Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has welcomed the UK government’s announcement that it will sign up to a revised Europol co-operation framework in order to preserve membership of the European law enforcement agency beyond next April.
Mr Matheson, who met Europol chiefs in The Hague in September, had written to the Home Secretary urging the UK government to opt-in to the new Europol regulation before the deadline at the end of December.
Failure to do so would mean the UK was no longer a Europol member from May 2017 with serious implications for the ability of police to share information, and potentially impacting on live operations.
Beyond the immediate retention of Europol membership, Mr Matheson said it was critical that access to the agency’s resources and collaboration be maintained for the longer-term, as part of discussions on the implications of Brexit.
Mr Matheson said: “I’m very pleased that the UK government has now agreed to opt in to the new Europol regulation as this will give Police Scotland and their law enforcement partners some comfort in the short-term at least.
“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.
“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. 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.”