Leaving the Eu: Security, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:50 pm on 18th January 2017.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee 2:50 pm, 18th January 2017

It is a pleasure to follow my fellow Select Committee Chair, Robert Neill. I agreed with many of the points that he made about the importance of continued European co-operation. Like him, I voted for article 50 to be triggered by the end of March, because although, like him, I wanted us to remain in the European Union, I believed that we should respect the referendum result, and that means getting on with the detailed and hard work of establishing how we can get the best possible deal for Britain outside the EU.

I also agree with Joanna Cherry that we should be cautious about assuming that it will be easy for us to get the detail right, particularly in respect of the important law enforcement issues. If we do not have the right kind of legal basis for the co-operation that we want to see, we shall simply not be able to use the information or intelligence that we have to lock up those who have committed crimes and to keep people safe.

I hope that there is considerable consensus about the objectives that we should have—not just consensus across the House about our objectives in co-operating to keep Britain safe, but consensus across Europe, where co-operation between Britain and other European countries has saved people’s lives and protected us from terror threats and serious crime. The Prime Minister was right to say yesterday:

“With the threats to our common security becoming more serious, our response cannot be to cooperate with one another less, but to work together more.”

So far, however, we have heard very little from the Home Secretary, and, although I have the great respect for the policing Minister, I am disappointed that she has not come to the House today.

Given the seriousness of these issues, and given that the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of parliamentary sovereignty, I think that we need to hear more from the Home Secretary in Parliament. We will be calling on her to come before the Home Affairs Committee to provide further detail. It is also disappointing that the policing Minister has now departed, which means that no Home Office Minister is present for a debate on an issue that will have huge repercussions for our security operations for many decades to come. Obviously, the work on security will form part of the Government’s wider plan for securing the best possible Brexit deal and Brexit settlement.

Yesterday the Prime Minister talked particularly about trade. She pledged to secure tariff-free trade, and a better overall deal for British jobs that was outside the single market and the customs union. As the Government will know, there is considerable concern about whether ditching a long-established trade and customs deal will really deliver a better deal for jobs, employment protection and environmental standards here in Britain, and Ministers will need to provide a great deal more evidence to show that they can actually deliver a better deal for our manufacturing and services, as well as for the social and economic standards that matter so much.

Ministers will also need to say more about the Government’s approach to immigration. I am one of those who have believed for some time that we need to change the arrangements for free movement, and I think there are particular concerns about unrestricted low-skilled migration. We shall need to engage in a sensible debate about how to get the best deal for Britain on both jobs and immigration, so that we benefit from international talent and from economic trade as well.

There is some confusion and there are some questions as a result of mixed messages received from the Government. It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify the position, as he represents the Department for Exiting the European Union. Some are suggesting that immigration will not form part of the discussions and negotiations about trade and that those issues will be kept separate in the negotiations, while others say that debate about future immigration rules will be dealt with alongside the trade negotiations. It is important for us to understand whether the negotiations about the customs union and the single market are stand-alone trade negotiations, or whether there will be a wider debate on options relating to both immigration and trade.