UK Access to SIS Won’t End with Brexit, Former Police Authority Claims

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Brexit has thrown a lot of the UK’s international arrangement into disarray, but its access to SIS won’t be one of them, a former UK police authority claims. Why would such access be called into question? Aside from the termination of the UK’s 47-year-old membership in the European Union, there is also the case of the UK’s illegal data copying from Schengen Information System servers.

These two factors combined might make the Europeans less inclined to let their neighbors across the channel have access to SIS and the implications for criminal prosecution and information sharing are dire indeed. But a Counter-terrorism expert and senior research fellow at Leeds Beckett University, David Lowe, disagrees.

He said the following about the UK’s access to SIS, “It’s a two-way street. We have used the European Arrest Warrant and assisted them and we have passed over a lot of intelligence. In 2018 there were at least three terrorist plots which the UK found and passed over to France. It’s mutually beneficial. Organized crime and terrorists do not recognize geographical boundaries. Traffickers operate across Europe and criminals can jump on a Eurostar. We are still in Europe, just not in the EU.”

The basic argument is that the UK would be a less safe place to live without access to SIS, but that the EU would be as well. The dual benefit provided by the information sharing SIS provides is one reason Lowe sees compromise as the way of the future rather than the disconnect and siloing of resources. Even so, there are some vocal members of the Schengen zone that do not want the UK to have any kind of connection whatsoever with the SIS database and reasons for this range from Brexit to suspicions about the UK’s close relationship with the United States when it comes to intelligence sharing of any kind.

The major concern expressed by members of the European Union is that some kind of abuse of the database and its information will happen again in the future – a situation EU members find intolerable. There is a range of vulnerabilities attached to allowing that kind of action to continue and there are the continued concerns and uncertainties about what the UK outside of the EU might bring.

A classified 29-page report released last year revealed the extent and methodology behind the alleged abuses with the most egregious amounting to wholesale copying of data and transfer to British servers. This report also details that private contractors in the UK and those from the US had access to this information.

As a collective database of information shared between EU member states, the SIS likely will exclude the UK in the future as a matter of protocol. After all, the UK’s vehemence on setting its own terms in every other area of international relations may just ensure that SIS access goes the way of numerous regulatory regimes and trade arrangements in the new post-Brexit world.

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