Leaving the Eu: Security, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:38 pm on 18th January 2017.

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Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee 2:38 pm, 18th January 2017

Prior to the referendum, neither the hon. and learned Lady, the Prime Minister nor I would have wished to be in the conundrum in which we now find ourselves. However, I accept the verdict of the British people, so we must find a practical means of achieving the objective that we want. It would be better to find something that is beyond Norway. That is why I have suggested starting as a negotiating point with the idea that we should be national college members rather than associates of Eurojust. If we are ambitious, we lose nothing from pressing for that from the beginning.

In April last year, the Prime Minister as Home Secretary referred to the whole of the European criminal record system—financial intelligence units, the prisoner transfer unit, Schengen Information System II, joint investigation teams and Prüm—in the context of seeing them as practical measures that promote effective co-operation between different European law enforcement organisations. If we are not part of them, Britain will be less safe. As Francis FitzGibbon, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, told the Select Committee, that would be a pretty good starting point for bringing this whole area to greater prominence, and a pretty good starting point, I would suggest to the Minister, for our negotiation objectives. Witnesses to the Justice Committee repeatedly said that this is part of a mutually reinforcing system of justice co-operation.

We may concentrate on the arrest warrant, but the information exchanges, the ability to enforce court judgments and the ability, for example, to seek a European information order to obtain evidence from abroad are all part of the same process. That is why it is critical for us to set our objectives at the highest possible level when it comes to seeking our continued engagement with these matters.

This is an important debate because it concerns an immensely important topic. Those of us who now want to move on constructively from what, according to any view, has been a bruising experience for this country will want to do so on the basis of an ambition to protect the country, while also recognising that both our judicial system and our police force are immensely highly regarded, not just in Europe but internationally. We have something to bring to the table as well. I hope that the Minister will take those points on board in a bold and ambitious negotiation, and I wish him and his colleagues well.