UK to remain in Europol for now
By Eric Maurice
The British government has decided to opt in to a new regulation for Europol, ensuring it will still be part of the EU police agency after May 2017 despite negotiating UK's EU exit.
"The UK is leaving the EU but the reality of cross-border crime remains," minister for policing Brandon Lewis told MPs on Monday (14 November), while announcing the government's decision.
He said that "Europol provides a valuable service to the UK and opting in would enable us to maintain our current access to the agency, until we leave the EU."
Britain had until the end of the year to choose whether to opt in to the new regulation, which will enter into force on 1 May 2017.
The regulation, which was adopted earlier this year, gives new powers to Europol in the fight against cross-border crime, terrorism, and cybercrime. it makes it easier for the agency to set up specialised units and to serve as a hub for EU national agencies.
In return, the new rules strengthen data protection safeguards and give more oversight powers to European and national parliaments.
Britain, which has been a member of Europol since the agency was created in 1998, does not participate in all EU home affairs schemes, like the passport-free Schengen area. Europol's new rules mean that Britain must opt in to remain part of it.
“‘Opt in' means UK will remain full member of @Europol after revised regs take effect May 2017 and until Brexit. Important decision," the agency's chief Rob Wainwright said on Twitter.
Last week, Scotland's chief prosecutor James Woolfe warned that leaving Europol would "diminish the safety and security of our citizens."
"The threat posed, today, by transnational criminality is surely too urgent and real for us to contemplate any weakening of our commitment to police and judicial co-operation with our colleagues in Europe," he wrote in an article published on the Euractiv news website.