Vital intelligence about terrorism and organised crime relating to Britain would need to be expunged from the European Union’s security database if there is a no-deal Brexit, senior security and diplomatic officials have warned.
The lack of an agreement on data sharing would mean that the UK would no longer have access to a wide swathe of information systems including European Criminal Records Information Service and would also jeopardise the chances of finding a replacement for the European Arrest Warrant.
Sir Julian King, the last UK Commissioner to the European Union, said “the difference between a deal and no deal is significant” and would lead to unavoidable and severe problems.
“UK [intelligence] data that was held in EU systems could – indeed would – be deleted, if there was no data adequacy arrangement covering how you share data,” he said.
Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Sir Julian stressed that there would be an “immediate” crisis unless there was a deal on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union covering a range of issues, including security.
The prospect of a security deal, he maintained, was intrinsically tied up with a broader agreement, pointing out “this is not an area where the European Union are envisaging separate arrangements”.
Sir John Scarlett, the former head of MI6, stressed that the crucial need for data sharing had been reinforced following terrorist atrocities like the Manchester bombing, and the Bataclan and Nice attacks in France.
There was a vital requirement, he said, to share information on “personal movements, crossing frontiers, knowing where people are at any one time and financial movements at the same time.”
Sir John added: “Operationally, it really matters … the ability to arrest serious criminal suspects in the UK, or elsewhere across the EU.
“The jihadist extremist threat is absolutely definitely still there. Last year in the EU there were 21 terrorist related attacks....”