UK Conservatives have recently voiced concerns over Britain’s loss of crucial criminal databases due to Brexit. As London parted with Brussels, Downing Street was left without access to SIS II, a Schengen system containing data on suspected criminals and missing people. From now on, the UK will have to rely on its own sources when it comes to gaining information on criminals from the EU, and this, according to some Tories, makes Britain more vulnerable in terms of national security.

We spoke with Chris Phillips, the former head of the UK’s national counterterrorism office, a fellow of the Security Institute and the Chartered Institute of Security and Crisis Management, and managing director of IPPSO – International Protect and Prepare Security Office who has explained what the security framework for the UK and the EU will be after a major cut-off between the two parties. 

Sputnik: How much of an impact do you think Brexit has had on the UK’s security in particular?

Chris Phillips: It’s been difficult and will be difficult for policing to come to terms with all the different changes. And of course, losing things like the arrest warrant will make a difference. Certainly the use of the passport and flight numbers is very useful for policing. But of course, it’s not just the police in the UK that lose. The Europeans will lose access to a lot of intelligence that the British bring to the table. So these are losses on both sides. But these things can all be solved in the longer term, I believe, with lots of goodwill on both sides.

Sputnik: We’ve seen many terrorist attacks not prevented in Europe, and far less of them happening in the UK in the same period of time. Couldn’t it be argued that a general lack of cooperation is to blame rather than Brexit?

Chris Phillips: I don’t think it’s a lack of cooperation, it’s always difficult when people get under the radar and low-level terrorism is very difficult to stop. The more organised groups have been prevented from committing terrorist attacks. But it’s interesting that often places like Brussels and Belgium, they’ve had problems with people. And the British knew more about the intelligence, about these people, than the local police did. So, there are shortages of information and intelligence. And the UK brings a lot of that to the European table. So the Europeans will be very keen to get back talking with the British again.

French soldiers patrol in front of the Eiffel Tower

Unfortunately, these Conservatives in particular were very unhelpful with Brexit and did everything they could to stop it. So it’s interesting that they have decided to effectively blame the British government and tell the British government they should be doing more. This is a cross-negotiation that should be done from both sides. And the European Union really has a lot to gain by allowing Britain access to the details. And, of course, it’s not only policing security that is done. Of course, there are security services and the heads of those very regularly as well.  

Sputnik: Is access to the EU’s databases really so important for the UK?

Chris Phillips: Well, it is, and it’s all useful, but of course, terrorists and organised criminals aren’t just Europeans, they’re worldwide. So this is a worldwide issue. Terrorists in Russia or criminals in Russia and criminals in the UK operate together, and there’s a growing need for police forces across the world to be closer linked and related.

Sputnik: What about the EU? The bloc has also lost access to the UK’s techniques and intelligence data, how significant is this loss?

Chris Phillips: Very significant, particularly in the long term, because, clearly, Britain is a place that people travel through. Britain has access to the Five Eyes intelligence system, which is the UK, Australia, the United States of America, Canada, and New Zealand. So they supply an awful lot of intelligence, which will be sadly missed by the European Union. It’s not just a one-way street of the UK losing.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.