A Brexit no-deal would aid ter­ror­ism Anders Fogh Ras­mussen

If the UK fails to reach an agree­ment with the EU our safety and se­cu­rity will be se­ri­ously put at risk

The Guardian - - OPINION - Anders Fogh Ras­mussen is a for­mer Dan­ish prime min­is­ter and sec­re­tary gen­eral of Nato

The UK has be­gun to con­tem­plate the prospect of no Brexit deal by the March 2019 dead­line. The eco­nomic im­pact would be sig­nif­i­cant, but with con­tin­gency plans un­der prepa­ra­tion, there are ways to try to mit­i­gate the worst as­pects. How­ever, in the fight against ter­ror, a no-deal sce­nario – and there­fore no EU-UK close co­op­er­a­tion – is hardly an op­tion. Put bluntly, with­out a deal the UK and Europe face the pos­si­bil­ity of home­land data flows, and po­lice and ju­di­cial co­op­er­a­tion, be­ing turned off within hours. This would give free rein to ter­ror­ists, traf­fick­ers and or­gan­ised crim­i­nals, and both sides must pre­pare now to pre­vent such an un­think­able sce­nario ma­te­ri­al­is­ing.

The ar­chi­tect of much of the EU’s re­cent in­ter­nal se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture is Theresa May her­self. It com­prises a com­plex spi­der’s web of data flows, in­ter­con­nected leg­is­la­tion, IT net­works, and cross-bor­der po­lice work and co­op­er­a­tion.

Take just data flows alone. The UK and EU rou­tinely ex­change sig­nif­i­cant amounts of sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing on fin­ger­prints and DNA. Soon they will share pas­sen­ger flight data, which helps to build up a pic­ture of sus­pi­cious cross-bor­der pat­terns of be­hav­iour. The value of this data ex­change is so high that the EU is tak­ing steps to strengthen the in­ter­con­nec­tion and in­ter-op­er­abil­ity of dif­fer­ent sys­tems. These moves were cham­pi­oned by the UK as a means of im­prov­ing ef­fi­ciency – but para­dox­i­cally, af­ter Brexit the ex­tra com­plex­ity makes find­ing an agree­ment tech­ni­cally more chal­leng­ing and time con­sum­ing.

This is just one area of co­op­er­a­tion, but there are oth­ers, such as our joint work through Europol, the Euro­pean Po­lice Agency (at present headed by a highly able Welsh­man), which co­or­di­nates ev­ery­thing from cross-bor­der in­ves­ti­ga­tions to coun­ter­ing on­line rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and de­tect­ing cy­ber-crim­i­nals.

If the UK left the EU with­out a deal, it is dif­fi­cult to see how coun­tries such as Ger­many, which put a premium on civil lib­er­ties, would al­low sen­si­tive per­sonal data flows to the UK with­out a clear le­gal frame­work to over­see it. Such a move would not be an act of mal­ice, but a hard re­al­ity to en­sure peo­ple’s data was be­ing used, stored and trans­ferred in a le­gal man­ner. Even though the UK in­tends to im­ple­ment the new EU data pro­tec­tion pro­vi­sions re­cently adopted, af­ter Brexit it has made clear its re­jec­tion of such data flows be­ing over­seen by EU re­dress sys­tems, in­clud­ing the Euro­pean court of jus­tice.

The UK would not be alone in hav­ing to meet EU rules in this area. Even the EU-Amer­i­can agree­ments for se­cu­rity data ex­change, which have of­ten been painstak­ing to ne­go­ti­ate, re­quire non­mem­bers to meet EU stan­dards and re­flect the rul­ings of the Euro­pean court. And if the Euro­pean par­lia­ment feels such stan­dards are not iron clad, it has shown with the EU-US Ter­ror­ist Fi­nance Track­ing Pro­gramme that it is will­ing to wield a veto, even if that leaves it open to a charge of act­ing ir­re­spon­si­bly. March 2019 will be just a few months be­fore the Euro­pean elec­tions, so it is easy to imag­ine some pos­tur­ing among MEPs seek­ing re-elec­tion.

If and I hope when talks be­gin on the UK-EU fu­ture re­la­tion­ship, there is po­lit­i­cal will­ing­ness for a strong deal on se­cu­rity ar­range­ments. This is not a zero-sum game, and we both rely on each other to fight ter­ror­ists, traf­fick­ers and or­gan­ised crim­i­nals.

There are EU agree­ments around the world that can be em­u­lated, in­clud­ing op­er­a­tional agree­ments with Europol, and those to fa­cil­i­tate the ex­change of pas­sen­ger data with the US and Canada. The EU has an agree­ment with Den­mark for ac­cess to Europol fol­low­ing my com­pa­tri­ots’ ref­er­en­dum de­ci­sion to with­draw from some EU home af­fairs ar­eas. The EU can be cre­ative when the real talks get go­ing.

How­ever, both sides would make a po­ten­tially fa­tal mis­take to leave se­cu­rity as a tagon is­sue at the end of ne­go­ti­a­tions. De­spite great po­lit­i­cal will, the level of com­plex­ity and tech­ni­cal­i­ties sur­round­ing all our sys­tems and laws means any agree­ment will take time to ne­go­ti­ate. The UK has made clear it seeks more co­op­er­a­tion than any other non-EU coun­try, in­clud­ing a fully fledged se­cu­rity treaty. I ad­mire the am­bi­tion. But even if a tran­si­tion pe­riod can be agreed, we may run out of time to ne­go­ti­ate and rat­ify such a tech­ni­cal and po­lit­i­cally con­tentious ac­cord.

There­fore the UK and EU should plan for sev­eral even­tu­al­i­ties, in­clud­ing how we keep the data taps on in case there is a no-deal Brexit, and mea­sures to plug any gaps be­tween the UK’s full de­par­ture and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a new ar­range­ment or treaty. If the UK is un­able to con­clude an exit agree­ment, caus­ing it to fall out of the EU, it can fall back on World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion rules for trade. How­ever, there is no fall­back for the ha­bit­ual co­op­er­a­tion in our fight against ter­ror. Both sides must be­gin pru­dent planning now to avoid giv­ing suc­cour to our ene­mies.

Data flows and ju­di­cial and po­lice co­op­er­a­tion could be turned off within hours, giv­ing ter­ror­ists free rein

Il­lus­tra­tion by Ni­cola Jen­nings

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