Law Enforcement Co-Operation and Border Control: Schengen Information System

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:48 pm on 19th December 2017.

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Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Minister of State, Home Department 6:48 pm, 19th December 2017

I thank my hon. Friend for that constructive intervention and for his support for the principles that the Prime Minister laid out strongly. He will understand that the exact details of the future internal security relationship with the EU will need to be agreed in the negotiations. The Government’s paper on the future partnership that we seek with the EU on security, law enforcement and criminal justice makes it clear that we value our current capability to share law enforcement and security alerts with EU countries. That capability is provided by SIS II, but how we might retain similar capability after Brexit is a matter for negotiation.

The exit negotiations are an opportunity to build on what we have already achieved through decades of collaboration and working together. The decision to opt out would suggest that we wished to move in the opposite direction and disengage from security co-operation with Europe. That is not, and cannot be, our position, so it would have been wrong to opt out.

Before I wind up, I want to touch on how the negotiations on these legislative proposals have progressed. The Council of Ministers has recently agreed a general approach on all three draft regulations. That is an agreed Council position to form a basis for negotiations on the final text with the European Parliament. The police co-operation text was satisfactory in most respects. In particular, it gives member states sufficient discretion over whether to create alerts in counter-terrorist cases. But the Government voted against it because it did not address the restrictions on when alerts can be used for purposes other than those for which they were created.

In some limited circumstances, such an alert would be advisable; for example, where the alert shows that a person is particularly dangerous and needs to be kept out of the country. Unfortunately, the text on the general approach continues to make doing this too difficult, so we did not think it was ready for negotiation with the European Parliament. However, there was a qualified majority in favour of the text, and these negotiations are now under way. We expect the incoming Bulgarian presidency of the Council to try to conclude them in the first half of 2018. We will of course keep the European Scrutiny Committee updated.

The Government’s decisions show that we are committed both to protecting our borders and to effective co-operation with our European partners on policing and security issues, and I hope that the House will endorse them tonight.