- REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
- Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said Britain must leave Europol.
- The policing body enables data sharing and co-operation across Europe.
- The UK wants to stay, and senior UK police officers say that it is vital.
- But Barnier said the UK leaving is a “logical consequence” of Brexit.
- Europol said the UK might be able to rejoin later but it could “take years.”
The European Union has threatened to forcibly remove Britain from the Europol policing agency after Brexit, despite UK plans to stay involved.
Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Brexit negotiator, told a conference in Berlin that the UK “will no longer be a member” of Europol as of March 30, 2019.
He said ejection from the institution was a “logical consequence” of the vote to leave, implying that there is no way for Britain to negotiate remaining a member.
As recently as September, the UK was readying its plans to stay in Europol via a new security treaty. UK government sources indicated to Business Insider today that remaining a member is still an ambition for the UK.
At a media briefing earlier this week, Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gallagher, one of the most senior officers in London’s Metropolitan Police, stressed the importance of remaining in institutions like Europol.
Membership allows police forces to share intelligence and co-ordinate operations across the EU. It is separate from the European Arrest Warrant, which states use to arrest suspects in other countries.
A spokesman for Europol told Business Insider that the UK may be able to rejoin Europol later, on worse terms, but would probably have to leave first.
Barnier’s speech came in an address to the 2017 Berlin Security Conference.
According to a transcript of his speech published by the European Commission, he said (emphasis ours):
“…on 30 March 2019 the United Kingdom will, as is its wish, become a third country when it comes to defence and security issues.
“We must draw the appropriate legal and operational conclusions from this:
“The UK defence minister will no longer take part in meetings of EU Defence Ministers; there will be no UK ambassador sitting on the Political and Security Committee.
“The UK can no longer be a framework nation: it will not be able to take command of EU-led operations or lead EU battlegroups.
“The UK will no longer be a member of the European Defence Agency or Europol.
“The UK will not be able to benefit from the European Defence Fund the same way Member States will.
“The UK will no longer be involved in decision-making, nor in planning our defence and security instruments.
“Everything I have just said is the logical consequence of the sovereign choice made by the British. We regret this vote. But we respect the choice that has been made.”
Business Insider contacted the Home Office and the Department for Exiting the European Union for comment, neither of which could respond immediately.
A Europol spokesman said: “If there is political will in Downing Street and Brussels they will find a way to keep the door open for UK to stay in Europol – but it could take years to negotiate the access to Europol for a non-Schengen, non-EU country.
“Europol’s closest partners are the law enforcement agencies of the EU Member States, but the Agency also works closely with states outside the EU, such as the USA.”