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Researchers find justice and security vulnerabilities in a hard Brexit scenario

A new study analysing the existing justice and security cooperation between the UK and the EU has found that any Brexit-related disruption to police cooperation could have serious consequences.


The report, entitled: ‘Evolving Justice Arrangements Post-Brexit’, was commissioned by the Joint Committee of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), and carried out by academics from Queen’s University, the University of Glasgow, and the University of Strathclyde.

The research focuses on justice and security cooperation measures across five areas including the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), policing and prosecution cooperation, and data sharing tools such as the European Criminal Records Information System and Passenger Name Records. The report has a particular focus on the human rights implications of potential changes in justice arrangements.

Should the UK leave without a deal, the report found that there will be immediate consequences for the ability of the UK to participate in EU-led justice and security measures, while the EU Withdrawal Agreement at least makes provision for a transitional period.

Speaking about the findings Dr Amanda Kramer, Lecturer from the School of Law at Queen’s and co-author of the report explains: “In terms of ensuring the most effective systems of justice and security in the UK, arrangements as close to those currently in place under EU membership must be negotiated. However, a number of the positions taken by the UK in the negotiations (such as removing the jurisdiction to the Court of Justice of the EU and the European Charter) make this increasingly unlikely.

“In the context of globalisation, where crime is increasingly become a cross-border issue, this will have real implications for the whole of the UK to be able to keep people safe within its borders. These issues are even more acute in the context of Northern Ireland because of the history of this place and the border with the Republic of Ireland. A no-deal exit scenario would have particularly severe consequences for policing and criminal justice and the ability to cooperate with the Republic of Ireland on these matters.”

The research team interviewed experts directly involved in policing and post-Brexit justice arrangements. They found that Brexit fallback options will lead to inefficiency and ineffectiveness, bringing negative impacts and outcomes for victims and witnesses of crime, as well as hampering efforts of those who seek to defend against criminal activity.

Some of the recommendations from the report include:

  1. Because of the interconnectedness of EU measures in the area of justice and security, it is strongly recommended that any future arrangement should aim to be as comprehensive as possible and cover judicial and police cooperation as well as any data sharing arrangements.
  2. The UK and the EU should secure continued policing and prosecutorial cooperation.
  3. The UK and the EU should secure the continuation of data-sharing arrangements.
  4. The approach must encompass a strong commitment to the protection of human rights.
  5. Any evolving justice and police cooperation system requires an independent judicial oversight mechanism with adjudicative powers to ensure effective protection and enforceability of human rights.

Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission stated: “The research findings mirror what has recently been said by senior police officers in Northern Ireland, namely, that a disorderly Brexit will have significant detrimental policing and criminal justice implications. The new UK Government has said very little about how these issues will be managed in a no-deal situation, and how existing rights, safeguards, oversight and accountability will be maintained. We should not be playing fast and loose with these issues.”

Emily Logan Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated: “While seemingly absent from public discussion on Brexit, the significance of UK-EU justice and security cooperation and the threats from it breaking down cannot be ignored considering the needs of victims of crime, witnesses of crime and the efforts of police services to safeguard people.  This research brought forward by the Joint Committee makes it clear that if we are to have functioning justice cooperation post Brexit, ensuring common adherence to human rights standards is essential.”

The full report is available from the IHREC website:


Dr Amanda Kramer
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