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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:10 pm on 16th January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour 7:10 pm, 16th January 2019

My Lords, I must first thank the noble Lord, Lord Jay, for introducing this debate with such rigour and for his excellent chairing of the EU Home Affairs Committee, of which I enjoy being a member. The past two years have been exciting, busy and sometimes perplexing, and he has handled the many Brexit-related issues with enormous skill and determination.

Many of those issues, processes and priorities are still relevant at this time of kaleidoscopic uncertainty. We know that issues regarding Brexit are complex, and need time and due process to be considered properly. Security is one of the most complex. Our report expresses concern about timescales; this problem is being demonstrated by colleagues working on statutory instruments. There are hundreds to consider, with so little time to do it well. We know from experience that the time needed to negotiate EU agreements with third countries is long, in view of the density of the issues. My noble friend Lord Browne described this graphically.

Among our witnesses during the inquiry for the report, considerable variation of opinion was offered on the issue of a treaty. For example, one witness doubted that a treaty could adequately replace existing instruments because it is unlikely that European law will stand still. Other witnesses felt that a treaty would be the best way to ensure an effective security relationship between the UK and the EU and show political commitment.

Sir Rob Wainwright, a former director of Europol—the excellent Brit noted by my noble friend Lord West—has expressed the view that in an,

“ideal world there would be no change to the UK’s current arrangements”,

on security. However, he also recognised that this scenario was “not realistic”. The delicacy of agreements and negotiations on security was apparent in both our inquiry and the one we carried out in 2016 on policing and security. For example, as stated in our report, the EU’s JHA covers a wide spectrum of police, judicial, criminal, civil and family law matters. Some EU member states have negotiated balances between retaining certain powers and sharing others with the UK. This sharing and co-operation may of course continue, whatever happens.

What also struck me was how great the role of the UK has been on various committees in Europe. We have led in several fields. This is likely to diminish. We may get co-operation, but we will not have the leadership we have had—what a pity. It is recognised that the EU benefits from security co-operation with the UK. On 19 June, the director of GCHQ stated:

“These threats are more complex and more global and none of us can defend against them alone”.

The European arrest warrant, a key element in security issues, raises particular concerns. I cannot go into the intricacies now, but I ask the Minister to qualify the UK’s likely position on the EAW post Brexit, given the committee’s concern in its conclusion on page 24 of its report.

The House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee report states at paragraph 88:

“The Political Declaration appears to rule out continued UK participation in the European Arrest Warrant”,

as the warrant,

“is linked to EU membership, including free movement of people, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and EU citizenship”.

The political declaration states that the two sides will seek replacement extradition arrangements instead, establishing procedures,

“to surrender suspected and convicted persons efficiently and expeditiously”,

as a replacement for the European arrest warrant. What does that mean? What procedures are we talking about and under what timescale? Our committee concluded:

“We have, however, seen no evidence that sufficient progress has yet been made towards negotiating a comprehensive security treaty”.

Is the Minister confident that within the next few months, we will have a security treaty that will sufficiently protect our country? What does she think the Government should do, given that we seem unprepared to guarantee security measures? I look forward to her reply.