Security ‘blind spots’ feared for post-Brexit Britain - report

cctv pr

29 September 2017

  • Several legal obstacles makes Brexit security treaty ‘not legally or operationally possible’ under current circumstances
  • Crucial information about terrorists, organised criminals and asylum seekers could be lost to the UK
  • Expert and lead author Dr Helena Farrand Carrapico available for interview.

Britain could be left with major security ‘blind spots’ unless negotiators strike an intelligence sharing deal with the EU, according to a new report.

Researchers at Aston Centre for Europe, based at Aston University, have identified several legal obstacles which could block the UK from accessing intelligence databases that are currently vital to the UK’s security.

Such instruments include the Europol Information System, a database of 183,000 items which authorities can use to look for matches regarding suspected and convicted individuals, as well as objects and offences. Access to the Schengen Information System, a larger database containing 43 million items, is also at risk.

Exiting these instruments could result in the UK having less available information about terrorists, organised criminals, asylum seekers and irregular border crossers entering the UK via the EU.

Dr Helena Farrand Carrapico, lead author of the report and Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University, said:

“Information is the element that lies at the heart of security. The more information one is able exchange and process, the more effective one's security apparatus will be. Brexit, however, risks interrupting the flow of information currently taking place between EU member states, and between the national and the European level. It is therefore essential for the UK to ensure there is no breakdown in the flux of information, by negotiating continued access to EU information platforms and databases. Otherwise our security services could be left with major blind spots.

“It is often assumed that the reinforcement of borders will make the UK more secure than what it currently is. Borders, however, are only as useful as the information stored in their system. Reinforcing the border with, for instance, increased physical checks, can amount to little if there is a reduction in the exchange of information feeding the border system. Cooperation with EU countries is in fact the best way to ensure the efficiency of UK border controls.

The UK government recently called for security treaty with the EU to avoid a reduction in current capabilities. However, Dr Farrand Carrapico said forming such a treaty will be fraught with difficulties.

“What Whitehall is currently proposing is, at least for the moment, not legally or operationally feasible. They are asking to continue having the same access to instruments that, for the moment, are not currently accessible to non-EEA member states. It may be the case that a new technical and legal option will be created just for the UK, but this will take many years.

“There are precedents for non-EU countries gaining access to some security instruments. However, most agreements are subject to accepting other conditions such as Schengen area membership. Overall, it is clear that third country arrangements are less accommodating than full EU membership.”

In addition, the report found that Britain not only benefits considerably from EU cooperation, but it is also very influential in shaping policy in this area. Despite the UK’s ‘cherry picking’ of instruments that are most valuable to British security, the EU still profits significantly from the UK’s expertise.

The report suggests that the UK’s expertise and reputation for shaping policy might help in persuading the EU to reach an accommodating deal. Dr Farrand Carrapico added:

“The UK has often been perceived as an awkward partner. However, its influence even over policy areas that it doesn’t formally take part in, has been extremely valuable for the EU’s internal security. Brexit has the potential to reduce the UK’s leadership position, but also compromise the good functioning of the EU’s security-related institutions.”


Notes to the editor

About Aston Centre for Europe

  • The Aston Centre for Europe acts as a ‘hub’ for a range of Europe and EU-related research projects and stakeholder activities across the University. Reflecting the European strengths of Aston’s research culture including specialisms in individual states, ACE has since 2009 become a major centre for research in European politics and society and ensured the real-world applicability of that research through practitioner engagement.
  • ACE promotes research on Europe and its constituent states and role in the world, and interfaces with stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, the public) and gives support to ACE’s researchers and students. One of its aims is to increase research income and the number of ACE-related projects; and to increase the number of high quality publications, with an emphasis on journal articles and monographs.

About Aston University

  • Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has always been a force for change. For 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. True to Aston’s Coat of Arms which bears the word ‘Forward’, in 2016 Aston held a year-long anniversary celebration to recognise its heritage and achievements, but with a focus to drive forward the next stage in the University’s exciting journey.


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