Britain faces a return to the ‘Costa del Crime’ if it loses access to the European Arrest Warrant after Brexit, it has been warned.
It comes after home secretary Sajid Javid refused to confirm Britain could stay as safe as it is now if we leave the EU without a deal next month.
The ‘Costa del Crime’ was a common reference in the 1970s and 1980s when, as Spain had no extradition treaty with the UK, British crooks could retire to the country with impunity.
There are now fears the situation could reemerge after a no-deal Brexit as Britain would lose access to the European Arrest Warrant, which requires EU countries to arrest and transfer criminal suspects or sentenced people to fellow member states once requested.
Figures collated by anti-Brexit campaign group Best For Britain show that, over the last 10 years, the UK made a total of 2,514 requests under the warrant to other member states, and arrested 1,145 people.
They include Osman Hussain, who planted a bomb at Shepherd’s Bush tube station during the failed July 21, 2005 London bombings. He was arrested in Rome and extradited to the UK in eight weeks.
Extraditions take a fraction of the time under the warrant than when dealing with non-EU countries.
Best for Britain pointed to the case of the River Thames speedboat killer Jack Shepherd, who will not be able to stand trial in the UK for at least three months as he handed himself in in non-EU Georgia.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, a Best for Britain supporter, said: ‘This proves that Brexit, in any form, will damage our safety.
‘We’ve been warned by Mi5 chiefs and police commissioners that we’ll be locked out of crucial systems that track criminals and help bring them to justice.
‘We’re looking at a return to the days of the Costa del Crime. If terrorists and child abusers can escape the law simply by crossing a border, ordinary Brits are right to be scared. We cannot let this happen.’
Ex-MI5 chief Baronness Manningham-Buller said just last week: ‘I, as a former member of MI5, am very concerned about the loss of things like the European Arrest Warrant, the loss of access to Europol data and so on.’
The UK’s average annual use of the warrant has risen by a third since the referendum.
An average of 236 requests were made every year between 2007 and 2015. In 2016 and 2017 that number rose to 313.
Since 2010 the highest number of requests were for drug trafficking offences. Child sex offences were the second most common.
Larger forces such as London’s Met police, West Yorkshire police and Police Scotland have been the most dependent, although smaller forces in the north-east and north-west of England like Cleveland and Cumbria constabularies have also made nine arrests using the warrant since 2010.
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Javid said: ‘It is true that if we have a no-deal situation, there will be certain capabilities that we rely on for security, such as databases, arrest warrants, others, that will change. Of course that will change.’
He admitted that even though Britain would retain access to services provided by Interpol and the Council of Europe on extradition, it would not be ‘like for like.’
‘There will be a change in capability’, he said.