Beyond Brexit (European Union Committee Report) - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:25 pm on 12th May 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Ricketts Lord Ricketts Chair, EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee 5:25 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, it was great to again have the wisdom of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, at the opening of this debate. I want to focus on the crucial area of justice and security co-operation with the EU. That has a direct impact on the safety and security of the British people, yet we have heard very little about what is happening in the negotiations on that.

No off-the-peg, oven-ready security arrangement with the EU is available. Different countries have different levels of access. Norway and Iceland come closest, but they are in the Schengen area. Even if Britain could get a deal as good as that of Norway and Iceland, it would provide only what a British government document in 2018 called

“a limited patchwork of cooperation”,

with

“a serious shortfall in capability”.

Therefore, logically we need an even closer security relationship than that of Norway and Iceland. It cannot be the government objective that we should leave the EU and become less safe, yet the February Command Paper devoted only four rather brief pages to this vital area.

What are the prospects of negotiating an unprecedented level of security co-operation with the EU in the coming weeks? The answer is that we simply do not know. Michael Gove told the EU Committee last week that he hoped for an agreement, largely, I think, on the basis that we have been a considerable provider of security information to the EU. However, that seems to depend on the EU being willing to abandon its own red lines.

This is not an area where EU leaders can simply cut us a political deal. These are legal instruments with specific obligations. Given the importance of this area for national security, can the Minister give us some indication of when the Government will break their radio silence about the negotiations on justice and security, and what contingency plans are they making in case there is no future relationship agreement and we fall off a security cliff edge seven months from now?