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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:33 pm on 16th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Labour 7:33 pm, 16th January 2019

My Lords, I congratulate the members of the committee on conducting this excellent inquiry and, in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Jay, who opened our debate today in such a comprehensive fashion. I declare my interest as the elected police and crime commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Further, and more specifically, I am one of the three police and crime commissioners asked to look at the consequences of Brexit on behalf of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners. In that role, the three of us had a meeting this very afternoon with the Home Secretary. I expressed my gratitude to him for seeing us on a day when other matters are so pressing. The issues raised at that meeting concerned the post-Brexit position for policing and security. Different conditions arise—all of which are incredibly serious—depending on whether we leave as part of a deal or with no deal at all.

In my short contribution tonight I want to say a few words about the position as I see it if there is a deal. I speak as someone who, every day of my working life, deals with senior police officers on this and other matters. Chapter 4 of the report we are debating tonight deals with the transition period. With a deal, that would take us to the end of 2020, with an agreement that present arrangements would continue, for the most part, for 21 months from the end of March this year. But 21 months is not a long time to reach consensus on the future of the vital agreements that at present play such an important and positive role in policing, not just here but in the EU. I will not detail these agreements; that has been done many times and they are well known to noble Lords, as is the fact that they have added greatly to the efficiency and effectiveness of policing, both at home and abroad.

The United Kingdom will become a third party—a rather special third party, or so we would like to think. But history shows that it can take many years, and is sometimes impossible, for agreement to be reached by the EU and countries outside it, even when both want to agree on the issues raised. We cannot allow that to happen in this case.

Unfortunately, it is pretty clear that even now—let alone in July, when the report was published—negotiations have not seriously commenced on these issues between Her Majesty’s Government and the EU Commission. I am sure that some work has been done on both sides, but it has clearly not been anywhere near a priority for either side, and proper discussions about the future have in my view been too long delayed. European Parliament elections and the setting up of a brand new Commission will potentially considerably reduce the period of 21 months, maybe to as little as 15 months. That is a short time indeed. How grievous it would be if, almost by default and unintended consequence, these hard-won and successful agreements and arrangements fell. As has already been said in this debate, it would directly affect the security of people’s lives in both our country and the EU. Frankly, it would be unforgivable.