer has to go to a magistrates court to get a warrant under the 1957 convention of extradition.”

That extradition process could take up to 66 days. Any kind of added bureaucracy or procedures would stall action on behalf of the police and have impacts on their ability to make arrests. And while Martin doesn’t think criminals will flock to the UK should a no-deal Brexit happen, he does think that the lack of support from the EU will have implications for his officers.

“If something takes two or three times as long as when you were doing it before, that’s probably another couple of hours maybe you are not back on the streets … It will have an impact on the frontline.”

This story was originally reported by Vikram Dodd of the Guardian.