Transcript from PCC and my questions on post policing Brexit
Andrew Dismore AM: Cressida, could you give us your latest assessment of potential impact Brexit may have on policing and security in London?
Cressida Dick DBE QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis): We have discussed this many times over the last months. Our position has not changed. Clearly, there is a lot of negotiating going on at the moment and I am not privy to that negotiation and nor would I expect to be, but we will be in some different position after 31 December .
I will talk about it in three different ways. Firstly, we have been looking at our own resilience and our contingencies for that moment. We have been looking at all our supply chains and those kinds of things to ensure that we, the MPS, will be resilient whatever may happen going forward. I am pretty confident around that.
Secondly, we have been looking at whether we will need to assist any other police service potentially with any protests or any other issues at that time of year. We have a national way of working. Again, I am very confident that it is unlikely that there will be a big drain on the MPS either in London or in helping other colleagues at that point.
Thirdly, we have the impact that comes from the change in our security arrangements and legal opportunities.
On the one hand, further down the road no doubt, the fact that the nature of border checks will be different may create some greater security and some opportunities for us. Also, as you know, in an ideal world – and I do not know what we are going to retain – for us, we make very good use of our access to Europol and Eurojust. Clearly, we will be out of those but we may have a very constructive and positive relationship very quickly. We use the European Arrest Warrant repeatedly and at high volumes and for serious crime. It seems
slightly less likely that we will be able to do that in future and so there will be other arrangements put in place to parallel those. The issue of passenger name records is extremely important not least to counterterrorism policing and is unresolved at the moment. We are members of Prüm [Convention] and all countries benefit from the UK’s membership of Prüm, not least us, and the MPS is in the forefront of that. Of course, we can
look at criminal convictions and wanted missing people pretty automatically at the moment.
These are all things that in an ideal world we would want to retain because we are used to using them and they are helpful to us, but I cannot say which ones will go. What I can say is that for all of them we have been looking at what the alternative arrangements will be. As I have said before, in most instances they will be slower, they may be more costly and there will be an impact for us, but we will get on with it. I do not want people to think that this is a disastrously risky thing that is happening overall, but there will undoubtedly, I am sure, be some cases where people will say in January, February and March , “If we had the [European] Arrest Warrant or if we had access to that system, whatever it is that has gone, things might have been different”.
Andrew Dismore AM: Thanks for that. I do find it surprising that you – not you personally but the MPS generally – have not actually been involved in some of the background negotiations on what is going on. You have made your position pretty clear that you would like all these things to continue. Now we have only a matter of weeks – we have left the European Union (EU) – before the transition period is over and from what you are saying you still do not know which of these arrangements will still subsist after the end of the transition period, which I do find very surprising.
Are we in a position, with or without a deal, that come 31 December  you still will not know which of these we still have?
Cressida Dick DBE QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis): I have to say I am not sure when I – or any of us – will know what for definite we are going to have or not have. I am a police officer. I am not a politician. Clearly, security is only one aspect of all of the conversations and negotiations that need to take place.
What I would say is that I have had ample opportunity to brief and the National Police Chiefs’ Council has been at Select Committees. Richard Martin, our Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) who leads nationally, has been talking publicly and Lynne Owens [Director General, National Crime Agency] as well. We have made our points and we have been able to show how we use the different instruments and what we would do if we did
not have them. I am a police officer. I am not a politician.
Andrew Dismore AM: I am certainly not asking you to answer my questions as a politician. I am asking you to look at them as a senior police officer. It just seems to me strange that so close to the end of the transition period, you still do not know what we are going to have or not have. That is not a question as a politician. I am a politician. You are a police officer.
I am just asking. I think from what you are saying it is the case. Is it the case that you simply do not know what is going to be there? You may have hopes. You may have expectations of being able to have replacement arrangements, but if they are not negotiated by 31 December , we will be going into the new year without anything in place until something can be put in place to replace them.
Cressida Dick DBE QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis): Some of them – we can all guess – are more likely than others, probably, but I do not know. That is why we have been building up our ability to do all the parallel things and also influencing, I hope effectively, in Government the policymakers as to how those would need to be enabled in law or in further negotiations with either member states or the EU in the future. It is an ongoing dialogue and we will not know until we know.
Andrew Dismore AM: Yes, but I just find that incredible. You have had to make contingency arrangements for deal or no deal and for something in between when you do not know what is going to come out the other end, which must have taken up an awful lot of officer time and money to do. That must be self-evident. It does worry me that potentially we are heading for the new year without you knowing what powers you are going to have.
Can we go on to another contingency point as well? You did raise the point about borders and so forth. Has any work gone into planning for potential abstractions of officers to help out at borders and ports in the event of no agreement being reached?
Cressida Dick DBE QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis): Over the last 18 months, we have been talking with national policing about who would release what units in what circumstances. That is true for a whole variety of different operational scenarios, of which this is just one. As I said, I am pretty confident that it is not a likely scenario that I would be having to release large volumes of people to other forces as a result of our exit from the EU.
Andrew Dismore AM: That would include the Border Force, presumably, who are not police officers?
Cressida Dick DBE QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis): We will not be supporting the Border Force ourselves and we will not be substituting for the Border Force. The Border Force has built up quite a large force. We have an arrangement where we can go and assist as required. It is one of the strengths of British policing that we have the same radio system, same command and control, same ethos, same discipline and guidance. In extremis we will go, but my job as Commissioner is to make sure that we look after London whilst being collaborative with other forces. On occasions they come and help us and sometimes we go and help them for big operations or surprise events. With this, we are not going to be releasing large numbers of officers.
Andrew Dismore AM: The last point I want to put to you before I come to Sophie [Linden] is this. We saw the UK terror threat alert being raised to ‘severe’ only a few days ago. That is now happening in a context where you do not really know what information you are going to be able to get out of the EU come the new year. That sounds to me an incredibly dangerous scenario for us to be in. Maybe that is a question I should put to Sophie rather than you, Cressida.
Cressida Dick DBE QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis): These are important tools, but it is worth remembering of course that the Government and within the Government the intelligence agencies are not dependent on all of these in the same way that we are. It is also worth knowing – I have said this before – that counterterrorism policing and indeed the MPS have extremely good bilateral relationships with our counterparts in the European countries, all of whom are very eager to work together and be highly
collaborative. We will work within whatever the legal framework then is, but I am pretty confident that our ability to, for example, in a high-threat situation work very well with our colleagues overseas will not be diminished significantly.
Andrew Dismore AM: Can I come to you, Sophie? I do not know if you will agree with me, but it does seem to me absolutely bizarre that here we are a matter of weeks from the end of the transition period and we still do not know what powers and arrangements we are going to have with our European counterparts to deal with crime, information exchange, terrorism and so forth. It just seems to me absolutely appalling. Perhaps you could let us know what efforts the Mayor and you on his behalf have been making with the Government to bring this home on what prospects there are of having a deal on policing and security by 31 December  even if there is no deal on trade.
Sophie Linden (Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime): I could not agree with you more. It is incredibly worrying the thought that as at 31 December  we could go out of the EU and not have the right arrangements and the right deals in place around security. I do not know any more than you do about how efficient the negotiations are, how prioritised security is and what the Government is actually asking for. I really worry because the European Arrest Warrant is very unlikely to be maintained because of the link to the
European Courts of Justice and we know that that is one of the red lines. The amount of data and information sharing in the systems that we share with Europe that automatically happen is incredible and really important. If you pick somebody up on the street in London and you run that name through the right database, you will know whether they are wanted in other parts of the EU. Not being able to do that is going to pose a risk to our communities and to London and it is incredibly worrying.
The Mayor has written again to the Government around what is happening around security and Brexit and has been very clear around the threat and the risks that we are heading full speed towards and asking for assurances around that. As far as I am aware, we have not had any response back to that. Really quickly – sorry, Unmesh, I know you are trying to move on – and to be really clear, alternative arrangements can be put in place. Those bilateral agreements can be put in place, but they take a long time. The words of the Commissioner and other senior police officers have used before are that they are incredibly clunky. They will take days and weeks and months to use, compared to things like the European Arrest
Warrant, which on average takes about 48 days, I think, to use. It also costs money. The estimate for the amount of resources and funding that are going to have to be put in place if we do just crash out of any security deals is around £22 million across all forces to put in place the arrangements and the officers who can make their way and use the much more lengthy, clunky ways of getting some information, probably only about the really high-risk individuals, out of the EU because we will not have that ability to do it. It