No-deal Brexit: Met Police preparing for disorder at ports if UK crashes out of EU, Cressida Dick admits
Scotland Yard chief admits to concerns around ports in Kent and other parts of the UK
The head of Scotland Yard said her force was also bracing for the loss of key European data systems that are “very important” for keeping London safe.
She said that the police were conducting careful, calm and sober contingency planning for eventualities, particularly relating to ports in Kent as well as in other parts of the UK. "Is there going to be protests, is there going to be disorder?” she asked, while addressing delegates at the Police Superintendents' Association conference in Leicester.
“At the moment in planning terms it’s a long-way off because there are so many uncertainties that could happen.”
Her comments came after a leaked document prepared by the National Police Coordination Centre revealed the “real possibility” of police calling on the military to help with civil disorder caused by a no-deal Brexit.
It warned of traffic queues at ports and said concerns around medical supplies could “feed civil disorder”, while a rise in the price of goods could also lead to “widespread protest” and trigger crimes such as theft.
Ms Dick raised additional concerns over the potential loss of access to EU systems including the European Arrest Warrant, Europol and databases containing information on criminals and terrorists entering the UK.
“At any one time in my custody suites I will have 35, 40 per cent foreign nationals, over half EU citizens and a huge chunk would have travelled through Europe,” she explained.
“The systems we have instant, automated, quick access to are very important for keeping London safe ... the reality is that, as laid out in the government’s security paper, these are very important instruments for us and if we don’t have them, whatever else we have won’t be as good and we need to make them work as quickly as we can.”
The Home Office has said it does not “want or expect a no-deal scenario” and is confident that the EU will accept a proposed security treaty that would allow continued British access to Europol, the Schengen Information System, the European Arrest Warrant and other measures.
“However, it is the duty of any responsible government to prepare for every eventuality, including the unlikely scenario that we reach March 2019 without agreeing a deal,” a spokesperson added.
“With that in mind, we are working closely with operational partners – including the police – on contingency planning so we can ensure the safety and security of our citizens in all scenarios.”
Almost 800,000 people have signed The Independent‘s petition for a final say referendum on the Brexit deal struck with the EU, which has been supported by politicians from all parties.
Contingency planning for Brexit has added to the strain police forces are already under amid a rise in the terror threat and violent crime, and the loss of 44,000 officers and staff driven by a 30 per cent cut in government funding since 2010.
A report released on Monday by the National Audit Office (NAO) warned of falling arrest rates and victim satisfaction levels.
It said that the Home Office’s “light touch” approach means it does not know if the police system is financially sustainable.
Sir Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “There are signs that forces are already experiencing financial strain and struggling to deliver effective services to the public.
”If the Home Office does not understand what is going on it will not be able to direct resources to where they are needed, with the risk that the situation could get worse.”
While no police force has failed financially, the report highlighted indications that the sector as a whole is ”finding it increasingly difficult to deliver an effective service”.
Ms Dick said the Met was among forces that called for a 3 per cent pay rise for officers, which was rejected by the government in its most recent settlement.
“The government chose to ignore the recommendations of the Police Remuneration Review Body and chose instead to impose 2 per cent,” she added.
“That feels like 1 per cent of our officers and I am extremely disappointed by that outcome.”
Pointing out that police officers were unable to strike, the Commissioner said the government had an “obligation to respect the carefully developed arguments of the pay body”, adding: “I am sorry to say i think that decision will have affected morale and recruitment, and it will perhaps affect retention... I’m disappointed with the decision and I feel it is a punch on the nose.”
A survey by the Police Federation, which represents more than 100,000 rank-and-file officers, recently found a record number of officers were taking second jobs to supplement their “insulting” wages.
The government has championed its frontline policing review, but it does not cover pay or demand.
Nick Hurd, the policing minister, told the conference the Home Office was in a “critical stage of negotiations with the Treasury” to increase police funding in the upcoming government-wide pay review.
Ms Dick stopped short of saying government funding cuts had caused a rise in recorded crime across England and Wales, but said it “was part of it”.
The Metropolitan Police is among forces that has introduced an “assessment policy” for crimes, allowing officers to stop investigations for lower-level offences where there is little prospect of conviction.
The Police Federation said the changes meant forces were “failing the public” as a direct consequence of government cuts.