Saturday 20 October 2018

PSNI warns there isn’t enough political direction or clarity about policing and justice post Brexit

The Police Service of Northern Ireland
The Police Service of Northern Ireland
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

The head of the PSNI has warned there isn’t enough political direction or clarity about what will happen with policing and justice post Brexit.

Chief Constable George Hamilton told the House of Lords EU Committee sitting in Belfast that the “biggest practical vulnerability” is the removal of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and the need to find an alternative arrangement with the Republic.

Mr Hamilton said he didn’t feel that we are in a better place now than 18 months ago in the wake of the referendum.

“We have been treading carefully not to move into the political debate, but we also feel a certain concern and lack of assurance that we’re saying the same things now that we were 18 months ago,” Mr Hamilton told the committee.

“We stand ready as public servants, in a political sense, to advise, to help, support, but we’re not seeing on policing and criminal justice front, enough direction, clarity and ask about what we need.”

He said he did not want to offer a political view, but that it is legitimate for the police to identify operational consequences.

He said there needs to be alternative arrangements to share information, to share evidence and biometric data. 

“We don’t have, for example, with the Republic of Ireland, alternative or parallel extradition legislation,” he said.

“So probably the biggest practical vulnerability for us is the removal of the European Arrest Warrant. From our perspective we need alternative arrangements, with the Republic of Ireland, and actually with other countries where there are not pre-existing or parallel extradition arrangements.”

Mr Hamilton also suggested that during the Troubles the border could not be effectively policed even though there were 13,000 police officers in Northern Ireland then, compared with around 7,000 now, and thousands of soldiers.

He said any physical infrastructure would be a “sitting duck” for dissidents.

 Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd, standing in for party Vice President Elect Michelle O’Neill, said that even if the Executive in Northern Ireland gets back up and running, there will not be a unified voice speaking for Northern Ireland on Brexit.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson opened his contribution to the committee with strong criticism of the Government here, referring to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as naive and describing the all-island economy as a “nationalist myth”.

“There isn’t an all-island economy in Northern Ireland,” Mr Wilson said.

“We’re competitors. They set different tax rates, they compete with us and bad mouth us sometimes on international markets for international investment, they seek every economic advantage that they can, and naturally you would assume that the Irish government would do that, so it’s a bit of a nationalist myth to talk about protecting the all-island economy.”

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