Britain ‘falling behind’ on counter-terrorism as EU links loosened


Britain needs to urgently clarify its position on security issues, senior European commission officials have warned, or risk missing out on vital new counter-terrorism tools.

The commission has been revamping systems to identify who is crossing borders into the EU, and help dismantle cells that are financing jihadist networks, tackle terrorists who use fake identities and upgrade Europol.

Yet the government’s ambiguity on how it intends to fit into Europe’s rapidly evolving security architecture has left officials wondering what, if any, cooperation will be possible in the future – prompting them to raise the possibility that the UK might end up on the outside of Europe’s counter terrorism apparatus.

An influential Conservative security policymaker, who created an EU counter-terror plan to collect personal data on passengers travelling to and from Europe, has also raised concerns that Britain will not be granted access to “critical” data unless it accepts a role for the European court of justice.

Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, who was responsible for drawing up the Passenger Name Records (PNR) system during his time in the European parliament, said he feared that Theresa May’s ECJ red line could result in weakened security links.

His warning comes after terror attacks in London and Manchester that underlined the need to maintain security ties after Brexit which would allow the UK to track potential terrorists. The government will publish a series of formal position papers on Brexit this week, addressing the Irish border issue, a potential future customs arrangement with the EU and access to confidential documents.

But senior figures in the European commission remain baffled and perturbed that May has not yet offered a cogent position on how the UK intends to forge future security arrangements.

A senior commission source said: “Member states are increasingly serious about tackling terrorism, building a network of databases and agencies, and we are starting to see real results. But it’s not clear what the UK wants and, therefore, it’s not clear what cooperation will be possible in the future.”

Britain’s most senior EU official has also stepped forward to warn that cooperation is essential in the fight against terrorism. Sir Julian King, the European commissioner responsible for security, said: “We are better able to tackle these [terrorist] threats together … we all stand to lose if we don’t find a way of maintaining as far as possible our deep cooperation.”Continue reading.