“You say yes, I say no
You say stop
And I say go go go, oh no
You say goodbye and I say hello…”
- The Beatles, ‘Hello, Goodbye’
Four years of debate and voting in the House of Commons ended on 31 December 2020 year when a deal was reached on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), and the UK was no longer bound by EU law. While most of the subsequent public and political debate in the UK has focused on trade, customs and the situation in Northern Ireland, part of the plan for both the EU and UK from day one was to ensure a deal enabling cooperation on policing, crime and security. It is noteworthy that the very first section of the UK legislation implementing the TCA concerns security, followed by “trade and other matters”.
The TCA – made up of more than 2,500 pages of text, including declarations and annexes – was approved by an overwhelming majority in the UK parliament just four days after it was published. The European Parliament, meanwhile, spent four months examining the text, during which time it applied provisionally. It ratified the deal at the end of April.
Under the agreement, the UK and EU remain closely tied in the fields of police and judicial cooperation. The UK is firmly embedded at EU policing agency Europol, judicial cooperation agency Eurojust, and inpan-European undercover policing networks; will stay connected to databases and networks for exchanging DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data (which the EU plans to expand to include facial images and “police records”); can exchange all manner of “operational data” with EU and national agencies; participate in joint operations and take part in future planning. In short, the deal gives the UK a permanent basis for EU-UK security cooperation, on which it intends to build as part of its vision for ‘Global Britain’.
Key to this cooperation are new institutions – in particular, the Partnership Council and the Specialised Committee on Law Enforcement and Judicial Cooperation. Rob Wainwright, the former head of Europol, told the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee in February 2021:
“…[a] notable feature of this agreement is that it keeps the show on the road — quite significantly so. It gets us over the line of 31 December to a point where operational activity and co-operation continue in large part, as I said earlier, and in particular it gives us the platform on which to build for the future. I think it is really important that the UK Government and authorities see—I am sure they do—that this is not a static position that we have reached; it is a platform that we can build on.” [emphasis added]
In the meantime, the UK will try to build upon the legacy of its pre-EU and colonial history, as Wainwright also observed:
“…we are going back to what we have always relied on, for several decades—in the case of Interpol almost 100 years, I think. If you take bilateral channels, for example, for several decades the UK, like other major countries in Europe, has maintained a network of bilateral police officers in countries around Europe and indeed around the world.”
Steve Rodhouse, Director General for Operations at the National Crime Agency, told the Committee that, with the loss of access to SIS II and its new ‘third state’ status, the UK in London and the UK representation in Brussels had developed a “plan” which involves “supplementing the international liaison officers we already deploy across Europe with a further 11 officers in our embassies in key countries.” They will “foster good relations and enable us to share information, seek information and… mobilise operational activity”. The UK hopes to establish new bilateral and multilateral partnerships with EU and other states, as well as making use of the Partnership Council and other international institutions and agencies such as Interpol, to expand its security and policing powers.
This may be beneficial for the interests of the British state and its “friends and partners” in Europe, but there are significant downsides, as this report demonstrates. The following section (section 2) provides a critical examination of the powers and activities provided for by the TCA in the fields of police and judicial cooperation. It goes on to examine the roles and powers granted to the new institutions set up by the TCA, in particular the Partnership Council and the Specialised Committee on Law Enforcement and Judicial Cooperation (section 3). Section 4 looks at some of the ways in which the UK will continue to exert influence over and play a role in the EU’s internal security machinery through existing international clubs and institutions, followed by conclusions.
Statewatch has spent the last three decades exposing, analysing and challenging the growing powers of the state over the individual, in particular with regarding to the laws and policies of the UK and the EU. It has frequently been claimed that when the clock struck midnight on 31 December last year, Brexit was “over”. In fact, as shown by queues of lorries on the road to Calais and the ongoing departure of refugees from the French coast, political uproar in Northern Ireland, supply shortages, fights over fishing rights, and the unresolved questions over the status of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU, it has really only just begun – and this is as true for the repressive agencies of the state as it is for everyone else. It is vital to investigate, expose and where necessary oppose the intrusive and unwarranted use of the powers provided for by the TCA, and to ensure that the facts are available to the public. We hope that those who read this report will agree with us, and support Statewatch in its ongoing work.
 The UK formally left on 31 January 2020, but this was followed by a “transition period” of 11 months.
 European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020, https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2020/29/contents/enacted
 ‘Oral evidence: UK-EU security co-operation, HC 1087’, Home Affairs Committee, 10 February 2021, p.5, https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/1678/pdf/
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