In The National every day this week: what a hard Brexit will mean for Scotland
MOST people will probably not recognise the names, but Europol and Eurojust are major players in keeping people in these islands safe from terrorism and criminality.
Both agencies are creations of the European Union and only EU states can be members of them. In a hard Brexit, the UK would no longer be eligible for membership of Europol and Eurojust.
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That is why Scotland’s Lord Advocate fears for the future of the pursuit of criminals in Scotland and across Europe, post-Brexit. He recently wrote in an EU publication that “the safety and security of our citizens would be diminished”.
Most political and media attention has focused on Britain’s possible withdrawal from the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system, but leaving Europol and Eurojust would arguably do much greater damage to Scottish security and safety, and they have barely been mentioned in the media – unusual, given the English tabloids’ obsession with terrorist and criminal infiltration of the UK.
That’s because Europol and Eurojust don’t fit their agenda – they are two examples of EU success with Britain at their heart, especially Europol, which handles criminal intelligence for all 28 states and works in the background supplying analysis of intelligence, information exchange, policing expertise, counter-terrorism work and training.
The UK has taken a strong lead since the start of the agency and, indeed, the current head of Europol is Rob Wainwright, a Welsh-born former MI5 officer.
Police forces and the judiciary across the UK are almost unanimous in decrying any threat to Britain’s involvement in Europol and even Prime Minister Theresa May had to listen to them.
That’s why the UK Government quietly decided in November to opt into the new Europol Regulation that governs the agency, despite fears that it would not do so ahead of the triggering of Article 50.
It should also be said the May government has pledged to continue cooperation with EU security agencies, though how that is to work outside the EU and membership of Europol and Eurojust has not yet been stated.
As Lord Wolffe wrote: “The threat posed, today, by transnational criminality is, surely, too urgent and real for us to contemplate any weakening of our commitment to police and judicial co-operation with our colleagues in other parts of Europe.”
Eurojust will have been in existence for 16 years come Wednesday, and its brief is to strengthen international cooperation between judiciaries and prosecuting authorities when dealing with cross-border crime; it has been especially successful in helping to coordinate efforts to battle terrorism.
Lord Wolffe wrote: “Practical co-operation between prosecutors across Europe is facilitated by our membership of Eurojust.
“Eurojust not only improves co-ordination and co-operation between national authorities, but can also support national authorities in their own investigations and prosecutions where there is an international element.
“The significance of our participation in Eurojust is not fully captured by the statistics of formal requests. Even where there has been no formal request, there may be co-ordination meetings which can prove useful to the prosecution of Scottish cases or to prosecutions in other parts of Europe, where our European partners can benefit from assistance from Scotland.
“And the direct relationships of informal co-operation which, through Eurojust, we develop with our counterparts facilitate our effective use of the formal mechanisms of mutual legal assistance and extradition.
“These measures exemplify the benefits of solidarity and collective action, in the interests of protecting all our citizens from criminality.
“Last year alone, we made over 400 requests to fellow prosecutors through the European Judicial Network for assistance in relation to extradition and the recovery of evidence.
“No less in Scotland’s interest is our continuing participation in Eurojust, and in legislative instruments of criminal justice co-operation to which we are party. Without them, the safety and security of our citizens would be diminished.”