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[2nd Allotted Day]

Part of Immigration (Time Limit on Detention) – in the House of Commons at 3:17 pm on 5th December 2018.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee 3:17 pm, 5th December 2018

The Prime Minister’s deal is not really a deal at all; it is a stopgap. Parliament is being asked today to vote with a massive blindfold around our heads. We know not what our immigration arrangements will be, because the Government have not published the White Paper; we know not what our trade arrangements will be, because the political declaration is unclear; and we know not what our security co-operation will be, because the declaration is just too vague.

Last month—only last month—the Prime Minister told us that nothing was agreed until everything was agreed. In fact, most things have not been agreed at all. The Prime Minister is asking us to walk out the door, slamming it behind us, without any idea where we are heading or even where we will rest our heads tonight. I think that that is irresponsible, because it is not just that we are blindfolded about where we are heading; as Mr Gyimah said in a very thoughtful speech, it weakens our negotiating hand in sorting out the future and establishing where it is we will end up.

The chief executive of Haribo in my constituency said in response to the transition proposals:

“Two years is significant to our supply chain decisions so this would be very welcome, but the uncertainty would just be delayed…
Everything that is an extension of the delay is only useful if it is clear what will happen at the end of the extension, so we can prepare for it.”

The problem with the political declaration is that, as paragraph 28 admits, there is a whole “spectrum” of checks and controls. Depending on which paragraph one reads, there could be rules of origin checks or alignment with the common tariff, and the hit to our national income could be as bad as 7%. Depending on which paragraph one reads, it could be nearly Norway, it could be back to Chequers, it could be off to Canada or it could be far beyond—we simply do not know.

On security, things are not much clearer. The continued access that is promised to the Prüm fingerprints database and to shared passenger name records is welcome, but the absence of any reference to the crucial Schengen Information System II European criminal database, which our Border Force and police currently check more than 500 million times a year, is deeply troubling, as is the absence of any reference to the European criminal records information system, or ECRIS. Those tools are used to catch criminals, stop terrorists, monitor sex offenders, find dangerous weapons and stop serious criminals entering the country. The police have been clear that our country is less safe without those measures, and I do not think that this House should be voting for things that could make our country less safe.

The Government also need to be clear with us about the impact of all that, because the EU’s resistance to committing to allowing us access to SIS II is frankly reprehensible. However, that is the EU’s current position, and I fear that this deal weakens our ability to sort this problem out in future and to get the commitment that we need, which will be in all our interests. The Home Secretary said, “Well, we didn’t have these measures a few years ago, so this won’t cause a huge problem,” but the truth is that the security and cross-border criminal threats that we face now are much greater than they were a few years ago, and our police and agencies are running to catch up. Our job here should be to support them in that work, not to make it harder for them or to hold them back.