Home secretary Priti Patel insisted the Brexit deal will help make the UK safer, despite police chiefs’ concerns about lack of access to a key EU information database.
The deal allows the two sides to co-operate on security and policing issues, but Brussels said the UK will no longer have “direct, real-time access” to sensitive information.
UK officials insisted the deal would ensure law enforcement officers had the tools they needed, while new border controls and the end of free movement would help protect the public.
In the run-up to the UK’s separation from the European Union, police chiefs have raised concerns about access to information and the loss of the European Arrest Warrant.
The Home Office said the agreement includes streamlined extradition arrangements, fast and effective exchange of national DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data and continued transfers of Passenger Name Record data.
Patel said: “The safety and security of UK citizens is the Government’s top priority and the UK will continue to be one of the safest countries in the world.
“I’m immensely proud of the comprehensive package of capabilities we’ve agreed with the EU.
“It means both sides have effective tools to tackle serious crime and terrorism, protecting the public and bringing criminals to justice.
“But we will also seize this historic opportunity to make the UK safer and more secure through firmer and fairer border controls.”
However, former national security adviser Lord Ricketts warned that security and justice co-operation will be “slower” and “more clunky” than under EU membership.
Though he conceded the situation is “better than I had feared” after viewing summaries of the deal, he said police forces will have to “settle” for a slower information sharing system and that the UK will have a “more arms-length” role in Europol.
And the crossbench peer warned that any cooperation can be suspended if the UK “suspended if UK fails to respect fundamental rights as set out” in the European Court of Human Rights.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey indicated the party is likely to vote against the deal, and said law enforcement will be dealt a blow from slower information sharing.
“British families will be less safe as a result of this deal. The criminals will be cheering as a result of this deal – that’s not acceptable,” he told BBC Breakfast.
From July 2021, the UK will start receiving advance data on all goods coming from the EU into Great Britain, something which has not previously been possible under EU rules.
The UK is also phasing out the use of “insecure” identity documents used to enter the UK – from October 1, 2021, the UK will refuse to recognise EEA and Swiss national identity cards.
But the UK will lose access to the EU’s Schengen Information System II (SIS II) database of alerts about people and items such as stolen firearms and vehicles.
The EU has said it is legally impossible to offer SIS access to the UK.
In November, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for Brexit, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin told peers that “we have over four million alerts on the Schengen Information System about people, property and things that my officers need to look at”.
“We checked it 603 million times last year because it is integrated into our system,” he said.
While contingency plans had been made to “still have access to the alerts that we consider to be the most important” using an Interpol system, the loss of access to SIS “is still a capability gap and it will have a massive impact on us”.
Following the announcement of the deal, the NPCC said: “We welcome the agreement between the UK government and European partners.
“We are working with government to fully understand the detail of the security agreement and how it will be implemented, and ensure we are prepared for any changes to the way we currently operate.”