The Law Society has welcomed the government's 'positive intention' for UK-EU cooperation on criminal justice post-Brexit, after the government announced that cooperation should go beyond the EU's agreements with countries outside of the union.
In its latest move to set out its stall for negotiations, the Home Office and the Department for Exiting the European Union today published a 'future partnership paper' on security, law enforcement and criminal justice. The 21-page document states that the basis on which the UK cooperates at EU level 'will evidently be affected by the UK's withdrawal, raising the question of how that partnership should be shaped in the future'.
As with other position papers on civil justice and data protection, the theme is to preserve existing technical mechanisms after March 2019. The government envisages a partnership 'that goes beyond the existing, often ad hoc arrangements for EU third-country relationships in this area, and draws on the legal models that the EU has used to structure cooperation with third countries in other fields, such as trade'.
Today's paper states that the UK has supported and benefited from the development of a series of 'legal instruments', forming a 'toolkit' that facilitates a level of cooperation among EU member states and, in some cases, 'third' countries.
Such instruments include the Schengen information system (SIS) II, a real-time alert system which flags people of interest to law enforcement agencies, and the European arrest warrant. From 2004 to 2015, more than 8,000 people accused or convicted of a criminal offence were extradited to other EU countries under the warrant.
As a former member state, the UK will become a third country. However, the paper states that 'while existing precedents for EU cooperation with third countries under [the Lisbon Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union] provide context, they are not the right starting point for a future UK-EU partnership'.
Norway and Iceland, which are not EU members, have concluded an agreement with the EU to participate in an EU IT system for the rapid sharing of fingerprint, DNA and vehicle registration data for law enforcement purposes. The EU has also concluded agreements in relation to mutual legal assistance with the US and Japan.
The government says the EU has adopted 'more ambitious and strategic' relationships in relation to the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital with some third countries.
Christina Blacklaws, vice-president of the Society, said today's paper signals a positive intention from government to maintain a high level of cooperation with the EU on criminal justice and security matters - 'vital in these uncertain times'.
She added: 'It is in everyone's best interests we maintain this close working relationship and this requires a deeper level of cooperation than currently exists between the EU and non-member states. This includes ways to continue our participation in crucial criminal justice infrastructure, such as the European arrest warrant and the Schengen Information System, or find an effective substitute for them.'