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UK to Continue Membership of Europol

The UK Government has announced its intention to opt-in to Regulation 2016/794 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union agency for law enforcement cooperation (Europol).

It explains that the new regulation gives a legal footing to the new framework for Europol and replicates much of the UK’s approach to the tackling of online terrorism propaganda and cybercrime.

About Europol

Europol is an agency which aims to strengthen and facilitate cooperation in preventing serious crimes and combating organised crime, in particular where the crimes affect two or more EU member states.

The UK has been a member of the agency since its creation in 1998 but a new opt-in decision was required following changes to the legal framework to the agency.

The UK Government has also said that it is looking into possible options for cooperation with Europol once the UK has left the EU, but it is too early to speculate at this stage what future arrangements may look like.

“The UK is leaving the EU but the reality of cross-border crime remains,” explained Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Brandon Lewis said. “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, helping keep the people of Britain safe. We now await the outcome of the scrutiny process.”

Scottish Government Welcomes the Decision

The Scottish Government has said that it welcomes the decision to retain Europol membership, highlighting that to do otherwise would have serious implications on the ability of police to share information, and could potentially impact on live operations.

In addition, the Scottish Government has said that access to the agency’s resources and collaboration must be maintained for the longer-term, as part of discussions on the implications of Brexit.

“Organised crime and terrorism do not respect borders and it is essential that Police Scotland can access the information systems, support and technical expertise available through Europol, not only to help make Scotland safe but also to contribute to making Europe more safe,” explained Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson.

“While we welcome this decision, it only provides a temporary solution and protects our participation in Europol only while we remain part of the EU,” he said. “In terms of the potential implications of the UK Brexit vote in the longer-term, membership of Europol and participation in the European Arrest Warrant and other key areas of justice co-operation remain at serious risk.”

“We must ensure that our law enforcement agencies can continue to have the same level of access to Europol as they currently enjoy,” he added. “This is critical to help them tackle organised crime and terrorism effectively and to keep our communities safe.”

Next Steps

The UK Government has notified Parliament of its decision, and the intention to opt-in will now be scrutinised by the House of Commons and House of Lords EU scrutiny committee. Once this has taken place, the European Commission will be formally notified of the UK’s position.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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