Police Scotland has warned of an ‘intelligence black hole’ if EU-based airlines cut off access to their data post-Brexit.
Europe’s busiest airline, Ryanair, has announced it will no longer help UK police forces after Brexit and withhold its data, which is vital to police in detecting and catching fugitives.
The Home Office plans to lobby the airline over this decision later this week. However, if the airlines go-ahead with their plans UK police will no longer be able to access their manifest lists – which details passengers, crew, and cargo.
Police would also no longer receive alerts or be able to verify tip-offs about wanted fugitives or persons of interest being on a flight destined to land in the UK, or another EU state.
Police Scotland has participated in talks to come to a post-Brexit agreement on future co-operation and data sharing, however, most European airlines have already decided to withhold information from UK police forces. Only six European airlines have indicated they are still willing to co-operate with Police Scotland.
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A source at Police Scotland said, “The current state of play looks grim, with only six airlines still open to sharing information with us, so that is a glimmer of light, but mostly we are facing an intelligence black hole.
“Ryanair represents an especially massive loss, and that’s why the Home Office is sending officials to Dublin next week to try to persuade them it is in everyone’s interests to continue to help the police track serious criminals.”
“At the moment, we can count on being alerted if a wanted fugitive or a person of interest boards a flight in an EU state, and ensure he is met. Most of the airlines feel there would be data protection issues, with the risk of massive fines, if they shared information outside the EU, especially under no deal.”
According to The Sunday Times, three EU states – Holland, Romania and Slovakia – have told the UK police the will no longer co-operate with them after Brexit, unless specific measures for continuing assistance are put in place by a deal. Romania and Slovakia have known links to human trafficking and forced prostitution, while Holland is a popular destination for Scottish criminals fleeing police.
All three sates have said that as of 11 pm on October 31 they would release any UK prisoners and would halt immediately any pursuits on behalf of UK police. However, at present, they hold no criminals on behalf of UK forces.
Police Scotland’s Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Campbell, who has been involved in post-Brexit cross-border cooperation discussions, said: “We face a changing landscape of European policing, and UK forces are doing all they can to maintain agreements and co-operation.
“The model we have now, the relationship we enjoy with our European colleagues and the speed with which we can secure assistance, is better than anything we can replace it with. After 31 October, we lose our place within Europol, the European arrest warrant, and the potential loss of access to the passenger records of most European airlines, as well as access to the Schengen information system.
“We lose 36 tools we currently count on, and the ability to pick up the phone to a colleague in Rome or Madrid and have a suspect under surveillance within hours. We have with UK law enforcement built-in contingency and fall-back processes. However, they are more bureaucratic and not as fluid.”
Campbell added: “It will impact on our ability to keep communities safe, and our ability to keep track of organised crime figures and sex offenders moving around the Continent. We will look to secure new deals and co-operation, but it might have to be on a state-by-state basis and will take time.”