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There is a ‘real danger’ security will be damaged by May’s Brexit deal



LONDON — It will be “near-impossible” for Theresa May to agree a security treaty with the EU by the time Britain leaves, meaning there is now a “real danger” the UK’s security will be damaged, MPs have warned,

The Home Affairs committee of MPs warned that the political declaration which forms part of May’s proposed deal is “seriously lacking” in detail on security, customs and border arrangements.

“The political declaration is seriously lacking in detail and provides insufficient clarity about both the future security partnership and future arrangements at the border,” the report states.

It adds: “There is a real danger that the UK’s position will be weakened in the future partnership.”

While the withdrawal agreement which covers UK-EU divorce issues like budget payments and EU citizens’ rights is highly detailed, the political declaration on the future relationship is vaguer and not legally binding, leading to concerns that key issues like security have been overlooked.

In particular, MPs highlighted the fact that May had secured no long-term access to criminal databases after the UK exits the EU. It said the loss of such capabilities would make the country less safe. Member states rely heavily upon EU information-sharing agencies such as Europol, the Schengen Information System, and the European Arrest Warrant to enforce domestic security and policing arrangements.

The committee also said there was a “significant risk” that the planned transition — which would end in December 2020 — will expire before the UK agrees new security arrangements with the EU, leaving a dangerous window in which the UK’s security was weakened.

While May’s proposed deal contains a so-called “backstop” emergency measure to avoid the emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland, there is no similar provision for security arrangements.

Based on the evidence it received from Home Office officials and others, the report concludes that it would be “near-impossible” to get a full new security treaty in place before December 2020, especially because the deal would need to be fully ratified by all 27 EU member states.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chair of the committee, told Theresa May’s government to stop being “complacent” and said that its plans for future security cooperation with the EU should be laid clearly before parliament.

“We are worried about the prospect of a security downgrade as a result of this deal,” said Cooper.

“It doesn’t include the key criminal databases that the police and border force check 500 million times a year to keep us safe.

“Nor is there a security backstop to make sure that the transition arrangements don’t run out before a new security treaty can be implemented.

“The Government isn’t being open about the implications of this deal. Continued police and security cooperation is in everyone’s interest, but there is far too much complacency,” she said.

The warning comes as ministers head out to the UK regions to sell Theresa May’s Brexit plan, with Tuesday’s crunch vote approaching. The deal still appears very likely to be rejected by parliament, with over 100 MPs so far having publicly opposed the deal.

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