08:41 GMT21 September 2020
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    Britain left the European Union on 31 January but UK and EU officials are still negotiating about trade and other matters post-Brexit. One of the issues up for discussion is how much access UK law enforcement agencies will have to EU-wide databases.

    British police forces may have difficulty accessing Europol databases because the German government is playing hardball, according to a report in The Guardian.

    The Guardian says it has seen a German government document which says Britain is seeking to have same access to the EU’s law enforcement agency as the 27 members of the bloc.

    The report says Britain wants to “approximate the position of a member state as closely as possible.”

    ​But the Germans say continued access to Europol’s central intelligence database (EIS) was “not possible.”

    Face-to-face talks between the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Britain’s chief negotiator, David Frost, ended when the coronavirus outbreak hit Europe but video conferencing calls have resumed this week.

    Although the trade talks are at the top of the agenda, British law enforcement including the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism command and MI5, are pressuring the UK government to allow them to continue to access EIS and the  Schengen Information System (SIS), a database used by European border control agencies.

    ​In February 2019, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for Brexit, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, said he was very concerned about Britain being shut out of SIS.

    He said British police officers made 539 million checks a year on SIS and without access to it they might release arrested people, oblivious to warrants which were outstanding for them in EU countries such as France, Poland and the Republic of Ireland.

    "Crime is by its nature borderless….organised criminals are entrepreneurs of crime…and if there is a gap to exploit I'm sure they would," said Mr Martin.

    Christian Petry, German Social Democratic Party’s European affairs spokesman, told The Guardian that allowing the British to access the database after they had left the bloc would be a "fatal precedent" and he said it was ironic that Brexiteers who had complained the EU was "undemocratic" now wanted to dictate to the bloc despite not being a member.   

    A Home Office spokesman told The Guardian: "The safety and security of our citizens is the government’s top priority and we are working closely with the European Union to reach an agreement on law enforcement and criminal justice cooperation in criminal matters that works for both of us."

    Brexit, David Frost, Michel Barnier, Europol
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