Brexit a 'rallying cry' for dissident republicans, says senior PSNI officer

Brexit provides dissident republicans with a “rallying cry” in their bid to perpetuate the severe threat they pose to security services in the North, a senior PSNI officer has said.

Brexit a 'rallying cry' for dissident republicans, says senior PSNI officer

Brexit provides dissident republicans with a “rallying cry” in their bid to perpetuate the severe threat they pose to security services in the North, a senior PSNI officer has said.

Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke said the potential for terrorist attacks post-Brexit could depend on any possible changes, such as any new infrastructure, that may be set up.

He told a British House of Commons committee that following the departure from the EU, the PSNI would no longer be able to use tools such as the European Arrest Warrant.

He said this was a “direct and swift” system for arresting people wanted in the North who are residing elsewhere in the EU.

The police chief said that the PSNI would have to rely on 1957 and 1959 international conventions on extradition, which were “slower and more clunky”.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has repeatedly raised concerns over the loss of the EAW. The Garda head of Security & Intelligence, Assistant Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan, said last week that the new extradition system would be “more complex”.

Mr Clarke told the House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee that it was important to remember that the threat from violent dissident republican groups was already at “severe”.

“These groups have been operating at a severe threat level for nine years, ten years, so that level of threat is not new,” he said adding that “Brexit as a generality” could become a tool on which dissidents would “hang” their cause.

“It can provide an opportunity to perhaps have a clarion call or a rallying cry”, he said.

Mr Clarke said the dissident groups pose a “very significant and very dangerous threat” but that the PSNI had enjoyed “considerable success” against them.

Returning to the impact of Brexit on them, he said: “There is potential for opportunities to exist for them to carry out their terrorist crime and activities, depending on what infrastructure, for example, would look like.”

Questioned on policing the border after Brexit, he said: “We police communities, not the border.”

But he said the PSNI had secured from the British Government an additional £16million to recruit a little over 300 additional officers – adding that that was in the context of a Brexit deal.

He said that around 200 of those had gone into neighbourhood policing, many of them in the five border districts in a bid to reassure local communities.

Mr Clarke said the PSNI now had a strength of 6,900, but said Chief Constable Simon Byrne wanted to bring that to 7,500.

Asked if smuggling would rise after Brexit, he said it would depend on the differences between tariffs.

The President of the Ulster Farmers' Union, Ivor Ferguson, told the committee a No Deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for farming and agri-business and have a “detrimental” impact on the Northern Ireland economy.

Brexit Timeline

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith

  • Tuesday, October 8: Tánaiste Simon Coveney meets the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.
  • Thursday, October 10: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British prime minister Boris Johnson hold a three hour private meeting in Cheshire, England. Afterwards, they release a rare joint statement saying there is a "pathway" to a deal.
  • Friday, October 11: Leaks confirm this "pathway" has been trodden on before, and has an uncanny resemblance to Mr Johnson's predecessor Theresa May's 2017 deal. Under the proposals, Northern Ireland would leave the EU with the UK but would continue implementing EU customs rules, creating an Irish sea EU border and preventing a hard Irish border. Stormont could also be given a "consent" vote.
  • Sunday, October 13: EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says the Northern Ireland plan may be unworkable. The DUP rejects the existing deal.
  • Monday, October 14: Intense EU-UK talks continue during the EU general affairs council and foreign affairs council in Luxembourg, with informed speculation indicating an emergency EU summit will be needed next week as a deal is unlikely this week.
  • Tuesday, October 15: Mr Coveney and Mr Barnier mirror the deadline concerns in the morning. However, by late afternoon, sources suggest a deal could be struck early on Wednesday.
  • Tomorrow, Wednesday October 16: Mr Barnier will brief EU member state ambassadors on whether a deal can be agreed at this week's EU summit.
  • Thursday, October 17-Friday, October 18: EU leaders including Mr Varadkar and Mr Johnson will attend the latest Brussels EU summit. If a deal is ready, they will consider signing off on it. If a deal is not ready, they will discuss a potential emergency EU summit and whether to allow a "technical extension" of a few days.
  • Saturday, October 19: Mr Johnson will attend a potential weekend House of Commons sitting to sign off on a deal. If he cannot produce a deal, he will be legally obliged to seek an extension to the October 31 Brexit deadline - provided he complies with British law.

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