As you may have heard(!) there’s a draft Brexit deal on the table (585 pages) and as expected, it’s the subject of all sorts of debate.
We definitely don’t want to argue or take sides, but we’ve been keeping a close watch on details that can affect travel safety and how travel and security would be impacted by the proposed deal – or by a “no deal” situation.
“Because our European friends will always be our allies in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, the deal will ensure that security co-operation will continue, so we can keep our people safe.” – Theresa May
Co-operation and shared intelligence have been an important part of the increasing number of terrorism-related arrests in the UK and Europe lately, and there have been concerns that leaving the EU could hamper these efforts or cut essential communication. This does not seem to be the case with the Brexit deal however.
In gov.uk’s “40 reasons to back the Brexit deal” points 27-29 cover counter-terrorism and security:
- Our new security partnership will mean sharing of data like DNA, passenger records and fingerprints to fight crime and terrorism, going beyond any previous agreement the EU has made with a third country.
- Our new security partnership will enable the efficient and swift surrender of suspected and wanted criminals.
- Close co-operation for our police forces and other law enforcement bodies.
What’s The Alternative?
If the Brexit deal is not accepted when MPs vote, that could mean a no-deal Brexit. In all the opinion pieces on the deal-or-no-deal situation, one thing is quite clear: experts believe no deal would be a major security risk.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has cautioned that, “No-deal will hamper (the) war on terror,” according to The New European, while Reuters has quoted British police chiefs as saying that a no deal Brexit would hamper their efforts to tackle terrorism and crime.
“If Britain leaves the EU next March without any agreement, British authorities could be frozen out of the bloc’s policing mechanisms such as the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) or the data held by its law enforcement agency Europol.”
So it seems a no-deal scenario would put the UK and EU at a disadvantage when it comes to counter-terrorism intelligence.
Forbes published an article on 15 November expressing concern that “Brexit chaos” is a “Major terrorism and security risk.” In addition to the above no-deal challenges, Forbes notes that the proposed Brexit deal would ultimately mean the UK leaving Europol – which houses the European Counter Terrorism Centre – after the transition period.
Forbes’ concern that the UK would lose access to the Schengen Information System – the “European-wide IT system that helps facilitate European cooperation for law enforcement, immigration and border control purposes” – as well as access to the European Criminal Records Information System seem to be at odds with the gov.uk notes, but at this stage it’s hard to know for sure. It would certainly benefit the UK and EU to continue open communication and co-operation.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated its travel advice pages for all EU destinations with information for Brits travelling to and living in EU countries.
At this stage there won’t be any visa requirements for holidays and business travel during the transition period:
“The UK and EU have agreed the full legal text of the draft Withdrawal Agreement in principle. This sets out that there will be no change to entry requirements for British citizens travelling to the EU or for EU citizens travelling to the UK during the Implementation Period (30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020).”
The ”40 reasons” article on the gov.uk website also notes that with the deal, “Both the one million UK citizens living in the EU and the three million EU citizens living in the UK will have their rights legally guaranteed so they can carry on living their lives as before.”
In a summit on 25 November, EU leaders agreed to the terms of the proposed deal. UK parliament will vote on it in December.
Travel plans should be fine in the near future – and if there’s no deal, current passport/visa arrangements would hold until the Brexit transition begins on 30 March 2019. No deal may affect airlines and air traffic agreements though.
During times of tension, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye in the news and know exactly what to expect when you travel. We hope that fears such as Forbes’ “very material danger” don’t materialise, but wherever you go please be alert and prepared. Whatever your views on Brexit, we are all in this together!