'No-deal Brexit would harm UK safety, security'
August 07 2019 10:48 PM
Neil Basu
Neil Basu

Agencies London

*US, Britain back rapid trade deal post-Brexit

The UK’s safety and security would suffer from a no-deal Brexit and no amount of planning and preparation can erase the risk, Britain’s head of counter-terrorism has said.

The Scotland Yard assistant commissioner, Neil Basu, said key crime-fighting tools would be lost and their replacements would not be as good.

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview in which he also warned that boosts to police and security service numbers were no longer enough to combat terrorism, he said: “We can make them [the damaging effects] less, but they would be slower systems. Those systems and tools were developed in the EU for very good reason. They were very good. We had just signed up to biometric sharing.

“In a no deal we’d lose all that. We’d have to renegotiate it.”

The three key measures are fast access to intelligence and data through the Schengen Information System II database, as well as passenger name records, and the ability to use European arrest warrants.

Basu said: “We have done a lot of contingency planning to put things in place. But there are some things you can’t put in place. So there is no contingency planning for not being given passenger name records.

“It would create an immediate risk that people could come to this country who were serious offenders, either wanted or still serial and serious offenders committing crimes in this country, and we would not know about it. It creates that risk.

“With my police leadership hat on there would still be deep concern. There would be some damage to our safety. I can’t put a scale on that.”

Meanwhile, Britain's food and drink lobby warned on Wednesday that the country will experience shortages of some fresh foods for weeks or even months if a disorderly no-deal Brexit leaves perishable produce rotting in lorries at ports.

Retailers such as Tesco have warned that leaving the European Union on October 31 without a transition deal would be problematic as so much fresh produce is imported and warehouses are stocked full ahead of Christmas.

The industry - which employs 450,000 people in the United Kingdom - views Brexit as the biggest challenge since World War II.

As winter approaches, the United Kingdom becomes more dependent on imported food so a Halloween no-deal Brexit is potentially more disruptive.

Britain imports around 60% of its food by the beginning of November - just the time that delays caused by a no-deal Brexit could be clogging up ports and motorways, Rycroft said.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, which have a short shelf-life of only a few days, cannot be stored for long so any checks at Calais could lead to significant disruption at Dover, Britain's biggest port.

Michael Gove, the British minister responsible for no-deal preparations, said he was confident that a resilient food supply system would ensure people would have "a wide range and the choices that they need" whatever happened.

Rycroft said they estimated that the cost of preparing for a no-deal exit, including reserving warehouse space, using alternative distributors and losing orders in congested ports, would cost the industry up to £100mn a week.

AFP adds from Washington: The top US and British diplomats said on Wednesday they were prepared to move "as soon as possible" on a trade deal after Britain's planned withdrawal from the European Union on October 31.

Speaking in Washington, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged the EU to negotiate a new pact on Britain's departure to avoid a potentially calamitous "no-deal" Brexit.

Raab said after meeting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the two sides agreed on the need for quick negotiations on a two-way trade deal after Brexit strands Britain outside the current US-EU trade pact.

"America is our single largest bilateral trading partner. President Trump has made clear again that he wants an ambitious free trade agreement with UK, so I hope that we can make that happen as soon as possible after we leave the EU on the 31st of October," Raab told reporters.

Standing at Raab's side, Pompeo said Washington supports London's "sovereign choice" in withdrawing from the European Union, whatever happens.

"However Brexit ultimately shakes out, we'll be on the doorstep hand-in-hand, ready to sign a new free trade agreement at the earliest possible time," Pompeo said.

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