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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:07 pm on 16th January 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 8:07 pm, 16th January 2019

If the noble Lord will indulge me, I will talk about the European arrest warrant when I answer points raised by noble Lords. Perhaps that will clarify it; if it does not, I will come back to noble Lords in writing.

The noble Lords, Lord Jay and Lord West, and my noble friend Lord Kirkhope all talked about data. I made the point earlier about the huge data flows that come from the UK across to the EU. I absolutely accept the point and share their view on the importance of continued data sharing following our withdrawal from the EU. The EU, with the UK and its member states, has established unrivalled mechanisms for the exchange of law enforcement data on a daily basis, as the noble Lord, Lord West, pointed out. Our operational partners have made clear to this and other Select Committees how crucial this data is in our efforts to fight cross-border crime and prevent terrorism.

On the UK securing an agreement on data protection with the EU, we start from a position of trust in each other’s standards and regulatory alignment on data protection. The Data Protection Act 2018—which the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and I were involved in—and the adoption of the general data protection regulation strengthened UK data protection standards. I can quite safely say that we often surpass what is required of EU states. We were also one of the first countries to successfully implement the law enforcement directive. This provides a unique starting point for an extensive agreement on the exchange of personal data that builds on the existing adequacy framework. We believe that the EU’s adequacy framework provides the right starting point for the arrangements that the UK and the EU should agree on data protection, and the political declaration notes that the adequacy decision will form the basis of future data transfers between the UK and the EU. It also outlines that the Commission is committed to starting this assessment as soon as possible after exit day, with the intention to have a decision in place by the end of 2020; that commitment is relevant to the committee’s concerns about the sequencing of negotiations on data and security.

The committee and the noble Lord, Lord Jay, also reiterated the concern about the cliff edge and there being no mechanism in the draft withdrawal agreement for extending the implementation period. Both the UK and the EU agree that the implementation period has to be time limited, and the legal text sets an end date of 31 December 2020. However, the withdrawal agreement now also includes the possibility to extend the implementation period by mutual agreement of the parties. The committee highlighted the possibility of a security cliff edge, whether at the end of March or at the end of the implementation period. As the House would expect, the continued safety and security of both UK and EU citizens remains our top priority. This is why we are preparing for all eventualities, including the no-deal scenario that we are all seeking to avoid.

As part of our planning for such a scenario, we are preparing to move co-operation to alternative, non-EU mechanisms which we already use for co-operating with many non-EU countries. Broadly speaking, this would mean more use of Interpol, Council of Europe conventions and other forms of co-operation with European partners, such as bilateral channels. They are tried and tested avenues, so we are in a slightly different position in this area compared to those areas in which we are having to put in place new and unprecedented arrangements. We are none the less clear that these contingency arrangements will not be like-for-like replacements of the EU tools and would result in a reduction of mutual capability.