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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:26 pm on 16th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bilimoria Lord Bilimoria Crossbench 7:26 pm, 16th January 2019

This report, the proposed UK-EU security treaty, starts:

The UK and the EU share a deep interest in maintaining the closest possible police and security cooperation after Brexit: protecting the safety of millions of UK and EU citizens must be the over-riding objective”.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jay, and the committee for this excellent report. He started by saying:

“Negotiations on security are not a ‘zero sum game’: we all stand to gain from agreement, and we all stand to lose if negotiations fail”.

He also quoted Sir Julian King, who said that,

“security cooperation should be unconditional”.

It should also be continual.

We now have transition agreements, supposedly, and Article 168, which the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, spoke about. During that transition period, we will be subject to the ECJ. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, spoke about this. What about our future relationship with Europol and its operational status, the closer integration we seek with Europol and the compromises the Government will make? What about the European arrest warrant, which so many have spoken about? There is no evidence that sufficient progress has been made in negotiating this comprehensive security treaty. Could the Minister tell us more about this? This is so crucial because it will be underpinned by data sharing, a topic that so many of us have spoken about. We should not forget that the co-operation that exists on Northern Ireland is on an informal basis. Will that continue on a formal basis between the UK, Ireland and Northern Ireland within the UK?

The European Criminal Records Information System is one example of data sharing. The UK sent and received 163,000 requests and notifications for criminal records in 2017. That is phenomenal. Going ahead, will we have access to all this? This balanced security partnership, broad and comprehensive—this is all waffle. It is nonsense. The good news is that some of it will continue. I believe the passenger name record and Prüm data will continue. Then we are told we will not have access to the Schengen Information System II, nor the ECRIS. Could the Minister confirm this? It is also unclear if co-operation with Europol or Eurojust will go beyond third-country arrangements. These are vital tools.

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee in December produced a report on Home Office Preparations for the UK Exiting the EU. It spoke about data sharing and all these things I have just spoken about. What did it conclude? The report welcomes the access to Prüm and PNR, but states:

“We are extremely disappointed by arguments made…that SIS II should only be open to member states…within… Schengen”.

We are not in Schengen. Look at the risks we have here. The report states that failure to retain access to ECRIS would be,

“a significant downgrade of our policing and security capability at a time when cross border crime and security threats are increasing”.

It goes on to mention a figure:

“UK agencies check SIS II over 500 million times a year and there is no adequate contingency”.

Listen to that one fact alone. The report continues:

“Losing access would, as the police have warned, make us less safe”.

What are the Home Office’s plans to deal with that? The report concludes by saying:

“From the evidence we have received, it is clear that no deal would represent a risk to public safety and security”.

It is as simple as that.

Let us look at the report produced in December by the Exiting the European Union Committee on the progress of EU withdrawal. On the dispute over UK participation in Galileo, which the noble Lord, Lord West, mentioned, it states that this demonstrates that,

“the depth of cooperation will, in many cases, depend on what the EU decides it wishes to allow under EU rules … The overall level of EU-UK cooperation will be less than it is now, as will be the UK’s influence on the strategic direction of EU foreign and security policy”.

There you have it.

Then we have Sir Anton Muscatelli. He says it was London’s assumption that the EU would want to share because we are so good at security, as the noble Lord, Lord West, spoke about, and that it would surely not want to lose our powerful “military, global diplomatic clout”. But the EU has shown no signs yet of doing that. He concludes by saying that, reading between the lines of the political declaration, we are set to,

“lose access to the key Europol and criminal records databases, and to the European Arrest Warrant”.

He spoke also about Galileo.

Here, however, we have the Prime Minister going on about the “unconditional commitment” to European security and asking why the EU has not reciprocated. I will tell noble Lords why. As our very capable Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, said, if there is no deal, it would be,

“more costly, undoubtedly, slower … and, potentially, yes, put the public at risk”.

My noble friend Lord Ricketts, our first National Security Adviser, said that we would be far safer remaining in the EU. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, a former Minister, said that the security of citizens is the number one priority of any Government. No deal is not an option, not just because of the Dover-Calais corridor but for security reasons alone. The Prime Minister’s deal—one and three-quarter years to get a 600-page withdrawal agreement—is on three areas: people, money and getting our laws back. Here we are saying that we are going to be subject to laws on a security basis—but there is no mention of security, and nor is it covered by the 26-page political declaration, which is a wish list. Even during the transition period we will be subject to ECJ laws, as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, spoke about.

What about the platitudes? What about the red lines of no more customs union, no more single market and no more ECJ? As we have seen, this is all hypocrisy. As the noble Lord, Lord Soley, said, if people realised this, they would be alarmed. Would they vote for Brexit if they heard even this one debate? When people see that the Brexit emperor has no clothes, there will be only one solution: to go back to the people, with full information, to give them a say through a people’s vote.