Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 18th March 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 6:15 pm, 18th March 2019

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate makes a good point about the continuity of claims that have already commenced. If memory serves, the law enforcement regulations we were discussing earlier make provision for the continuation of cases that have already started. I too am interested in the answer to that question.

When we were discussing the previous SI, several of us were rather struck by the contradiction between the rhetoric about ending free movement and the reality that the Government actually intend to continue it on a one-way basis with no supervision or control whatever, which seems rather perverse. I am also struck by the proposal to pull out of Eurodac and the Dublin regulation, over which I sweated many days, weeks and months as an MEP—but that is neither here nor there.

The Home Secretary made several assertions on this earlier this year—not least when he curtailed his Christmas holiday to come back and deal with what he claimed was the major incident of a few hundred migrants crossing the channel. When addressing the other place on 7 January, he said that the first safe country principle is,

“at the heart of the EU’s own common European asylum system”,

which underpins the 2005 procedures directive and 2004 qualification directive. He went on:

“It is also a principle that underpins the Dublin regulation. The whole point of the Dublin regulation is that if someone has passed through another EU safe country, it is expected that they claim asylum first there”.—[Official Report, Commons, 7/1/19; col. 89.]

Both in that speech to the other place and in numerous instances of press coverage, not least in the Daily Telegraph, a great deal of emphasis was placed on the ability of the UK to send back to other EU countries, particularly France, people whom he thought might be designated economic migrants and would not qualify for asylum. How he could know their status in advance is another question. He made a great deal of this ability of the UK to send people back rather than allowing them to seek asylum in Britain. I found another assertion as recent as a few weeks ago; defending his call to declare a major incident in January, he suggested on 21 February on a visit to Dover that,

“those seeking asylum in the UK should have done so in France or elsewhere on the continent”.

A great deal of emphasis has been placed by the Government, particularly the Home Secretary, on the mechanisms of Eurodac and the Dublin regulation. Suddenly, they are going to disappear.

The Government have made some claims about what they hope to put in its place. Indeed, in the report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee we are told in Paragraph 8—apparently this was supplementary information supplied to the committee—that the Home Office said:

“We are also mindful of the obligation in section 17 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (family unity for those seeking asylum or other protection in Europe)”.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, pointed out, under Section 17 of the EU withdrawal Act this would apply only to children. The Home Office went on to say:

“We currently work bilaterally on returns with France where for example the Sandhurst Treaty, and the subsequent Joint Action Plan, features a mutual commitment to return more migrants to France who have used boats to illegally cross the Channel”.

Could the Minister tell us how the family unity provisions under Section 17 of the EU withdrawal Act will work in the absence of the Dublin regulation? How will the arrangements with France, or with any other member state, work—sending people back whom the UK claims need to direct their claims towards the authorities in an EU state? What is the state of play on any replacement measures? Will we just have a blank space where Eurodac and the Dublin regulation currently exist?