Policing Minister Brandon Lewis has today notified Parliament of the government’s intention to opt-in to Regulation (eu) 2016/794 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union agency for law enforcement cooperation (Europol), in line with its right to do so under protocol 21 to the EU Treaties.
The new regulation gives a legal footing to the new framework for Europol and replicates much of the UK’s approach to the tackling of online terrorism propaganda and cybercrime.
In an explanatory memorandum, laid before Parliament this afternoon, the Policing Minister put forward the Home Office’s intention to opt in to the revised Europol framework outlined in the regulation. This regulation replaces the existing regulation that governs the operation of Europol on 1 May 2017.
This decision will now be subject to parliamentary scrutiny after which the European Commission will be notified of our intention.
Europol is an agency which aims to strengthen and facilitate cooperation in preventing serious crimes and combating organised crime, in particular where the crimes affect two or more EU member states.
The UK has been a member of the agency since its creation in 1998 and chose to opt-in in 2014 when the UK negotiated the right to choose which justice and home affairs matters to be part of.
A new opt-in decision is now required following changes to the legal framework to the agency.
Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Brandon Lewis said:
“The UK is leaving the EU but the reality of cross-border crime remains. Europol provides a valuable service to the UK and opting in would enable us to maintain our current access to the agency, until we leave the EU, helping keep the people of Britain safe. We now await the outcome of the scrutiny process.”
The revised Europol framework was first proposed on 27 March 2013 and was adopted on 11 May 2016. Revisions include giving a clear mandate to the EU Internet Referrals Unit which replicates the UK’s approach to tackling online terrorist propaganda and giving the existing European Cybercrime Centre a clear mandate as a “union [centre] of specialised expertise for combating certain types of crime”.
Now that the government has notified Parliament, the intention to opt-in will be scrutinised by the House of Commons and House of Lords EU scrutiny committee. The government will then notify the European Commission of its position.
The government is exploring options for cooperation with Europol once the UK has left the EU but it is too early to speculate at this stage what future arrangements may look like.