Dr Farry was speaking after a speech by Prime Minister Theresa May to the Munich Security Conference, in which she asked for a UK-EU security arrangement to replicate existing ones. Dr Farry said anything less than full EU membership would deliver a weaker form of co-operation.
“This was at least a change in tone from the Prime Minister, and there is an acknowledgement the UK has no alternative but to seek as much continuity as possible in relation to policing, justice and security arrangements such as Europol, the European Arrest Warrant and the Schengen Information System.
“The difficulty is anything short of full of membership of the EU is going to provide a sub-optimal and qualitatively different outcome. Even if the UK secured the most advanced ‘third country’ arrangements, these would not be as integrated as the current situation. There is no effective precedent for this, and even the level of security co-operation with existing non-EU states is weaker than the comparative level of economic integration. There are major challenges around legal frameworks, data-sharing, and adjudication to be overcome, and questions to what extent the UK would be able to keep up with new mechanisms of co-operation.
“Ongoing policing, justice and security co-operation is critically important to Northern Ireland. Sadly, there remains serious terrorist and organised crime challenges to be addressed. Significant co-operation on the island of Ireland has been facilitated by European arrangements. Any effort to replicate these poses the risks of gaps in coverage emerging.
“While the Brexit debate understandably focuses on economic risks and consequences, and the potential for an economic border in Ireland, greater attention needs to be applied to problems including security.”