Less than two weeks before Brexit Day on 31 December, an influential group of MPs expressed significant concern about the country’s readiness to leave the EU.
Criticizing the lack of “overall preparedness” for trade and citizens, the Commons’ Brexit Select Committee called on the government to have a strong contingency plan in place over the next fortnight to deal with the consequences.
Many details about the new trade and travel barriers have only just begun to sink. Nothing will be published until Sunday and Sunday’s deadline until the UK and the EU are able to hammer out an agreement.
The committee warns that borders must not be compromised unless there is an agreement on policing that ensures uninterrupted access to law enforcement equipment, including European arrest warrants.
Hillary Benn, chair of the committee, said: “There are significant concerns in just seven working days until the end of the transition.
The warning came in a report released on Saturday as Downing Street and Brussels continued to try to reach a stalemate over fishing in line with the European Parliament’s deadline.
“At this last stage, the government must be ready to implement the necessary contingency plan to mitigate the effects of any disruption. Failure to do so could mean the worst start to the new year for many people and businesses who are already experiencing extreme hardship most of the time, ”the report said.
“The government still can’t convince businessmen, traders and citizens what will happen in all cases affected by the negotiations,” Ben said.
The report further states that the decisions were made “too late”, that communication with businesses was “the worst” and that police could be forced to use “slower and more complex” systems.
The cross-party committee, which unanimously backed the report, warned that a combination of Brexit uncertainty and Covid-19 could disrupt UK business.
Provisions to ensure the UK border is “safe and secure” must be enforced, and ministers must carefully monitor the effectiveness of alternative ways of sharing intelligence in law enforcement, the report said.
If the UK crashes without an agreement, it will lose access not only to the system of joint arrests, but also to four other systems: record significant passenger numbers in counter-terrorism operations; Schengen Information Systems II Database of Missing Persons and Stolen Products; Fingerprinting and DNA records in a system called Prime; And the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), which holds criminal records across the block.
Prior to being linked to the Prime DNA structure, where there are millions of records against criminal suspects, the UK’s National Crime Agency used to manually exchange data.
The government has said it will still be able to co-operate with EU security and police partners using Interpol and other forums.
But police representatives say the options will put the UK in a weaker position.
Although the exact nature of future cooperation with the EU on law enforcement remains unclear, there should be no compromise on UK security and safety, lawmakers said.
They acknowledge that UK law enforcement agencies have been working hard to develop alternatives to EU databases, but warned that “data backback systems are slower and more complex”.
They said they were urging the “government” to open a EU-UK extradition treaty in time to replace the European arrest warrant and to open talks with the Irish government on bilateral policing arrangements on the island of Ireland.
MPs praised the government for taking adequate decisions in three phases between January and July on tariff and regulatory control and the recent agreement to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol.
They, however, called on Westminster to work with erroneous governments to “reduce traffic congestion” near British ports, citing a lack of veterinary officers to provide health certificates for food and animal products for export to the European Union from 1 January.
Decisions about the border model are complex but “too late” and make it difficult to train and test the “late delivery” of IT systems for tariffs. Lawmakers warned that a sufficient number of tariffs and veterinary staff could hamper trade with the EU for conducting checks and not giving advice.