As MPs prepare to vote on an amended Brexit deal within the next fortnight, the Law Society has highlighted the damage that crashing out of the EU without an agreement could do to the criminal justice system.
The Society's president, Christina Blacklaws, said today that a no-deal Brexit will make it harder to investigate cross-border crime and arrest suspects, and harder for victims to get compensation.
The UK currently has several agreements with the 27 other member states to facilitate cooperation in fighting crime and terrorism, which would end with a no-deal Brexit on 29 March.
These include the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which speeds up requests by one member state to another for an accused or convicted person to be surrendered. The European Investigation Order helps the UK to gather evidence in another member state. The EU Judicial cooperation unit (Eurojust) coordinates the investigation and prosecution of cross-border crime. The UK also participates in 'real time' dissemination of alerts on wanted people, vehicles or objects.
Blacklaws said: 'Under the EAW criminals can easily be repatriated to their home state, but if the UK exits without a deal we may end up relying on a treaty from the 1950s. Even where the 1957 European Extradition Convention is still in place, the process is lengthy, costly and taxpayers will end up footing the bill - Switzerland still uses it so the evidence of the system’s defects are there for all to see.
'The absence of clear guidance or information about contingency planning when it comes to criminal justice is deeply troubling as there will be immediate consequences from a no deal and any new agreements can only be forged once Britain has left the EU leaving a significant gap in our ability to fight crime and terrorism.'
Chancery Lane has published its own no-deal Brexit guidance for solicitors.