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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:20 pm on 16th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Soley Lord Soley Labour 7:20 pm, 16th January 2019

My Lords, this report is of immense importance. It is hard to overstate its importance to the safety and security of the people of the United Kingdom and throughout the European Union—and possibly more widely as well. The way in which we have participated in this process has been of great value to Europe and the UK. Europol director Rob Wainwright has been mentioned a number of times, but I also mention the staff who work for us over there generally. I have been as a delegate to the home affairs and justice committee of the European Parliament, chaired by Claude Moraes, a British MEP who will, of course, no longer be there as an MEP after we leave. The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, did a great deal of work in this area when he was a Member of the European Parliament. In other words—to summarise some of the comments already made—the British have made an extraordinary contribution to the security and safety of Europe and Britain.

The lack of preparation for leaving and dealing with security has troubled me. I have raised it a number of times in this House and am by no means the only one to have done so. What troubled me most was that it was very obvious soon after the referendum in 2016 that we were going to lose the ability to exercise our rights under the European arrest warrant. The European arrest warrant is of immense value to Britain. It enables us to hand over criminals to other countries in the European Union and them to hand criminals back to Britain. That will no longer be possible when we become a third country, not least because some countries, notably Germany, have in their constitutions that they cannot automatically deport to a third country without a legal agreement.

When we heard that the Government recognised the need for a UK-EU security committee, we recognised that that was important. The evidence that the committee—chaired so ably, as usual, by the noble Lord, Lord Jay—took throughout revealed to us just how much value was placed on our work. Rob Wainwright has already retired; other people from the United Kingdom will go; we will lose the chairman of the home affairs group, as I have said; and now we have to draw up a security agreement that will work. I welcome the words in the political declaration indicating that we seek,

“an ambitious and comprehensive future security relationship … law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters”,

but that understates the difficulty. To draw up those agreements will not be quick. I make the point, which I have made before, that, particularly given events in the House of Commons yesterday, it is very important that we start thinking about this political declaration and how we move forward on some of its contents to avoid some of the traps we will fall into when we find that we can no longer get our hands on serious criminals, including terrorists, who operate in Europe and back here. If people knew the backgrounds of some of the criminals and terrorists who have been picked up or stopped from carrying out their actions as a result of the work we have done, they would be very alarmed—and they would be right to be.

So I echo the question to the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, who asked if the Government are preparing ad hoc arrangements to fill this gap. I am not sure how those ad hoc arrangements can work, because I am not sure how Germany will be able to deal with its constitutional issues, but it is profoundly important. I emphasise that the evidence given to us across the board was profoundly important. When I was in a couple of meetings of the European home affairs and justice committee chaired by Claude Moraes, a number of people said, “Don’t leave; we need your experience and knowledge”. People do not understand the extent of it, but it is profoundly important.

This report is very important. We cannot solve the problem quickly; I understand that. But if we work on the political declaration, we might make progress. The committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Jay, is very ably served by the staff of the House of Lords. When I went to Europe and attended a number of these meetings, I saw that the reports from this House are valued. People refer to them when they speak. It is very significant. We will lose that; that is almost inevitable now. So I echo the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, in saying that the Government need to get real about security and come up with some ad hoc and other arrangements that will, at least to some extent, fill the very large hole we are about to leave in the security arrangements of the UK and the EU.