Brexit: Proposed UK–EU Security Treaty (European Union Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:56 pm on 16th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Labour 6:56 pm, 16th January 2019

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope specifically said—and as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, adopted and applied—the security of our citizens is the paramount responsibility of the Government. The security implications of Brexit have not been debated nearly enough, and I believe the Government should have found time for a comprehensive debate about it so that our citizens could be fully informed of the implications of this decision that they in the majority have asked us to make.

I commend and thank the noble Lord, Lord Jay, for the thoughtful way in which he introduced this report. I also congratulate the noble Lord and his committee on this excellent report. I will not be able to do justice to it in the time that has been allotted, but I will do my best. In so doing, I remind your Lordships that on 9 January in the debate on the EU withdrawal bill I made a speech which was confined to internal security matters. That speech can be found at col. 2258 of the Official Report. Noble Lords will be relieved to hear that I do not intend to repeat it, as I went on longer than I should have, but I will repeat the theme of the speech—whether we leave the EU with no deal or with the Prime Minister’s deal, our internal security would be significantly diminished.

I was not the only speaker to make that point. In the closing stages of the debate, on 14 January, the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, who has significant experience in security, also made reference to this inevitable consequence of Brexit. In winding up the debate, the Advocate-General for Scotland—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen of Elie—managed, in a speech which as I recollect made only passing reference to the actual debate, to find one paragraph in which to make reference to our future internal security. Referring to the contribution of the noble Baroness at col. 101, he was willing to concede that there is an issue of “police co-operation”, asserting that it could be maintained,

“beyond the EU by reciprocal arrangements—for example, in the case of Norway and Iceland”—[Official Report, 14/01/19; col.117.] by specific agreements which will apparently,

“maintain the sort of relationship that we would intend to have going forward”.—[Official Report, 14/01/19; col.117.]

I remind your Lordships that, in the words of the Prime Minister—specifically, her Statement when she came back from the December European Council—this will be,

“the deepest security partnership that has ever been agreed with the EU”.—[Official Report, Commons, 17/12/18; col. 527.]

That clearly implies an agreement that is better than the Norway and Iceland agreements.

As a simple aide-memoire, I have with me Norway’s official brochure, which can be found on its Government’s website, on what Norway’s partnership with Europe means. If anybody takes the trouble to look at it, they will see that pages 18 and 19 cover justice and home affairs and the Schengen agreement. I do not intend to go through this shortened version, but it has a number of agreements with the European Union. To get access to EU police co-operation, Norway had to join the “Schengen co-operation”, as it refers to it, in 2001. In order to beat that, do our Government intend to join the Schengen co-operation or to make some similar arrangement with the European Union to meet the challenges of the political declaration? The brochure goes through all the agreements on another page.

The important thing is that this is the result of what appears to be 13 years of negotiations, and even the co-operation with regard to the European arrest warrant, which was agreed in 2014, has not, four years later, entered into force. That seems to echo many of the recommendations in the report that we are debating, which are probably expressed more temperately than I have put them. The Government may think that they can do it another way, but the evidence does not suggest that they can.

The report that we are debating was published, as we have heard, in July. Since then, the negotiations with the EU on withdrawal have concluded, and on 25 November the Government published their agreement and the accompanying political declaration. On 28 November, the Government marked their own homework, publishing their assessment of the part of the political declaration which dealt with policing, judicial co-operation, foreign policy, security and defence. Not surprisingly, they passed. Their assessment was that the Prime Minister’s deal is better than no deal. Importantly, what was missing and what has been missing consistently from the Government’s engagement on this issue is an assessment of what that will be compared to what we already have. No Minister will ever utter those words or explain it to anybody. I am therefore offering the Minister the opportunity to answer the question I put in the debate. In the compromise negotiations that will be necessary in the event of any form of deal, what parts of our security are the Government willing to compromise on, and to what extent? The people of this country need to know that and deserve to know it, and even if they voted for Brexit, they certainly did not vote for that.