A police chief has hit out after being “gagged” to try and stop him from warning people in North Wales about the threat to law and order caused by the Brexit chaos.
The region’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Arfon Jones, says the National Police and Crime Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners has issued what amounts to a gagging order to the country’s 41 police and crime commissioners.
The latest information from the National Police Chiefs Council and APCC about policing contingency arrangements for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit are marked ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ and a warning that they are not to be shared more widely.
Mr Jones, a former police Inspector, said: “I believe that if there is anything that increases the risk of security issues then the public deserve and need to know.
“Unfortunately the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners are very much like the Home Office in that they like to try and put a security classification on this information.
“In my view it amounts to a gagging order but we have been elected and we are under an obligation to tell people what’s going on in terms of crime and policing.
“It is certain that whatever is put in place of our existing arrangements with the rest of Europe will be slower, more cumbersome and more bureaucratic and while I don’t think this will come as a huge surprise to anyone it does bear repeating.
“It’s one reason I would support the call by Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts for a People’s Vote on Brexit now that we know more about the effects it will have.”
Mr Jones’s North Wales region includes the UK’s second biggest roll-on/roll-off ferry port in Holyhead which deals with huge movements of people and goods with the Republic of Ireland.
He fears that security there could be seriously compromised by a hard Brexit which would mean that after March 29 next year the UK could be frozen out of up to 32 of the shared services currently used to target criminals across Europe.
Among them are ECRIS, the European Criminal Record Information Service used 539 million times by British police last year, Europol, the European Union law enforcement agency, and the European Arrest Warrant.
Mr Jones said he intends to ask for the publication of planning documents agreed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council on mitigating the effects of a no-deal Brexit and a report on the visit of Lord Willy Bach, the Labour peer and Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner, to Brussels to discuss future policing concerns with European Union officials.
The NPCC has set up a 50-person unit to determine how to replace current European policing systems and another team is looking at the pressures on policing a hard Brexit might create.
Mr Jones added: “When we speak to Europeans about Brexit they are very worried because the UK is a big player in terms of European policing and if we crash out of Europe we will crash out of its safeguards against organised crime and terrorism.
“All these important tools we currently use for security and policing are now at risk and could soon be denied to our police forces and the public deserve to know what is being done to replace them.
“Brexit risks putting the UK and North Wales in jeopardy. Our co-operation with the rest of Europe is used to help North Wales Police guard against terrorism, serious organised crime including modern slavery and human and drugs trafficking.
“A hard Brexit will mean starting from scratch, negotiating individually with each country and using instruments that we currently use for countries outside the EU and that will mean extradition will be slower and more difficult, and criminals will evade justice and will find it easier to operate in the UK.”