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No-deal Brexit will harm counter-terrorism efforts, say UK police

LONDON (Reuters) - British police chiefs said on Tuesday a no-deal Brexit would hamper their efforts to tackle terrorism and crime as they announced contingency plans were being put in place in case they lost access to the bloc’s intelligence systems.

FILE PHOTO: Anti-Brexit demonstrators wave EU and Union flags opposite the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain, June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

If Britain leaves the EU next March without any agreement, British authorities could be frozen out of the bloc’s policing mechanisms such as the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) or the data held by its law enforcement agency Europol.

“Existing EU tools allow us to respond quickly and intelligently to crime and terrorism in the UK and the EU - they make us better at protecting the public,” said Sara Thornton, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

“The alternatives we are planning to use, where they exist, are without exception slower, more bureaucratic and ultimately less effective.”

Thornton said a no-deal Brexit would also seriously affect their European counterparts, noting that for every one suspect arrested on a British EAW, Britain arrests eight people on warrants issued by other EU states.

Richard Martin, the NPCC’s Brexit head, said losing access to current EU systems in a no-deal scenario would mean they could no longer share real-time alerts for wanted suspects; would be slower to deal with hunts for missing people and the ability to map terrorist and criminal networks would be reduced.

The NPCC said it would set up a new national unit to look at non-EU alternatives and mechanisms such as Interpol, bilateral channels and Council of Europe conventions to continue intelligence sharing and ensure suspects could be extradited.

It also said it had also established plans to handle any public disorder or disruption at borders should Britain leave the EU without an agreement.

“At this stage, we have no intelligence to suggest there will be an increase in crime or disorder as a result of a Brexit deal or no deal,” said Charlie Hall, the NPCC’s spokesman for operations.

“As you would expect, these plans will need to be dynamic, and will change in response to what will undoubtedly be a changing threat assessment.”

Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison