European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 25th April 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Chair, EU Justice Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Justice Sub-Committee 6:00 pm, 25th April 2018

My Lords, Amendment 38 has been grouped with Amendments 45 and 55, all of which are seeking to do much the same thing. The amendment is to prevent regulations under these provisions being used to undermine the common travel area, and to introduce what concerns many of us who are involved with human rights and civil liberties about the ways in which there could be abuse of processes that might be introduced.

To explain, much of the focus of the debate on the Irish land border and the movement between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK has focused on the freedom of movement of goods rather than people. In relation to people, the United Kingdom’s Northern Ireland and Ireland: Position Paper is limited to ruling out routine passport controls within the common travel area. I want to remind this House that the common travel area came into being a long time ago, immediately after the civil war in Ireland, and was an attempt basically to secure the confidence of people who had family on both sides within Ireland, in the north and south—but also in England and Scotland, like myself. My four grandparents came from Ireland, three from the north and one from the south. The common travel area is used by people who are proudly living here in the UK but who maintain relationships in Ireland.

The common travel area has made it very clear that arrival in and departure from the United Kingdom on a local journey from or to any of the islands, including the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, or the Republic of Ireland, shall not be subject to control. That was put into statutory form in the Immigration Act 1971. Attempts have been made since to erode that—indeed, an attempt was made in 2008, and it was this House that prevented any erosion. Even if it was an unintended consequence, there was a possibility that a change in the immigration legislation in 2008 might have led to sterner controls.

I remind this House that, in Committee, Ministers committed the Government to the whole business of continuing the common travel area, saying that it was the ambition and policy of the Government that there should be no land border checks and no racial profiling. Racial profiling is one of the matters that concerns many of us. How do you distinguish between people living in the United Kingdom and travelling into Ireland and Irish people coming here and those persons who may come from the wider European Union? How do you distinguish them from people coming from elsewhere, and how do we manage those distinctions without risking the introduction of racial profiling? Concerns about racial profiling have been highlighted recently by a number of high-profile cases; they are an existing problem that may be exacerbated by increased controls in the Brexit context, even if there is not going to be routine checking—even if it is non-routine checking, which means that you would have mobile units or pick people out from queues of travellers.

The increased role of the United Kingdom Border Force also means regression in the arrangements for law enforcement in Northern Ireland set out in the Patten commission report. The United Kingdom Border Force is not accountable to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, and the Home Office has twice launched and had to withdraw recruitment exercises recently, trying to draw more people in to enhance the border control and border forces. The ways in which recruitment was attempted very clearly meant that it would be open to only one section of the Northern Ireland community. The noble Lord, Lord Patten, is not here, but I am afraid that the Patten commission report really dealt with policing and did not extend to border controls, when we would argue that it should.

As I have mentioned, the stated strategy of the Home Office is to use in this country “hostile environment” powers—and we have debated the whole business recently. It has been introduced into the way in which the Home Office runs its affairs with regard to immigration, which has caused very real anxiety over how the issue of controlling the common travel area will operate into the future. Among law enforcement bodies there has already been a vowing of intensification of campaigns in relation to immigration in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has warned that Northern Ireland is a country in which document checks have more sensitivity perhaps than elsewhere, and they should not be more onerous than they are in the rest of the United Kingdom.

We have already heard concerns about some really unpalatable experiences from European Union persons living and working in Northern Ireland, in the National Health Service, experiencing post-referendum questioning on arriving into Northern Ireland airports from outside the common travel area and having problems in accessing services and housing. A querying of entitlements and stigmatisation of migrants has taken place in a context where there are already significant concerns about paramilitary involvement in racist attacks. There have been a number of attacks on Romanians and Poles living in Northern Ireland. There is also a currently unexplained high use of the Terrorism Act’s Schedule 7 powers at port and at borders, and we have seen those powers being used—not leading to terrorism detention, so the suspicion is left that they were actually being used for immigration purposes and not for terrorist purposes at all.

The purpose of these amendments is to get some confidence from government that, in introducing changes where there will not be routine checks, we do not find ourselves having ad hoc checks that end up involving racial profiling. I know that on the last occasion a commitment was given about this but, unfortunately, events since in Northern Ireland have not inspired confidence in many of those who are working on the issues of civil liberties and human rights. On that basis, I beg to move the amendment.