Former UK security chief warns British intelligence data 'would be deleted' in event of no-deal Brexit

Police officers at a vigil in Guildhall Yard, London, to honour the victims off the London Bridge te

Police officers at a vigil in Guildhall Yard, London, to honour the victims off the London Bridge terror attack - Credit: PA

A former security commissioner has warned that troves of data collected by Britain's intelligence agencies to tackle terrorism and crime would be deleted in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

British intelligence would have to be wiped off EU systems if Brexit trade talks collapse, the ex-EU security chief warned.

Sir Julian King, a British diplomat and one of the EU's former most senior security officials, said that in security terms "the difference between a deal and no deal is significant".

King said: "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."

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He said the UK would then be cut off from a range of databases such as the European Criminal Records Information Services, which shares data about prior convictions across all EU countries.

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Although not new, King's warning represent a risk that has been rarely discussed: the "immediate impact" of a no-deal Brexit on fighting terrorism and organised crime across Europe.

Sir John Scarlett, a former boss of MI6, said data sharing between the UK and the EU and its member states had grown significantly in recent years and that it was critical in tackling terrorism and drug trafficking.

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Scarlett said that intelligence sharing proved vital to investigators scrambling to piece together information about the Bataclan attacks in Paris immediately after they happened.

The former spy chief said the UK and Europe needed to track "personal movements, crossing frontiers, knowing where people are at any one time".

"The jihadist extremist threat is absolutely definitely still there,” Scarlett said. “Last year in the EU there were 21 terrorist related attacks of which three succeeded”.

One was the knife attack at Fishmonger’s Hall in London Bridge, where two people who had been attending a conference on prison rehabilitation were killed.

He added that Britain would have failed to have negotiated a replacement for the European arrest warrant in the event of a no-deal.

"Operationally, it really matters … the ability to arrest serious criminal suspects in the UK, or elsewhere across the EU," he said.

King claimed that the prospects of a security deal were inextricably linked to the overall progress of negotiations.

"This is not an area where they [the EU] are envisaging separate arrangements," King said.

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