[7th Allotted Day]

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 10:05 am on 11th January 2019.

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Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Home Secretary 10:05 am, 11th January 2019

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is speaking in good faith, but I went to Brussels with colleagues before Christmas, and the key stakeholders on issues of security there were clear that the position that we are in at this point—without a security treaty—is highly problematic. It may be that we lead the world on data security at this point, but we have to give the type of assurances that the EU will accept if we are to have any chance of continuing co-operation in the future.

Many of the operational treaty functions in these areas—security and the safety of the realm—derive solely from our membership of the European Union. Labour believes that it is the height of irresponsibility to abandon these arrangements without any plan or, in some cases, any possibility of replacing them. Much of this problem arises from the Prime Minister’s own red lines—for example, her insistence on removing the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice without providing an alternative. Any warrant needs oversight and the possibility of judicial appeal. The Prime Minister must have known that when she made it a red line; she was irresponsible if she did not know that.

All along Labour has upheld six tests that any deal would have to meet in order for us to vote for it. The fifth of these tests is: does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime? I put it to the Treasury Bench that, on the basis of what we know, this deal will not necessarily protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime. On those grounds alone, we believe that the Prime Minister has failed to meet this test. This deal is not even close. The Prime Minister and this Government have delivered only a hard Brexit on security, justice, police and freedom. On that basis, Labour will not be voting for it.

I turn to the question of immigration because all the polling shows that concerns about migration were an important factor for people voting to leave, so it is very important as we go forward in negotiating Brexit that we deal with these issues coherently and fairly, in a way that is not designed to excite public passions and that, above all, is in the best interests of society, the economy, jobs and business. I am afraid that Labour Members do not believe that that is what the Government are currently doing.

The Government have finally produced an immigration Bill of sorts—the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill—but what does it say? Actually, it says very little. Front and centre of this Bill is a declaration that freedom of movement will be ending, but the Government have not told us what will replace it. This matters, because, as I have said, immigration is a key issue. It was an important issue before, during and after the June 2016 referendum. Those on the Treasury Bench may not think that, but millions of our constituents do, and millions of our constituents are anxious that we get this issue right.

Beyond the purely declaratory ending of freedom of movement—which, under the Government’s plan, ends anyway—is it true that the promised clampdown on net migration is really coming? The reality is that the White Paper offers no such promise. Instead it is replete with assurances that businesses large and small will be able to maintain, or even increase, their access to labour from overseas. There are literally dozens of these assurances, so there is a possibility that all those who voted leave to reduce or even end net migration will be disappointed.

When we debate the Bill next week, we will have a number of questions for the Home Secretary.