The hon. and learned Lady is absolutely right. I agree with her that this simply is not good enough.
Although Europol has arrangements for third-party access, they raise serious questions. The Government stated in a policy paper that was published last year:
“There are a number of important differences between what Europol provides to third country operational cooperation partners with which it has agreements, and EU members”.
In particular, they highlighted the inability directly to submit data and conduct searches within the Europol databases, the need to conclude a separate bilateral arrangement to connect to Europol’s secure information exchange network application, and the inability to sit on Europol’s management board, which sets the organisation’s strategy. That tells us that Mr Wainwright is highly unlikely to stay in his post. In summary, to borrow the words of David Armond, deputy director general of the National Crime Agency, any alternative arrangement to full membership would be
“sub-optimal, not as good as what we’ve currently got”.
Frankly, that does not feel comfortable to me.
Our third concern is about access to pan-European databases, which are important for the routine work of our police forces. Let me give some examples. Access to European criminal records data—the European criminal records information system—is limited exclusively to EU member states. The common European asylum system includes a fingerprint database known as Eurodac that prevents individuals from reapplying for asylum once a claim has been rejected. We currently have access to the Schengen information system, despite not being a member of Schengen, and that contains information on lost identity documents and, importantly, wanted persons.
The Minister’s permanent secretary stated in his foreword to the Home Office’s most recent annual report that strengthening data exchanges with our European allies was essential to combating terrorism. I would be grateful to the Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union, if he confirmed whether we will still have access to these databases outside the European Union and, if so, whether that access will come at a financial cost.