Britain will retain its intelligence-sharing agreement with European nations after Brexit, the head of Europol has predicted, as he said continued co-operation with EU countries on counter-terrorism should be a top priority in Theresa May’s negotiations with member states.
Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, told MPs that the organisation’s future plans included Britain remaining a member of the EU’s law enforcement agency “in at least one form or another”.
Mr Wainwright, a former MI5 intelligence analyst, said that although he would be the last British head of the organisation, the UK’s expertise in fighting terrorism, cybercrime, people smuggling and drug trafficking would remain highly valued by Europol.
Giving evidence to the Commons home affairs committee, he said other EU nations were concerned to make sure “British expertise and leadership is not lost” because “the UK is a very important partner in the security field”.
He urged the Prime Minister to try to negotiate a way for Britain to maintain its membership of the European Arrest Warrant scheme, which had enabled the UK to eject more than 2,000 criminals - including terrorists, sex offenders and drug traffickers - since its inception in 2004.
He said: “That’s 2,000 criminals fast-tracked out of Britain, and if we lose that capability [the process is] unlikely to be nearly as effective, so we are dealing with a public security issue if Britain no longer has access to the European Arrest Warrant.”
He added: “I agree with the Prime Minister’s view that in the face of heightened security threats now is the time to come together and, and that fighting terrorism should be a top priority in the [Brexit] negotiations.”
Mr Wainwright told MPs last year that Britain would become a “second tier nation” to Europol after Brexit, and he insisted this was not scaremongering because “there will be those who have rights as member states and those who don’t have the same rights”.
However, he said, Europol - based in The Hague - would be keen not to lose Britain as an active partner, because: “Britain has made such an important contribution to the evolution of Europol, so I think Europol would be weaker without active British engagement.”