This written ministerial statement was laid in the House of Commons by James Brokenshire and in the House of Lords by Lord Taylor of Holbeach.
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Security (James Brokenshire): The government has decided at this time not to opt in to the European Commission’s proposal for a Europol regulation which would establish the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation and Training. The government will however seek to opt in to the regulation post adoption provided that Europol is not given the power to direct national law enforcement agencies to initiate investigations or share data that conflicts with national security.
The Commission has a number of objectives in this proposal: to update the law on the European Police Office (Europol) and the European Police College (CEPOL) following the Lisbon Treaty and to create cost savings by merging both the agencies; as well as to strengthen Europol’s role in the exchange and analysis of information on cross-border crime through increased obligations.
The government values UK membership of Europol as currently established. The ability to access law enforcement intelligence directly from all other EU member states means UK law enforcement can significantly increase its intelligence yield and is effectively supported in the fight against organised crime and terrorism.
However, having analysed the draft proposal from the Commission the government has identified two very serious concerns with the proposal which would fundamentally change the relationship between Europol and member states.
Firstly, there is an increased obligation to provide data. In the proposal member states are not exempt from providing data, even where it would conflict with national security, endanger ongoing investigations or an individual’s safety. This conflicts with the national interest.
Secondly, whilst Europol can already request a member state to initiate an investigation, this proposal goes much further and includes an obligation to provide a reason if no such operation is conducted. Any reasons provided would be subject to challenge before the European Court of Justice. This creates a risk that the European courts could dictate what national law enforcement agencies should prioritise. This interferes with operational independence which is at the heart of UK policing.
We will remain a full and active participant in negotiations on the regulation and are committed to seeking to opt in post adoption provided that the above two concerns are met in the final text.