The NCA has responded to questions posed by the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee on the impact of Brexit on the future of UK security co-operation.
In response to the loss of access to the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), the NCA said that it had recruited and trained over 60 additional intelligence officers to manage the shift from SIS II to the use of INTERPOL Notices and Diffusions. This increased capacity is necessary due to the increased workload associated with the use of the INTERPOL alternative mechanism. INTERPOL systems, unlike SIS II, are not directly integrated into the UK Police National Computer (PNC) and so will require manual upload and circulation.
The NCA reiterated the government’s position that it will be leaving the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system and seeking an agreement for fast-tracked extradition modelled on the EU’s Surrender Agreement with Norway and Iceland. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, however, the procedure will revert to that under the 1957 Convention on Extradition. Under the Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Act 2020, the NCA will also be responsible for certifying foreign requests for the arrest of individuals, made under the Act, and said that it has received funding (for this financial year) and is currently undertaking recruitment to meet the demands of this more complex role.
In response to a question about the future use of the Prüm database for the searching of bulk DNA and Fingerprint data, the NCA warned that in the event of no-deal, there is no direct alternative available to UK law enforcement which would be required to revert to individual manual exchanges of data. This is also the case in relation to loss of access to ECRIS (the EU criminal records database). In the event of loss of access to the ECRIS automated system, UK capability will be severely reduced and responses to requests will be significantly slower. This will impact on public protection and judicial decision-making.
The NCA said it is preparing for the potential loss of access to EUROPOL, by transferring hundreds of live investigations to bilateral channels, but warned that in such an eventuality, information exchange will be slower, more labour intensive, and opportunities to identify new intelligence leads could be lost.
The overall position in relation to the loss of, inter alia, the aforementioned tools is that information exchange will be slower, investigations more time-consuming and there will be a far greater reliance on bilateral channels. Despite these concerns, the Director General sought to assure the Committee that the NCA is in a good state of readiness as the end of the Transition Period approaches.