Brexit risks ‘sub-optimal’ policing deals across Europe, Scotland’s top cop warns

Brexit risks a series of “sub-optimal workarounds” being put in place between Police Scotland and EU forces to deal with threats including organised crime, the Chief Constable has said.

Iain Livingstone said the biggest challenge posed by the UK leaving the EU is the loss of existing legal powers such as the European Arrest Warrant and membership of EU law enforcement agency Europol.

He said work is already under way to put in place replacement arrangements with countries including Portugal and Spain, but these would be worse than current EU-wide systems.

Giving evidence to Holyrood’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, he said: “The biggest challenge undoubtedly from a policing and security perspective is the loss of legal mechanisms and measures that have developed over many years with the other 27 member states.”

He said Police Scotland have been a “great beneficiary” of joint investigation teams through Europol – particularly regarding people trafficking and organised crime threats to Scotland – as well as from intelligence sharing networks and using European Arrest Warrants.

He added: “We will now have to recreate a number of sub-optimal workarounds on a bilateral basis.

“We’ll have to have an agreement with the French, we’ll have to have an agreement with the Portuguese, with the Germans.

“That, I think, will be the biggest challenge long-term.”

New Chief Constable of Police Scotland
New Chief Constable of Police Scotland

He said the UK’s National Crime Agency is in charge of setting up a framework for international agreements to replace those being lost, but Police Scotland has begun discussions on bilateral deals as the policing structure can be markedly different.

Officers have visited the Baltic countries, Latvia, parts of Scandinavia, Spain and Portugal for talks, and the force is in almost daily contact with police in the latter two countries as well as Poland.

Mr Livingstone said the biggest short-term challenge posed by Brexit is the potential for disruption at ports, most likely in the south east of England, and at the Irish border – requiring officers from his force to be sent to assist.

First subject raised by @RonaMackayMSP at sub-cttee: extra officers to support service through #Brexit. @CC_Livingstone sets out how the figure of 400 extra officers will be achieved, largely through bringing forward recruitment and maintaining current numbers.

— Justice Committee (@SP_Justice) January 31, 2019

Public disorder and disruption to food and medical supplies are among the scenarios being planned for, he said, having confirmed proposals for 400 of his officers to be dedicated to dealing with the fallout of Brexit.

Asked if the additional funds needed for the recruitment of 100 extra officers and dropping previous plans to cut numbers by 300 would be around £18 million, Mr Livingstone said: “It wouldn’t be that far off”.

He has asked for additional government funding to plug the gap, warning the financial stability of the force would otherwise be under threat.