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The United Kingdom’s laws on the financing of terrorism
fall under United Nation’s Security Council resolutions.
The United Kingdom is signed up to other international
conventions that pertain to terrorism, including the
Vienna Convention, the Palermo Convention, the United
Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and
the International Convention for the Suppression of the
Financing of Terrorism, so United Kingdom law is bound
by these requirements. The United Nations is not the only
intergovernmental organisation with a strong commitment
to identifying money that funds terrorism. The FATF also
develops policies in this area, which bind the United
Kingdom and most EU member states equally, regardless of
the United Kingdom’s relationship with Europe.
When the United Kingdom repeals the European
Communities Act 1972, new laws will need to be passed to
fill any legislative gaps that have opened up. This might lead
some people to worry that there will be a period in which
the United Kingdom is legislatively paralysed, and unable
to take action in some areas. But under United Kingdom
law, where there are terrorist concerns, authorities can
designate financial sanctions targets, and apply export and
other controls to goods of any description. So, there should
not be any window in which the United Kingdom has less
power to act on suspected inflow and outflow of money
related to terrorism.
An uncertain future
With the referendum having been so keenly contested by
rival politicians, it can be difficult to work out what will be
the actual impact of Brexit on the United Kingdom’s ability
to combat financial crime. Futhermore, many details of how
Brexit would look in practice will only become clear once
negotiations with the EU are complete.
Although there are specific EU policies against financial
crime, these usually fall under or follow on from
intergovernmental policies – for example, from the United
Nations, the FATF and the OECD. These intergovernmental
policies continue to apply to the United Kingdom, which
also has its own legislation in place against financial crime,
and this is often ahead of the European curve. Former
Prime Minister David Cameron positioned the United
Kingdom as a leader in the fight against financial crime by
organising the London Anti-Corruption Summit.
Commenting before the vote on 23 June, Professor Dan
Hough, Director of the Sussex Centre for the Study of
Corruption at the University of Sussex, said ‘As with most
things to do with the Brexit debate, the impact of a leave
vote in these areas is clouded in uncertainty. On the one
hand, EU institutions (of all sorts) provide useful fora for
unofficial collaboration and coordination. United Kingdom
representatives can and do discuss a range of off-agenda
items with EU colleagues, but if the United Kingdom leaves
the EU, it will inevitably limit opportunities for doing this.
‘There is no reason, however, to believe that security forces
in particular won’t continue to work together in the same
way that they have in the past. Many of the links there are
bilateral and thematic, and there is a case to be made that
these relationships will simply carry on as normal, no matter
what the Brexit vote’.
Now that the United Kingdom has voted to leave the EU,
it will still be some time before we know the effects of the
decision. Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon foresees a two-
year negotiation process between the United Kingdom and
other member states, during which the terms of the
United Kingdom’s exit from the EU will be determined.
During this time, the United Kingdom will still be under
EU law. Former Prime Minister David Cameron said that
it would be up to his successor to invoke Article 50, while
Leave campaigner Boris Johnson said ‘nothing will change
over the short term’, so there should be no immediate
changes to the United Kingdom’s legal status in Europe.
But whatever the outcome of these negotiations, it seems
unlikely that Brexit will have a significant immediate effect on
the United Kingdom’s ability to combat financial crime.
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