The Czech Interior Ministry held a special working group meeting attended by representatives of the Visegrad states, Austria and the United Kingdom on the impact of Brexit on security, which focused mainly on the extradition of prosecuted or convicted persons.
“Britain is now part of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) mechanism, which allows extradition of people suspected of crime between the member states in a matter of days,” said Deputy Interior Minister Jakub Kulhánek, who represented the Czech side at the meeting on Thursday.
The Visegrad countries want to maintain extradition measures already in place with Britain.
Kulhánek stressed that the V4 could not allow criminals fleeing justice to benefit from Brexit, thus opening one of the most sensitive topics of security negotiations.
After Brexit, a major security risk might arise. European states may now face complications when trying to apprehended people who had committed a crime in the EU but fled to Britain.
Kulhánek said that while the EU and Britain are negotiating the Brexit terms of trade, they must not forget security.
Britain could find inspiration in other so-called ‘third countries’ that have agreements with the EU on extradition or access to information databases, but these agreements took years to negotiate.
Brussels and London have only 11 months.
No time to lose after Brexit
The recent turbulence in the British political scene has not helped to clarify the security situation.
“London has long been unable to say what it specifically requires regarding security cooperation with the EU,” Kulhánek said, adding that the new British government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson improved the situation significantly.
To continue the same practices from the era before Brexit, only under new treaties, seems like the ideal solution.
According to Kulhánek, it is unacceptable for both sides to interrupt cooperation in the area of internal security. Any failure of the negotiations would also jeopardize the security of British citizens since British criminals could hide in the Czech Republic or elsewhere in Europe.
London says it is aware of the risk.
“In November, we heard from representatives of the Visegrad countries that the security area had a high priority. So if we agree that the fight against crime is essential, there should be no problem in finding agreement,” said Nick Archer, the British ambassador to the Czech Republic.
According to him, much depends on what the British government determines is the right course in the coming days.
The British problem with Europol
Czech daily Lidové noviny’s diplomatic sources suggest that for Britain, the establishment of a security partnership will be a highly delicate process as it does not perceive the European Union as a single entity.
“The British may be reluctant to be equally involved in Europol’s information systems,” said a Czech diplomat who wants to remain nameless.
It is said that the British do not trust all European countries equally. In diplomacy, Romania and Poland are most often mentioned as the least trusted.
“The secret services sector is a bit outside the EU cooperation mechanisms. However, we need to resolve the British access to some systems where information on the movement of persons or information on crimes are being exchanged,” Kulhánek said.
But that may be the problem and also the reason why close cooperation with Europol is not ideal for London.
Reportedly, the British are afraid of leaks of secret information, which will be impossible to trace.
All EU Member States have access to Europol’s databases and, if there is a leak, it is currently impossible to find out where it came from. That is why it would be much more convenient for London to share specific data with individual states, thus keeping track of who knows what.