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Interpretation

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 8th January 2020.

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Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Solicitor General, Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security) 5:30 pm, 8th January 2020

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the challenges, which are precisely what I wish to come on to and develop.

Yesterday, I heard the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union respond to an intervention by my hon. Friend Chris Bryant; my fear is that as yet the Government’s thinking just has not moved beyond the implementation period, which ends at the end of 2020. What happens after that is so important, because it will determine what our law enforcement agencies have in their armoury to deal with pan-European crime. It is an urgent task.

The issue of data sharing and continued data sharing is crucial. Were the UK ever to lose access to the EU’s security databases, information that today can be retrieved almost instantaneously could take days or weeks to access. That would create a significant hurdle to effective policing, to say the least.

On Europol, how do the Government see the future? Do they envisage full participation, or only observer status at board meetings? We just do not know. The fact that the situation is critical and the position wholly unsatisfactory is the fault of the Government and not of those who work in our security sector. After all, the UK makes a great contribution to European security. Through the Schengen information system—or SIS II as it is known—the UK is contributing to the sharing of real-time data on wanted criminals, missing persons and suspected terrorists, and that co-operation is beneficial to us all. The data shared in that database are used millions of times each year by UK police, and that surely must illustrate to all Members the profound risk of there being no long-term deal on security.

In conducting the negotiation, the Government must emphasise the UK’s contribution and the mutually beneficial nature of European co-operation in dealing with the most serious organised crime on our continent. I listened carefully to the new European Commission President today. She said that the threat of terrorism is real, and that we have to share the necessary information to stop terrorists crossing borders and attacking us. She is right. When we are fighting crime, we are better working to eradicate it collectively than working alone, and we need a formal legal basis to continue to do so. That is why new clause 3 is so important, and I commend it and new clause 2 to the House.