Nick Clegg has accused Theresa May of putting national security at risk by pursuing an extreme Brexit that will see Britain locked out of an EU police database used by UK police and security services 16 times a second.
The Schengen Information System (SIS II) is an EU-wide database on organised criminal and terrorist suspects across 28 countries, including 35,000 people wanted under a European Arrest Warrant. It includes alerts on suspected ‘foreign fighters’ – people who have travelled to Syria and elsewhere to fight for ISIS.
- UK police and security services queried the database over half a billion times in 2016 – equivalent to 16 checks a second.
- 53 people are detained and questioned under anti-terrorism laws at ports and airports every day, where they can be checked against the database by UK Border Force officers.
- In April 2016, the UK received 25 hits on alerts issued by other participating countries in relation to individuals who could pose a risk to national security.
- The UK would lose access to the database under Theresa May’s plans to leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Unless this position changes, UK authorities will see their access to the database cut off on 29th March 2019.
Nick Clegg has challenged Theresa May to answer three vital questions:
- How will we maintain access to SIS II without accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice?
- What contingency plans has she put in place to mitigate the loss of this information on the movement of terrorist suspects across the continent?
- How will we issue instructions to other EU countries to stop and question terror suspects if we are no longer part of this system?
Nick Clegg commented:
“Theresa May’s extreme approach to Brexit will have the direct consequence of severing our ties to a fantastically useful weapon in our armoury against terrorism. By refusing to accept a role for the European Court of Justice in policing this European-wide database, she has ruled out our future participation it. “
“It is hard to overstate the importance of this database. We check it 16 times a second, looking for security threats that have been flagged to us by other European countries. And we use it to tell other countries to stop and question people who we think are potential terrorists. This is euroscepticism gone mad. If she fails to back down, Theresa May’s approach to Brexit poses a direct threat to our national security.”