Met chief Cressida Dick triggers Brexit public safety row over risks of no-deal

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, delighted Remainers but incensed Brexiteers with a warning about the UK losing access to European intelligence.

Former Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was right to warn that security was at risk. But UKIP’s leader Gerard Batten said free movement of people meant free movement of criminals.

The Met chief made her controversial comments in a radio interview in which she was asked about a no-deal Brexit and said the UK worked closely with the EU on security at the moment.

“If we come out without immediately obvious replacements for those instruments, that will undoubtedly mean we will have to work incredibly hard on a bilateral basis with countries to try to get in place some kind of way of working together,” she said.

Emphasising that talks were ongoing, the Commissioner added: “We’ve set up an EU co-ordination unit, absolutely.

“That is to help local forces to understand to how to work most effectively across Europe after we exit the EU, under whatever circumstances.

“Of course, we would hope we will have as much as possible of the instruments we currently have or something very similar as quickly as possible, in order to be able to keep our public safe and at the same sort of cost.”

Asked if she was suggesting the consequences meant the UK would be less safe, Ms Dick replied: “The consequences are that we will have to replace – and of course if there was a no-deal scenario that would be very difficult to do in short-term – some of the things we currently use, in terms of access to databases, the way in which we can quickly arrest and extradite people, these kind of things, we will have to replace as effectively as we can.

“That will be more costly undoubtedly, slower undoubtedly, and potentially yes put the public at risk – no doubt about that.

“But I understand that this is just one of many things that the politicians who are deciding what to do next have to think about.”

Backing the Commissioner, Ms Smith – Home Secretary from 2007-09 and now a leading pro-Remain and People’s Vote campaigner – said: “Cressida Dick is right to warn about the security risks of Brexit.

“But it must be clear to her and everyone working in our police and security services that leaving with the government’s deal would not address those risks. It would be a huge mistake for anyone to think otherwise.

“The reality is that the government’s plan will weaken UK participation in the European Arrest Warrant, making it harder to tackle cross-border crime, and offers no long-term guarantees at all of access to vital security databases.

“From a security perspective, by far the best option would be to go back to the public in a People’s Vote with the option of keeping our current deal as EU members. That would keep the European Arrest Warrant and all database access and allow the UK to continue working with our European partners to keep the public safe.”

Ms Smith was backed by Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, who said: “It doesn’t matter whether you voted to leave or to remain, you certainly did not vote to be less safe. Yet, now we know Brexit will do just that.

“The UK’s top police officer is only echoing what we’ve heard from police forces across the country: that Brexit threatens the ability of police to catch criminals. No one can argue that would make us better off than if we stay in the EU.

“Continuing along these dangerous lines is criminal. The public need the final say on Brexit, with the option to stay and pool our safety with the rest of Europe.”

But Mr Batten, who earlier this month survived a move to oust him as UKIP leader after appointing English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson as an adviser, attacked Ms Dick’s comments.

He tweeted: “Two points: 1) When the UK withdraws from Europol’s databases it can revert to Interpol’s pre-existing databases.

“2) Why did Cressida Dick never point out the free movement of people also meant the free movement of criminals? That put us all at risk.”

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