Monday, 29 May 2017

Clegg peddling nonsense?

The Tory propaganda machine has been swift to label Nick Clegg's warning about leaving the Schengen Information System as "peddling nonsense".

Say what you like about Nick Clegg (and I do believe he is an instinctual liberal), he does know something about the EU, having worked there for something over two years and been a MEP for five. So he is better qualified to speak about the institutions of the European Union than a gang who clearly believed you could leave the Union and retain all the rights of membership while sloughing off all the responsibilities.

From a background briefing from Nick Clegg's office:

  1. The second-generation Schengen Information System allows police forces to share real-time ‘alerts’ on suspects, vehicles, firearms, and other property. The system contains some 66 million reports, including information on 35,000 people wanted under a European Arrest Warrant, as well as alerts on suspected foreign fighters and missing people. It also plays an important role in counter-terrorism operations by allowing suspects under surveillance by intelligence agencies to be flagged on the system.
  2. SIS II alerts are made available to the police through the Police National Computer (PNC) and to Border Force officers at the immigration controls at our ports of entry. In the year ending 31 December 2016, a total of 19,355 people were stopped and questioned under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 at ports and airports in Great Britain. This is equivalent to 53 people a day. 
  3. The UK only gained access to SIS II in April 2015. Since then, it has rapidly become the second-largest user of the database. Much of the UK's access is automated: for example, suspect vehicles filmed on police Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras are checked electronically against the database. UK police and security services queried the database over half a billion times in 2016 - equivalent to 16 checks a second.
  4. Due to the sensitive nature of the data held on SIS II, access is limited to EEA countries that abide by the rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The ECJ is the guarantee that EU citizens’ data isn’t wrongly added to the system or misused as a result. Theresa May has insisted that the UK must leave the jurisdiction of the ECJ when we leave the EU. Unless this position changes, UK authorities will see their access to the database cut off on 29th March 2019.
  5. Since the UK connected to the new system in April 2015 these alerts have been available in real time to officers on the ground via the Police National Computer. Further details of the UK’s use of SIS II are here:
  6. Statistics on the use of SIS II across the EU are here:
  7. UK authorities queried the SIS II 513,349,896 times in 2016. This is the equivalent of 1,408,658 queries a day, 58,694 queries per hour, 978 queries per minute, or 16 queries per second.
  8. These UK queries generated alerts on 28,472 persons of interest along with 113,414 vehicles and 1,768 firearms.
  9. The UK is the second biggest user of SIS II after France. Across the whole of the EU, the system was queried almost 4 billion times in 2016.
  10. Julian King, the Conservative UK EU Commissioner for the Security Union, has described SIS II as “the biggest and best EU-wide law enforcement database we’ve got.”
  11. The European Commission has recently published proposals to strengthen SIS II in the wake of the Paris attacks by combining it with EU criminal records and fingerprint databases:

Paragraph 4 is surely the key rebuttal to the Conservatives' charges.

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