My Lords, I have been asked to contribute to this debate with regard to the law and order impact of the decision by the British people to leave the European Union. I make it clear from the outset that I want to be positive and helpful in pointing out the areas where I believe the Government need to focus. I do not believe in Project Fear, and my record shows that I never did—but, for the record, I supported and voted for the UK remaining in the European Union.
My understanding with regard to the exchange of highly sensitive intelligence relevant to national security and the combating of terrorism is that it tends to be shared on a bilateral basis with some of our European partners and not others. I see no serious impact on those bilateral arrangements as a result of us leaving the EU. But the same cannot be said with any degree of certainty about the sharing of other intelligence in relation to serious and cross-border crime, the operation of the European arrest warrant and the operation of Europol. For example, until recently, the UK Government decided not to participate in the Prüm Decisions. This EU agreement allows member countries to rapidly match unlimited numbers of fingerprints and DNA profiles found at crime scenes with databases held by other member countries and to check foreign vehicle registration plates. Although we have agreed to participate now, there is at least a two-year lead time. The recent decision to join in this initiative is now in jeopardy unless the Government can make alternative arrangements. There are existing routes to carry out these checks through Interpol, but these take weeks and sometimes months instead of seconds—or, at the most, 24 hours—using Prüm. Will the Minister ask the relevant team how we might secure the advantages of participating in Prüm despite leaving the EU?
No doubt the Government might say, as the noble Lord, Lord Howard, said this afternoon, that it would be in the interests of both the UK and EU member states for such co-operation to continue. Conversely, EU member states may argue that we should not be able to enjoy all the benefits of EU membership without being a member.