[Relevant documents: Third Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Chapter 29—Establishing a roadmap for a Security Union, HC 71-ii; Eighth Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Chapter 19—Cross-border law enforcement cooperation—UK participation in Prüm, HC 71-vi; Eighth Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Chapter 20—Preventing radicalisation and violent extremism, HC 71-vi; Twenty-fifth Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Chapter 11—Enhancing security in a world on mobility, HC 71-xxiii; Eighteenth Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Chapter 14—Establishing a Security Union: first progress report, HC 71-xvi; Twenty-first Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Europol; opt-in Debate, HC 71-xix; Third Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Chapter 27—Information systems to enhance EU border management and security, HC 71-ii; Seventh Report from the House of Lords European Union Committee, Brexit: future UK-EU security and police cooperation, HL Paper 77; oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 6 December 2016 on EU policing and security issues, HC 806; oral evidence taken before the Justice Committee on 10 January on the implications of Brexit for the justice system, HC 750.]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered exiting the EU and security, law enforcement and criminal justice.
I am pleased to introduce today’s debate on security, law enforcement and criminal justice—one of a number of debates that we will be having about our exit from the European Union. It is important that Members have the opportunity to discuss and debate leaving the EU. The Prime Minister underlined the importance of Parliament’s involvement in exit negotiations in her speech yesterday. This afternoon, Members have a chance to debate an area of our relationship with the EU that is crucial, not only to our negotiations but to the continued safety of both Europe and ourselves—citizens across Europe and the United Kingdom.
This debate will focus on how we work with the EU on security, law enforcement and criminal justice now and how we will work with our EU partners in the future. Co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism was one of the Government’s core negotiating objectives. The UK is leaving the EU, but as we have been clear, we are not leaving Europe. We are committed to strong co-operation on security, law enforcement and criminal justice now and when we leave. We will work with our European partners to find solutions that promote security across Europe and beyond.
The decision of the British people to leave the European Union does not alter the duty that we and all member states share collectively to keep our citizens safe and to protect our democratic way of life and the rule of law. In the face of the common threats that we face from terrorism, cyber-attacks and hostile foreign actors, maintaining strong EU-UK security co-operation is vital to our collective success in keeping citizens safe. It is difficult to see how it would be in anyone’s interests for exit negotiations to result in a reduction in the effectiveness of security, law enforcement and criminal justice co-operation.
I disagree with nothing that the Minister has said so far. We are leaders in Europe as far as co-operation on security and justice is concerned. Does the Minister agree that one of the most important aspects of the issue is information sharing? Access to ECRIS, the European criminal records information system, should be one of the key elements of our negotiations. We need to be able to reach the criminal records of those who have committed offences in the rest of Europe and to share information about those who commit offences in our country.
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman’s agreement with my position so far. He makes an important point. I will come specifically to the issue of data sharing. As we all understand, we live in a world of global work; people are working across borders, particularly when it comes to criminality. We need to be well equipped to deal with that.
Criminality and terrorism are increasingly transnational. International organised crime groups exploit vulnerabilities such as inadequate law enforcement and criminal justice structures. Threats that we now face, such as cybercrime, which is moving ever more quickly, or online child sexual exploitation, are by definition international in a technologically interconnected world. The UK National Crime Agency’s most recent public estimate suggests that more than 6,000 organised crime groups are seeking to operate in the United Kingdom.
Will the Minister give me some reassurance on the issue of the European arrest warrant? Before the last election, during a debate in this House, the current Prime Minister, then Home Secretary, fought hard to get the warrant through the House in the face of some opposition from some Members. Will the Minister say whether we will secure the powers of the warrant post Brexit?
As the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, we are at the start of negotiations. I cannot predict where we will end up. However, I will come specifically to the European arrest warrant and its implications for us in a few moments.
Criminal networks are driving migrant smuggling; Europol estimates that more than 90% of migrants travelling to the EU used facilitators—provided, in most cases, by criminal groups with an estimated turnover of €3 billion to €6 billion in 2015 alone. We are at the beginning of a complex process to agree a new relationship with the EU. This is new territory for both sides, and it is way too early to say exactly what that relationship will look like. I am sure there will be many and varied views expressed from around the Chamber today and in the months ahead, but I am also confident that nobody will argue against the importance of fighting cross-border crime and of defending security across Europe.
To reinforce that point, will the Minister concede that what we are talking about is a system of European criminal justice co-operation? Much of this is about practical co-operation and information sharing and does not largely touch on the substantive criminal law of the states. Sometimes it extends beyond member states of the European Union. Does not that reinforce the importance of the point about practicality?
As ever, my hon. Friend makes a really important point, and he is absolutely right. Some members of and countries involved with organisations such as Europol are not part of the European Union, highlighting that they see the importance of ensuring that we share information efficiently and proactively to fight crime. It is absolutely right that we work to protect that ability. Whatever shape our future relationship with the EU takes, I hope that we can all agree that it should not compromise the safety of people in the UK or, indeed, the rest of Europe.
The Minister will be aware that one consequence of leaving the European Union, as the Prime Minister has indicated, is that we withdraw from, as she puts it,
“the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice”.
But many of these justice co-operation functions ultimately come under the jurisdiction of the European Court. I find it difficult to understand what arrangement the Government envisage to address that issue—perhaps they wish to have a separate tribunal system set up to apply the rules—because, even for states outside the EU, the ECJ’s rulings on these key areas of security co-operation are very important.
I appreciate my right hon. and learned Friend’s point. One piece of work we will do during the negotiations is to ensure that we get something bespoke for the United Kingdom. One temptation is to look at what other countries have done. As I mentioned earlier, there are countries who work with Europol—the United States is a good example—that are not members of the EU and have found ways to make it work. We can look at those examples, but we actually need to develop a bespoke solution for the United Kingdom.
Will the Minister give way?
I just want to make a bit more progress.
The Prime Minister set out in her speech yesterday the Government’s negotiation objectives for Brexit, explaining that this Government plan to make Britain “stronger” and “fairer”, restoring “national self-determination” while becoming
“more global and internationalist in action and in spirit.”
We have a long record of playing a leading role, within Europe and globally, to support and drive co-operation to help to protect citizens and defend democratic values, and we have been leading proponents of the development of a number of the law enforcement and criminal justice measures that are now in place across the European Union. The Prime Minister reiterated yesterday that although June’s referendum was a vote to leave the EU, it was not a vote to leave Europe. We want to continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends with the European countries.
On a practical level, there has been no immediate change to how we work with the EU following the referendum, as the recent decision just before Christmas to seek to opt into the new legislation framework for Europol, the EU policing agency, demonstrates. The UK will remain a member of the EU with all the rights and obligations that membership entails until we leave. The way in which we work with the EU, of course, will have to change once we leave and we must now plan for what our new relationship will look like. The views that hon. Members express here today will be helpful in that regard, including, no doubt, that of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne).
I just want to follow up on the incredibly important question posed by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve). We are the proud authors of human rights in Europe. It is a tradition that dates back to Magna Carta. Will the Minister confirm that when the Government bring forward their proposals on a British Bill of Rights, nothing in the draft for discussion will propose that we leave the European convention on human rights or the European Court of Human Rights?
The right hon. Gentleman tempts me to give a running commentary and to prejudge the outcome of the negotiations and work in the couple of years ahead, but I will resist. However, I will say that while we remain a member of the EU we recognise the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over the measures that we have opted into. It is too early to speculate on exactly what our relationship with the European Court of Justice will be after we leave the EU. That work will be done as we go forward.
I have already spoken to several counterparts in Europe, as have the Home Secretary and many of my colleagues across Government. In my conversations with colleagues across Europe, I have been encouraged by their view that it is essential to find a way for our shared work on security to continue, but we do have questions about how that should happen in practice and we need to work through answering them. This will be complex and subject to negotiation. We are committed to finding a way forward that works for the UK and the European Union. The Home Office is working with Departments—such as that of the Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union, my right hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones), who will be closing the debate—across Whitehall to analyse the full range of options for future co-operation.
We are liaising closely with our colleagues in the devolved Administrations as it is crucial to ensure that we find a way forward that works for all of the UK. We are drawing on the invaluable frontline experience of operational partners such as the National Crime Agency and the Crown Prosecution Service, and I am grateful for the ongoing contributions of all those organisations. The work is being drawn together with the support of our colleagues in the Department for Exiting the European Union and will form part of our wider exit negotiation strategy.
I will make a bit of progress before I give way again.
Our current model of EU co-operation centres on a number of legal agreements or tools. Broadly speaking, the tools provide the frameworks for practical co-operation arrangements and information-sharing mechanisms, as hon. and right hon. Members have mentioned, as well as establishing minimum operating standards to support cross-border judicial and law enforcement co-operation. They include measures such as the European arrest warrant, Europol, the European criminal record information system, prisoner transfer agreements and the Schengen information system. They are designed to protect the rights of defendants and the vulnerable across borders, facilitate mutual co-operation and support practical processes for fighting cross-border crime and delivering justice.
Over the years, we have been leading proponents of the development of a number of security measures within the EU, backed by proportionate safeguards. Leaving the EU does not mean that we are walking away from that close co-operation with our nearest neighbours.
I am looking at Europol’s website, which states:
“We do this by assisting the European Union’s Member States in their fight against serious organised crime” .
If we are not a European Union member state, what are the negotiating terms for us still to access Europol?
If the right hon. Gentleman looks further into Europol’s website, he will see that there are already associate member states, such as the United States, which form a very large contingent in Europol. That is just one example, and I will mention Europol specifically in a few moments.
The EU law enforcement and criminal justice toolkit has evolved over many years in response to changes in the nature of the EU, international security threats and the increased movement of people across borders. The justice and home affairs opt-out decision in 2014 gave us the opportunity to consider the value of certain pre-2014 measures to the UK. Although that decision provides a useful reference point, it is important to be clear that the situation following the outcome of the EU referendum means that the context is now different. To state the obvious, we will no longer be a member of the EU so, unlike the 2014 decision, the question now is not whether we wish to seek to re-join certain measures as a member state. Instead, we have to consider how we should interact with the EU security, law enforcement and criminal justice toolkit from outside the EU.
We are considering the full range of possible options. We are looking at existing arrangements for third country co-operation with the EU, which can inform discussions, but it is important to be clear that we are not looking to replicate any other nation’s model. We are at a unique starting point with a strong history of working closely with the member states as partners and allies. As I mentioned, we will make a key contribution to security and justice in Europe and globally, and will seek an agreement with the EU that recognises the unique position we hold.
Further to the question of the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), the Prime Minister said in her speech yesterday that we will not be hanging on to “bits” of the EU. Europol is an EU agency and the European arrest warrant is an EU crime and safety measure. Is not a reasonable—in fact, the only—interpretation of the Prime Minister’s speech about not hanging on to bits of the EU that we will no longer participate in either of those?
It is worth the right hon. Gentleman looking at the Europol website that the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) mentioned. He will see that there are associate members of Europol that are not members of the European Union, such as the United States. I also point out that Europol existed as a non-EU institution before the EU was involved with it. Therefore, it is important to recognise that we will look to develop a unique and bespoke position for the country.
I will give way to the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee in a moment.
I appreciate that some Members will question the benefit of our participation in some of the EU tools. However, as the Minister responsible for policing, I have had a chance to see the regular, real-life examples of what those tools do and why they matter, as I will outline once I have given way to the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper).
The Minister will know that although several countries have operational and strategic partnerships with Europol, they do not have a say in the overall direction of Europol and, in many cases, do not have access to all its databases—the most crucial aspect. Is he ruling out trying to remain a member of Europol, and is he aiming to have access to all Europol’s databases?
I am not ruling anything in or out; I am looking to make sure that we get the bespoke deal that is right for this country. I am not going to prejudge the outcome of the negotiations over the next couple of years. It is clear, though, that Europol is an EU agency supporting law enforcement activity, based in The Hague, to which we are a huge contributor. In fact, the current chief executive, who is an excellent lead for that organisation, is a British national.
While my right hon. Friend does not want to prejudge negotiations, does not his decision to opt into the recent Europol directive—the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) and I served on the European Committee in which he laid out his case for doing so—show that the UK is willing to be an active participant in Europol for many years to come?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. As I clearly outlined in the Committee, the decision to opt in was made in the context of our being a member of the European Union, and at the moment, and over the next couple of years, we are still a full member of the European Union. It is important to make sure that we take the opportunity to play a full and strong part in that. We want to continue to play a very strong role as a partner for our colleagues across Europe, and indeed globally, particularly in law enforcement.
The prime objective of Europol is to strengthen and facilitate co-operation in preventing and combating serious organised crime and terrorism, in which we have a clear interest in playing an important part. I have yet to meet a senior police officer across our country who does not value our membership of Europol. By providing a platform for members to share intelligence and information, and through a strong analysis function, it offers unparalleled opportunities to prevent serious crime and to protect EU citizens, including those here in the UK. Concretely, this means that 86,629 suspected criminals were identified on the Europol information system in 2015 alone—up by 40% on the year before. There were 1,800-plus decisions for referrals of terrorist and extremist online content between July and December 2016 alone, with 1,600-plus removals, and numerous ongoing large-scale organised crime and trafficking cases. Indeed, the UK staffs one of the largest national desks in the organisation and is one of the biggest contributors of information to Europol systems.
Another mechanism that we have at the moment is Eurojust, which supports the fight against transnational, serious organised crime by co-ordinating multinational investigations and prosecutions. It works through a co-located network of national liaison desks staffed with prosecutors and investigators from across the EU. Later this year, we will start operating the EU’s Prüm system for the exchange of DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data, following this House’s overwhelming vote in December 2015 to join it. In 2015, we conducted a pilot of Prüm, exchanging DNA profiles with four other member states. This gave us an impressive number of hits, many against suspects who would not have been identified otherwise, and enabled the police to arrest people for a number of serious offences, including burglary and attempted rape.
Since 2015, we have taken part in the second-generation Schengen information system, which circulates law enforcement alerts around the EU in real time. This ensures that vital intelligence is shared internationally to help prevent threats from across the world. Joining has seen us arrest and extradite wanted people including drug traffickers, murderers and paedophiles whom we would not otherwise even have known about.
The National Crime Agency has said that joint investigation teams are incredibly important to the UK. Will my right hon. Friend join the National Police Chiefs Council and the Met police in agreeing that Eurojust is hugely valuable and that co-operation agreements must be guaranteed as soon as we leave the EU?
When I talk to the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the National Police Chiefs Council, they are clearly uniform in their desire to make sure that we keep as many toolkits as we can actively working for the benefit of our residents. The work that we have to do in the years ahead must reflect the fact that we have been very clear that, as the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have said, when people voted on 23 June last year they did not vote to be any less safe.
The European arrest warrant, which has already been mentioned, facilitates the extradition of individuals between participating countries to face prosecution for a crime they are accused of or to serve a prison sentence for an existing conviction. We have managed to extradite some 7,000 people as a result of that. The European criminal records information system provides a secure electronic system for the exchange of information on criminal convictions between authorities of participating countries. It ensures that UK authorities are made aware when our own nationals are convicted in any EU country. That means that we can secure criminal records information on EU nationals so that when UK courts are making sentencing decisions they can take into account previous offending behaviour abroad.
My right hon. Friend is actually making a very good case for why we ought to stay in the EU, but we are where we are. He says that the Government’s intention is, in effect, to negotiate a bespoke deal to secure all this into the future, and to achieve that within two years. What happens if we do not get that bespoke deal within the next two years?
I have been very clear about this, as has the Prime Minister: the country has voted to leave the EU and we are leaving the EU, so all this is set in the context of working to get the bespoke deal that my right hon. Friend mentions. I have every confidence not just in the Home Secretary and the team at the Home Office, but the Prime Minister and the team at the Brexit Department, to negotiate to get the deal that is right for our country in the period ahead.
I want to touch briefly on the fight against terrorism. We are, and always have been, clear that national security remains the sole responsibility of EU member states. That principle is set out in EU law.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that of course matters relating to all the important questions he has raised regarding crime, terrorism, security and fingerprinting are not, by any means, confined to the region called the European Union but apply internationally, and that therefore, just as other countries such as the United States have their arrangements, we will have ours?
My hon. Friend makes an important point in that the work we have done across Europe—we have been a leading country in working to get this information—we are also continuing to do with countries around the world to make sure that we are able to do everything we can, in every context, to keep our country and our citizens safe.
For example, we work bilaterally and through the Counter Terrorism Group to combat terrorism effectively in Europe, and that work retains our local sovereignty. It includes working with European partners on information sharing, tackling foreign fighter flows, law enforcement co-operation, tackling radicalisation, and countering the narratives of terrorist groups. That group sits outside the EU, and we will therefore continue to be a member of it. Furthermore, as my hon. Friend rightly points out, our EU co-operation is of course just part of a wider landscape of international counter-terrorism work, which includes co-operation through relationships such as those with Interpol and the “Five Eyes” countries, and bilateral work with individual countries and NATO.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend makes that point. May I make a point in relation to the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash)? The evidence given to the Justice Committee was very clear that although there are other means of international co-operation with countries outside the EU, the current mechanisms are much more efficient, as they very often have to be conducted on a bilateral basis rather than as part of a joined-up system. It is therefore desirable, as my right hon. Friend says, that we do all we can to stay in them.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point in that there are different agreements in different parts of the world with different partners around the world. It is important that we work to improve all those arrangements and get the benefits that we have seen from some of the work we have done and agreements we have secured across Europe more widely. Key partners in Europe have already assured us, as a Government, that they value our close co-operation on counter-terrorism matters as well.
We are very clear that effective co-operation with EU member states on security and policing in order to combat terrorism will continue to be a top UK priority. Looking ahead, our EU-level relationships will, of course, have to change, but our shared goal of assuring and enhancing the security of our citizens will not. It is important that we can find a way forward that works for the UK and the EU jointly, for mutual benefit. We will approach the negotiations from the perspective of what is best for the safety of all our citizens, and what is worst for those who seek to cause serious harm to innocent people and democratic values.
During negotiations, we will look to maintain the excellent co-operation that currently exists with our European partners. We fully recognise that the nature of our future relationship can be decided only in negotiations with member states and EU institutions. We are confident, however, that all citizens will be safer if we continue to work together and co-operate. We recognise the challenges involved in negotiating a new relationship, but we are committed to finding innovative solutions that enable us to continue to work together for the collective security of Europe and all the citizens of the United Kingdom.
The official Opposition welcome this debate. In the run-up to the referendum in June last year and the months since, we have heard much about how our decision to leave the European Union will affect Britain’s economy. We have debated what it means for our businesses, our trading relationships, our nation’s finances and, most importantly, the personal finances of individuals and households throughout our country. That is all of deep concern to me and many other Members.
Of perhaps even greater significance is the threat to our national security that could come from our leaving the European Union and, in particular, the effect that doing so will have on the ability of our police to protect our citizens. Today, as we turn our focus to those issues, the Government need to provide stronger assurances that our nation’s security will not be compromised by our decision to leave the EU. I say gently to the Minister that while his long speech was strong on analysis and strong on detail about the institutions, we did not really hear anything about how we were going to do the things that he wants us to effect.
Some hon. Members lament the fact that in the 40-plus years since we decided to join the common market, it has become far more than simply a trading arrangement. Given the nature of the threats that we face, however, it is unsurprising that European countries have found it convenient to co-operate in other areas, including the field of justice and home affairs. Quite simply, it was in our national interest to do so, because the security threats that we face are not confined to our national borders. Whether we are fighting international terrorist networks, tracking down fugitives from justice, obtaining crucial information on the activities of suspects abroad or maintaining effective border controls, it simply makes more sense to act together. Those issues are paramount to our country and to the security of our citizens. Whatever our personal view on the EU referendum, we urgently need reassurance from the Minister that our national security and our ability to combat crime within our borders will not be compromised by the decision to leave. Many hon. Members have issues that they want to raise this afternoon.
Does the hon. Lady agree that for us in Northern Ireland, it is especially key that we keep our relationships with Ireland and the way in which we work together, and that we improve work on counter-terrorism? Only eight out of 110 extradition requests have been granted. There is still a great deal of work to be done, and we have to build on that.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There are three main issues on which the Opposition seek answers this afternoon: our ability to participate in the common arrest warrant; our future relationship with Europol; and our access to Europe-wide crime prevention databases, including the Schengen information system.
I will come to each of those things in turn, but first there is a general point to be made. As many in the House remember, our optimal relationship with the European Union in the field of security and justice was comprehensively debated during the previous Parliament. We opted out of all provisions relating to police and criminal justice so that we could have a fresh debate about which initiatives we wanted to be part of, and then opt into them again. That initiative was negotiated with European member states by the previous Labour Government and continued by the subsequent coalition. The process consisted of two years of negotiation and debate in this House, in government and in Brussels, and it culminated in Britain deciding to opt back in to 35 specific measures that we considered to be in our national interest.
Those measures included the European arrest warrant, Europol and access to the Schengen information system—the three things that I am concerned about today. I know that our Prime Minister is also concerned about them because it was she, as Home Secretary, who put it to the House on 7 April 2014 that we should opt back into the measures. It is so nice to have confidence that there will be unanimity in the Chamber this afternoon on this oft-contentious subject. However, the opt-in happened before the referendum, and now, in this post-referendum world, the Government need to tell us how they will ensure that we still have access to those measures, which we so recently decided that we needed to keep our citizens safe.
We do not have time today to rehearse the two years of debate that led to a decision to co-operate in each of the 35 areas that we decided to opt back into, so I will focus on our main concerns. There is no doubt that the European arrest warrant is a crucial tool in the fight against crime in the UK. Introduced in 2004, it provides a mechanism whereby crime suspects who have left the country—fugitives—can be surrendered back to the UK automatically by another European member state. It means that suspects who have fled can be returned in a matter of weeks or days. Crucially, it means that suspects can be returned to the UK even if the legal basis for the crime that they are suspected of committing is different from that under the law that applies in the country to which they have fled. That is because the European arrest warrant is underpinned by the principle that European Union countries agree to respect the decisions of each other’s criminal justice systems, even if they differ.
I think that the hon. Lady has just made the point that I wanted to raise, which is that that principle means that we have to accept that justice systems across the rest of the EU are as good as ours. Does she have confidence that that is the case?
I have confidence that the European arrest warrant is far more powerful than any other extradition process anywhere in the world, and we would be stupid if we let it go.
Since the European arrest warrant was introduced in 2004, the UK has used it to bring 2,500 individuals from outside the UK to face justice. Let us not forget that it was the mechanism that ensured that Hussain Osman was brought to justice after he fled to Italy after a failed suicide bombing in London in 2005. The problem that we face is that the European arrest warrant is available exclusively to EU members. We will have to overcome considerable hurdles if we are to maintain the current arrangements and we are not in the European Union. In fact, as a recent briefing from the Centre for European Reform think-tank states, if, having left the EU, the UK wanted to get a similar deal,
“it would need to convince its partners to change their constitutions. In some cases, this would trigger a referendum.”
Do we really think that countries would hold such a referendum because we have decided to leave the EU?
Some countries outside the European Union have attempted to negotiate access to the common arrest warrant system. Norway and Iceland, for example, have concluded a surrender agreement with the EU that represents an attempt to get the same benefits, although it has not yet come into force. That agreement is weaker in two ways. First, it requires the alleged offences to be the same in both countries, thus losing the flexibility that comes from the agreement of member states to respect the decisions of each other’s criminal justice systems. Secondly, it allows countries to refuse to surrender their own nationals, which would make things tricky if a national of an EU country were to commit an offence on UK soil, for example.
On top of that—as if that were not bad enough—the agreement took 15 years to negotiate, and that was for countries in both Schengen and the European economic area, but as the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, there are no plans for us to be members of either. The alternative is that we fall back on previous extradition treaties that are far more cumbersome and will, in some cases, require EU countries to change their own laws in respect of the UK.
It is hard to see how any of those options are preferable to the current arrangements. I find it particularly hard to understand how this fits with the Prime Minister’s pledge yesterday to “work together more” in response to threats to our common security. While it is not difficult for an individual who has broken the law in Britain to hop on a cheap flight to another European country, I fear that it will be very hard indeed, without the European arrest warrant, for us to get them back again. For that reason, Labour calls on the Government to ensure that the current arrangements are maintained.
I turn to our second concern. This House approved regulations confirming our opt-in to Europol only a few weeks ago, and we did that because it is vital to our national security. Europol—the European Police Office, to give it its proper title—exists to combat serious international organised crime by means of co-operation between the relevant authorities of member states, including those tasked with customs, immigration services, borders and financial policing. As we know, Europol is not able to mandate national forces to undertake investigations, but it provides information and resources that enable national investigations to take place.
In the words of the British director of Europol, Rob Wainwright, whose previous career was in UK security institutions, our decision to opt into Europol is:
“Good for Britain’s security, great for police cooperation in Europe.”
Indeed, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service confirmed on 12 December during a debate in a European Committee that Europol provides
“a vital tool in helping UK law enforcement agencies to co-ordinate investigations involving cross-border serious and organised crime”.
He also said:
“About 40% of everything that Europol does is linked to work that is either provided or requested by the United Kingdom.”—[Official Report, European Committee B, 12 December 2016; c. 5-7.]
However, when pushed about whether we can maintain our membership of Europol, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, speaking in this House last year, was able to say only that the Government will seek to:
“preserve the relationship with the European Union on security matters as best we can.”—[Official Report, 5 September 2016; Vol. 614, c. 45.]
When my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) asked him the same question about Europol yesterday, we got no more information about how that could be done.
Is the hon. Lady aware that Rob Wainwright said last year that negotiating security pacts from outside the bloc of Europol, in the event of Britain leaving the EU, would be a “damage-limitation exercise”? Does she agree that what we need to hear from the Government is not a eulogy about how great Europol is—we all know that already—but an indication of how they are going to limit the damage caused by leaving the European Union and agencies such as Europol?
The hon. and learned Lady is absolutely right. I agree with her that this simply is not good enough.
Although Europol has arrangements for third-party access, they raise serious questions. The Government stated in a policy paper that was published last year:
“There are a number of important differences between what Europol provides to third country operational cooperation partners with which it has agreements, and EU members”.
In particular, they highlighted the inability directly to submit data and conduct searches within the Europol databases, the need to conclude a separate bilateral arrangement to connect to Europol’s secure information exchange network application, and the inability to sit on Europol’s management board, which sets the organisation’s strategy. That tells us that Mr Wainwright is highly unlikely to stay in his post. In summary, to borrow the words of David Armond, deputy director general of the National Crime Agency, any alternative arrangement to full membership would be
“sub-optimal, not as good as what we’ve currently got”.
Frankly, that does not feel comfortable to me.
Our third concern is about access to pan-European databases, which are important for the routine work of our police forces. Let me give some examples. Access to European criminal records data—the European criminal records information system—is limited exclusively to EU member states. The common European asylum system includes a fingerprint database known as Eurodac that prevents individuals from reapplying for asylum once a claim has been rejected. We currently have access to the Schengen information system, despite not being a member of Schengen, and that contains information on lost identity documents and, importantly, wanted persons.
The Minister’s permanent secretary stated in his foreword to the Home Office’s most recent annual report that strengthening data exchanges with our European allies was essential to combating terrorism. I would be grateful to the Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union, if he confirmed whether we will still have access to these databases outside the European Union and, if so, whether that access will come at a financial cost.
My hon. Friend is making an impressive and powerful speech on this issue. Some of us may not now need to speak, but I am sure that that will not stop us. At the moment, on ECRIS, if a German citizen is arrested in London, we are able to know within three minutes exactly what their previous convictions are. We will want an arrangement that is just as good if we are no longer to have our existing access.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are simply not getting any guarantees from our Government that that is what they will be able to provide, or that they will even negotiate for it.
There is a more general problem about accessing the data we need to combat crime and keep us safe. Even if we, outside the EU, have access to European databases, we might not be able to use them. European data protection law is clear that no information can be handed to a third country—we will be such a country—that does not adhere to EU laws on privacy. Although our Government have said that they will apply EU data protection law at least until the point of Brexit, we do not yet know if they intend to do so afterwards. However, we certainly know what happens if our data laws do not adhere to European privacy rules: the European Court of Justice will simply invalidate any data sharing agreement, as it did on the so-called safe harbour agreement between the EU and the US. What guarantees will the Government give that the information that our police and security agencies need from European Union databases will not also be turned off when we leave?
In conclusion, we have deep concerns that it will be harder for us to protect our citizens when we leave the European Union. We need the Government to reassure us that they intend to reduce or eliminate this risk through their Brexit negotiations. It is one thing to have our prosperity under threat from the complexities of maintaining access to the single market—frankly, that is bad enough—but it is quite another if our security and the very lives of our citizens are under threat because the complexities of maintaining cross-border co-operation with our police and security services were not properly considered before leaving. To quote the Centre for European Reform again, justice and home affairs
“is not like trade, which creates winners and losers: the only losers from increased co-operation in law enforcement are the criminals themselves.”
My question to the Minister is simple: what guarantees will he give that Britain’s security will not be compromised by our leaving the European Union?
I now have to announce the result of the Division deferred from a previous day. On the motion relating to local government, the Ayes were 299 and the Noes were 6. Of those Members representing constituencies in England, the Ayes were 280 and the Noes were 6, so the Ayes have it.
[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]
If I may say so to the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), whose speech I listened to very carefully, I am for my own part completely content that these matters should be left in the very safe hands of the Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), who in my view knows exactly what needs to be done.
I am most grateful for this opportunity to say a few brief words following my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s excellent, bold and comprehensive speech yesterday, and to set out a few thoughts on wider security and co-operation after Brexit. In the Brexit negotiations, it will be necessary for us to set out the basis of our future relationship, as is described in article 50. I believe it is in our national interest to sustain, and to carry forward into the future, the highest possible degree of joint action on justice, home affairs, security and co-operation, scientific research and innovation, and many other areas of common and important interest.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the clear and concise way in which she set out the Government’s position. I was a staunch remainer, but I absolutely accept the verdict of the referendum and the need for the Government to now get on with it. As Churchill once said, “If there is a bear in your bedroom it is not a matter for speculation”. So at the same time as these very difficult and complex negotiations on trade and all the other myriad issues take place, this is an important time for us to set out, as the Prime Minister did in her speech, a clear case for a very close partnership and a new relationship of co-operation between members of the European Union and the UK. In my view, it should be as close as any sovereign country can be in military affairs, free trade and security co-operation.
That type of work with our friends—Germany, France and other countries—is of the first importance. In my view, our initiatives would be widely welcomed in Europe, running in parallel with the rather more complex and tricky negotiations on the article 50 transaction. That is where Britain can bring something positive, useful and of proven worth to the table. Thus, in my judgment, we should aim to maintain our excellent co-operation on security and enhance it further, including during the discussion of the new settlement. On many issues, we will continue to have an important interest in shaping EU policies after we leave, but clearly the United Kingdom is an important influence on the European security agenda. Our influence will remain considerable given our position as NATO’s most capable and willing European power. The recent deployments of Typhoon aircraft to Romania, army personnel to eastern Poland and, most importantly, a full armoured infantry battalion of 800 men to Estonia all serve to underline our profound commitment.
Inevitably, once the UK exits the EU it will become harder for us to translate that undoubted and important commitment into political influence. It is thus even more imperative that our partners and friends understand that we intend to continue the closest possible relationships in those areas, to our mutual interest. As the Prime Minister rightly said yesterday, she wants Britain to be the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, and a country that reaches out beyond the borders of Europe too. It is my fervent hope that our European friends will understand that it is our strongest wish that we play from the outside what role we can in making sure the EU succeeds.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we need to put all the pressure we can on President Trump to make sure that NATO stays in place and that we build on our security around that? There is a real fear that he may not want that, in which case the pressures will change.
I very strongly agree with the hon. Gentleman. That is very important. I have high hopes that the Prime Minister, when she visits President Trump, will make those points clearly. I hope President Trump will say something in his inauguration speech that will clarify what he meant by “obsolete” in relation to NATO. I am not offended by that. I was discussing it with the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), and I do not think that President Trump meant it as an insult. It is true that there is much about NATO that is highly unsatisfactory and obsolete, not least because many countries do not pay their fair whack. It is very slow to transform and is not equipped for the new asymmetric hybrid versions of warfare that we will have to contend with, or as advanced as Russia, as has been seen in its unbelievably bad behaviour in Crimea.
Before my right hon. Friend gets back to his main oration, I would like to draw attention to the context in which President Trump was reported. He said that NATO is extremely important to him. He seems to be using the word “obsolete” in the sense that NATO needs to be not abolished but modernised to face new threats. We should not read too much into the nuances of the individual words he speaks, because nuance does not seem to be his style.
My right hon. Friend is spot-on, and I am sure these matters will play out. If one looks at the wonderful success of the security architecture designed by those wise men and women after the last great war, one sees how well it has served the world in peace, and in good times and bad times. This does not seem to me a sensible time to do anything other than support it.
With the threats to our common security becoming even more serious and in many ways more insidious, our response surely cannot be to co-operate with one another less, but must be to work together more. As the Prime Minister said in her speech yesterday:
“I am proud of the role Britain has played and will continue to play in promoting Europe’s security. Britain has led Europe on the measures needed to keep our continent secure—whether it is implementing sanctions against Russia following its action in Crimea, working for peace and stability in the Balkans”—
an extraordinarily important piece of work right now—
“or securing Europe’s external border. We will continue to work closely with our European allies in foreign and defence policy even as we leave the EU itself.”
I hope the Minister will agree that it is important that we demonstrate, even during the inevitable heat of the negotiations, our absolute determination to be good partners, allies and friends to Europe, and the fact that we are, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister so rightly said, leaving the European Union but most emphatically not leaving Europe.
It is a pleasure and an honour to follow the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames). I am sure we could find much on which we disagree, but his experience and erudition in these matters shines through. I also compliment the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) on her very fine speech. There was much in it that we agree about.
This debate takes place against the background of the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday, which of course was made not to this House but to an invited audience. Although we had an opportunity to question the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union yesterday, this House has yet to debate the plan for leaving the European Union. It is of the utmost importance that we are debating today the implications of Brexit for security, law enforcement and criminal justice, but it is even more important that we are soon allowed to debate the overall plan for Brexit, which was finally laid before us yesterday.
Scotland did not vote for the direction of travel set out in the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday. We do not believe that that is in our national interest. We believe that decisions in relation to the European Union are being driven not by the rational best interests of the whole of the UK, but by the obsessions of the hard right of the Tory party. We strongly believe that the best way to build a prosperous, equal, safe and secure UK is to be a full member of the EU, or, failing that, to be a member of the single market and to co-operate widely on such matters as security, law enforcement and criminal justice. That is why the Scottish Government put a plan to the whole UK before Christmas suggesting a compromise whereby the whole UK might stay in the single market and continue to co-operate on matters such as those under discussion today. It seems clear from what the Prime Minister said yesterday that she is not interested in that option, so our fall-back position is to ask the British Government to consider allowing Scotland to stay in the single market and to continue to co-operate on those matters.
The UK Government should not try to lull people into a false sense of security in thinking that continued co-operation on these matters will be easy in the event of a hard Brexit. That is not just my opinion; it was the opinion of the House of Lords European Union Committee, which published a report on Brexit and the future of UK-EU security and police co-operation. It noted that the
“UK and the EU-27 share a strong mutual interest in sustaining police and security cooperation after”
Brexit, but warned against that understanding of “mutual self-interest” leading
“to a false sense of optimism about how the negotiations”
in this area might proceed. That raises questions already alluded to about the extent to which the UK could continue to benefit from the same level of co-operation outside the EU. It has already been pointed out in relation to Europol that associate members do not have access to the same data sharing information.
Data sharing is central to this debate. In practice, there will be limits to how closely the UK and the EU27 can work together if we in the UK are no longer accountable or subject to the oversight and adjudication of the same supranational EU institutions, including—and perhaps most importantly—the EU Court of Justice. We saw just before Christmas that the Court of Justice took rather a dim view of the provisions for data collection and retention in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, as many of us warned would occur when the Act was going through the House. If the UK does not comply with EU law on data sharing and privacy protection, our former partners will not be able to share information with us under the laws by which they are bound.
This is not just about the protection of civil liberties; it is crucial to security and law enforcement. Much is made in the general debate about leaving the EU of the opportunities for the UK beyond Europe. It is sometimes suggested that we should focus more on our security arrangements with, perhaps, the “Five Eyes” countries, including the United States, and it is true that some countries, such as the USA, have set precedents for bilateral agreements on the transfer of data, but those do not offer the quick fix that some suggest. Those agreements have taken many years to negotiate and, in some cases, are not enforced. Why withdraw from a system we have so painstakingly contributed to for years, in order to seek something else that is far from guaranteed? As a matter of security, we cannot afford an operational break in our access to EU cross-border tools, because they are part of the day-to-day work of the police force. We have only to look at the figures and stats produced by the Home Office and the Scottish Government to see how important Europol and the European arrest warrant are.
It is sometimes also suggested that our partnerships with other countries, such as our “Five Eyes” partners, will somehow replace or supersede what we have in place with the EU, but that will not work either, because the “Five Eyes” partnership, important though it is, does not cover all aspects of our security. For example, it does not cover all aspects of day-to-day policing. In fact, the National Crime Agency has said that one concern for it and its “Five Eyes” partners is the impact that the absence of the UK from Europol will have on the other “Five Eyes” countries’ relationships, because they often use the UK as a proxy for getting work done at Europol when the UK is working with it. Such difficulties are the reality of the situation, and it is not just the SNP or the Labour party highlighting them; as we have heard, they have been highlighted by the NCA, Rob Wainwright and the House of Lords Select Committee that has looked into these matters in some detail.
The need to meet EU data protection standards so that we can exchange data for law enforcement purposes means that if the UK leaves the EU, the UK will need to subject itself to data protection laws that it will have no role in shaping. Is that what Government Members really want? I realise that they have concerns about how laws are made in the EU, and it is pretty obvious that they do not like the Court of Justice very much, but if we, as a Union of nations, want to continue to operate with our EU partners on security and law enforcement, data sharing will be key. As I said, we will have to subject ourselves to data sharing rules made by the other 27 member states into which we will have no input. If we insist on going our separate way, as we have done with the Investigatory Powers Act, and going beyond what EU law sanctions, the other 27 member states will not want to share information with us, because, as I said earlier, it would breach their own laws on data sharing and data protection.
Those are very real concerns. As I said in my intervention on the hon. Member for West Ham, we heard a very good speech from the Minister earlier about the advantages to the UK of Europol and other EU institutions, but we did not hear how he proposes to preserve those advantages in the event of the hard Brexit we heard about in some detail for the first time yesterday. We need to hear this afternoon not the UK Government’s wish list but the mechanics of how they intend to continue the level of security protection and law enforcement information sharing that we currently enjoy with the other 27 member states, if they are intent on the task the Prime Minister set out yesterday. We have heard nothing so far, except that they want a bespoke deal. We shall wait with bated breath to hear more about that when the Minister sums up.
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry). She is a distinguished, practical lawyer, and I agree with her on some of the practical issues that arise, to which I shall return in a moment.
I endorse the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) in relation to our mutual situation—we both fought to remain in the EU, but, having lost, we both accept the verdict of the people. I also endorse his comments commending the Prime Minister for her realistic, practical and determined approach to this issue and on the importance of our NATO relationships. He is much more of an expert on those than I, but I endorse what he said, although I add one thing: we must not only strengthen our NATO relationships but maintain the best possible relationships with our colleagues who happen to be members of both the EU and NATO, not least our nearest neighbour, France, the other great military power of Europe. It is a nuclear power, a significant military power and a member of the UN Security Council. I am sure the Minister, being the diligent Minister he is, will gently remind his ministerial colleagues that we have a long history with France and were actually on the same side in the second world war.
That said, let me return to the specific issue of law enforcement and criminal justice co-operation. That has concerned me during my years at the criminal Bar and is also an issue on which the Justice Committee took evidence only in the last week or so—and we shall publish our report soon.
Unlike the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West, I do not expect the Minister to reveal the mechanism by which we achieve our objectives, because we are at the beginning of a process. The Prime Minister was right to set out the plan, and I expect there will be a lot more detail that we will have to think about. In my short contribution I want to flag up some of the issues that I hope the Minister and his colleagues will bear in mind when we look at the negotiations and how we put the plan into reality.
The Minister of State at the Home Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), started by talking about the importance of the European arrest warrant. That is recognised by the Prime Minister. She is right that we must do all that is necessary to remain within the European arrest warrant, which involves some compromises. As for the purity of any break, I personally would be prepared to make some compromises, as I would in relation to other matters, to achieve the practical objective of keeping our country safe. They are critical. As I said to the Minister of State, many of these issues are not about our domestically determined criminal law being overweened or supervened by some international system. These are matters of practical co-operation, tracking down suspects and arresting them, the exchange of information and the enforcement of court judgments to everybody’s mutual advantage.
All member states of the European Union have varying degrees of approach to their criminal justice systems. Ours is particularly different because of our common law system, of which we are immensely proud, but that does not mean—I hope people would never suspect that it does—that the systems of other European member states should automatically be regarded as inferior to ours. Some of us in this country are occasionally a bit too sniffy about the quality of the justice systems of other European member states. I have no hesitation whatever in commending the integrity of the justice systems of France, Germany, Italy and many others, as I would in respect of Scotland, Ireland or Northern Ireland, for that matter.
My hon. Friend is making some good points, but would he concur, given that we are fellow members of the Council of Europe, that some of the prison systems that he and I have probably both visited simply do not come up to British standards? I would mention Greece in particular.
I thought that that issue might be raised, and I was going to say that that does not alter the importance of criminal justice co-operation and, secondly, that where this has been relevant as a criticism of the arrest warrant in the past—in the Symeou case, for example—that is essentially history. What is not often sufficiently recognised are the very important amendments made to the European arrest warrant in 2014. We heard evidence from both the criminal lawyers society and the Criminal Bar Association, who strongly concurred that the amendments of 2014 had removed the risks that had put the unfortunate Mr Symeou in his position.
It is a great pleasure to serve under the hon. Gentleman’s chairmanship of the Justice Committee. The point made in the intervention by the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), which is a cause of concern to me, is that sometimes countries in the EU issue their European arrest warrant for very minor offences. One example is an individual who had a warrant issued against him because he had stolen a bicycle. It is important that individual countries focus on the reasons why they take out their arrest warrants. I have always regarded it as very serious when a European arrest warrant is issued; it is not appropriate for the minor offences that some countries use it for.
I accept that that is a significant issue, but the two amendments achieved two things. First, they removed any risk of extradition before commencement of proceedings; and, secondly, they introduced in the UK a proportionality filter. It would be better if all other countries that use the European arrest warrant had a proportionality filter, too. From the evidence we heard from Professor Wilson of the Northumbria University’s centre for evidence and criminal justice studies, it seems that even Poland, which has resisted a proportionality filter in the past, is now moving in that direction. The situation is improving there.
The fact that we have those two important safeguards is significant, and it is also important that the European arrest warrant system is a court-driven system, which is subject to judicial supervision rather than being an executive act of extradition. That is why it would be undesirable for us to lose the advantage of the European arrest warrant and have to fall back to the 1957 extradition convention, which was a purely administrative act, carried out through diplomatic channels, without the protection of court intervention or review. It was also much more cumbersome.
It is indeed a privilege, as mentioned by others, to serve on the Justice Committee under the hon. Gentleman’s chairmanship; he is making a fine speech. Will he respond to some of the comments made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry)? Notwithstanding her clear desire to stay within the European arrest warrant, there will be difficulties as a result of different data-sharing regimes in the European Union and the UK. How is it possible to reconcile the two, following the UK’s leaving the EU?
It is certainly clear from the available evidence that the Government will need to take that necessity on board. We will have adhere to European standards of data protection for other member states to be able to share the information with us, according to their law. We may also want to share information with other third-party countries, so both we and they will have to be prepared to adhere to international standards. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) rightly said, that might involve some form of international adjudicative process to deal with disputes between member states. I am not going to tie anyone down on how best to solve that, but there are serious issues that we will have to bear in mind from day one of our negotiations.
Equally, when we talk about involvement with some of the other agencies—we referred to ECRIS, the European criminal records information system, to Prüm and to a number of other valuable tools—we need to recognise that there is a financial cost to the development of the databases. I would certainly encourage the Government not to be afraid to continue to make a financial contribution to the development and maintenance of them. That would be a small price to pay in view of the advantage of protection for the British public. I think there is common ground on the objective of the European arrest warrant. I just wanted to raise some of the practical issues that we will have to grasp if we are to succeed in achieving our continued full access to it as a non-EU member state.
I want to refer to other matters of concern—co-operation between the courts, which involves our continued membership or association with Eurojust. There is a precedent for non-member states continuing to co-operate with Eurojust. Norway has a co-operation agreement and has liaison prosecutors based at Eurojust. If we leave the EU as it stands, we would have to move from being national college members, but we could have a Norwegian-style status. Perhaps we should be bold and try to argue that we should remain as national college members on some sort of basis if the constitution permits it. That would be preferable.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about Norway, but is he aware that the Prime Minister, in her former role as Home Secretary, was very disparaging about the abilities of Norway and Switzerland, outside the EU bloc, because they do not have access to all the tools and have to come under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, without having the same input into the law-making process?
Prior to the referendum, neither the hon. and learned Lady, the Prime Minister nor I would have wished to be in the conundrum in which we now find ourselves. However, I accept the verdict of the British people, so we must find a practical means of achieving the objective that we want. It would be better to find something that is beyond Norway. That is why I have suggested starting as a negotiating point with the idea that we should be national college members rather than associates of Eurojust. If we are ambitious, we lose nothing from pressing for that from the beginning.
In April last year, the Prime Minister as Home Secretary referred to the whole of the European criminal record system—financial intelligence units, the prisoner transfer unit, Schengen Information System II, joint investigation teams and Prüm—in the context of seeing them as practical measures that promote effective co-operation between different European law enforcement organisations. If we are not part of them, Britain will be less safe. As Francis FitzGibbon, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, told the Select Committee, that would be a pretty good starting point for bringing this whole area to greater prominence, and a pretty good starting point, I would suggest to the Minister, for our negotiation objectives. Witnesses to the Justice Committee repeatedly said that this is part of a mutually reinforcing system of justice co-operation.
We may concentrate on the arrest warrant, but the information exchanges, the ability to enforce court judgments and the ability, for example, to seek a European information order to obtain evidence from abroad are all part of the same process. That is why it is critical for us to set our objectives at the highest possible level when it comes to seeking our continued engagement with these matters.
This is an important debate because it concerns an immensely important topic. Those of us who now want to move on constructively from what, according to any view, has been a bruising experience for this country will want to do so on the basis of an ambition to protect the country, while also recognising that both our judicial system and our police force are immensely highly regarded, not just in Europe but internationally. We have something to bring to the table as well. I hope that the Minister will take those points on board in a bold and ambitious negotiation, and I wish him and his colleagues well.
It is a pleasure to follow my fellow Select Committee Chair, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill). I agreed with many of the points that he made about the importance of continued European co-operation. Like him, I voted for article 50 to be triggered by the end of March, because although, like him, I wanted us to remain in the European Union, I believed that we should respect the referendum result, and that means getting on with the detailed and hard work of establishing how we can get the best possible deal for Britain outside the EU.
I also agree with the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) that we should be cautious about assuming that it will be easy for us to get the detail right, particularly in respect of the important law enforcement issues. If we do not have the right kind of legal basis for the co-operation that we want to see, we shall simply not be able to use the information or intelligence that we have to lock up those who have committed crimes and to keep people safe.
I hope that there is considerable consensus about the objectives that we should have—not just consensus across the House about our objectives in co-operating to keep Britain safe, but consensus across Europe, where co-operation between Britain and other European countries has saved people’s lives and protected us from terror threats and serious crime. The Prime Minister was right to say yesterday:
“With the threats to our common security becoming more serious, our response cannot be to cooperate with one another less, but to work together more.”
So far, however, we have heard very little from the Home Secretary, and, although I have the great respect for the Policing Minister, I am disappointed that she has not come to the House today.
Given the seriousness of these issues, and given that the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of parliamentary sovereignty, I think that we need to hear more from the Home Secretary in Parliament. We will be calling on her to come before the Home Affairs Committee to provide further detail. It is also disappointing that the Policing Minister has now departed, which means that no Home Office Minister is present for a debate on an issue that will have huge repercussions for our security operations for many decades to come. Obviously, the work on security will form part of the Government’s wider plan for securing the best possible Brexit deal and Brexit settlement.
Yesterday the Prime Minister talked particularly about trade. She pledged to secure tariff-free trade, and a better overall deal for British jobs that was outside the single market and the customs union. As the Government will know, there is considerable concern about whether ditching a long-established trade and customs deal will really deliver a better deal for jobs, employment protection and environmental standards here in Britain, and Ministers will need to provide a great deal more evidence to show that they can actually deliver a better deal for our manufacturing and services, as well as for the social and economic standards that matter so much.
Ministers will also need to say more about the Government’s approach to immigration. I am one of those who have believed for some time that we need to change the arrangements for free movement, and I think there are particular concerns about unrestricted low-skilled migration. We shall need to engage in a sensible debate about how to get the best deal for Britain on both jobs and immigration, so that we benefit from international talent and from economic trade as well.
There is some confusion and there are some questions as a result of mixed messages received from the Government. It would be helpful if the Minister clarified the position, as he represents the Department for Exiting the European Union. Some are suggesting that immigration will not form part of the discussions and negotiations about trade and that those issues will be kept separate in the negotiations, while others say that debate about future immigration rules will be dealt with alongside the trade negotiations. It is important for us to understand whether the negotiations about the customs union and the single market are stand-alone trade negotiations, or whether there will be a wider debate on options relating to both immigration and trade.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on all the excellent work that she is doing as Chair of the Home Affairs Committee. Does she know whether we are to have a debate on leaving the EU and immigration and Home Office policy, especially with regard to the rights of EU citizens to stay here, or whether we are supposed to discuss all those matters during today’s debate about Home Office and justice matters?
I thank my right hon. Friend for what he has said, and commend him for his many years of fantastic work on the Home Affairs Committee. I do not know what the plans are for further debates about immigration. Perhaps the Minister can enlighten us, because it will clearly be one of the central issues to be discussed. If it is included in the debate, that will affect the kind of deal or agreement that we secure, so it is important for us to have some clarity about what those plans are.
The right hon. Lady will be well aware that there are a number of different options for immigration from EU member states. I am sure she will not miss this opportunity to advertise the Home Affairs Committee’s “big conversation”. The Committee is travelling around the country to discuss the issue. It is also encouraging Members to contribute, and to urge their constituents to do so as well.
I am glad that a fellow member of the Home Affairs Committee has reminded me to say that people across the country need to become involved and have their say about what the right immigration options should be for Britain. We know that immigration is important for our future, but we also know that it needs to be controlled and managed in a way that is fair, and people have different views on how that should happen. My view is that there is rather more consensus than people may think, given the polarised debates on immigration that sometimes take place. We do indeed believe that all Members of Parliament should have their say as part of the process. We shall be holding regional hearings and evidence sessions around the country, and also urging Members to consult their constituents on what they want to happen as part of the future arrangements.
The Policing Minister set out a very broad-brush approach to security. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), the shadow Policing Minister, gave a forensic response, posing a thorough and detailed set of questions that were not really addressed in the Policing Minister’s initial outline of the position. He rightly talked about the value of our relationships and the importance of joint working, but we need much more reassurance from the Government that they are taking three crucial issues—Europol, the European arrest warrant and the databases—immensely seriously, because they will have huge implications for our security if we do not get this right.
There is no precedent for a non-EU member to be a member of Europol, but I should be grateful for confirmation from the Minister that there is also nothing in the treaties that would rule that out. If we are looking for a bespoke arrangement, perhaps he could confirm that there is nothing to prevent us from asking to continue our existing Europol membership, given the crucial role that Britain has played in shaping Europol in the first place, and in raising the standards of policing and cross-border policing in other countries across Europe to meet the standards that we have here in the United Kingdom.
As the Minister will know, the UK uses Europol more than almost any other country in the EU. We provide more intelligence, and play a leading role as well. Operation Golf, involving the Met and Europol, rescued 28 children who were being exploited by a Romanian-organised criminal gang network. Operation Rescue investigated the world’s largest online child abuse network and led to 12 arrests in the UK, safeguarding 230 children. That kind of work between British police forces and Europol is immensely important. I therefore urge the Government to pursue full membership of Europol, or at least something that looks, sounds and smells like it, so that it delivers exactly the kind of security arrangements we have at the moment.
We also need something that looks, feels, sounds and smells, and pretty much is the European arrest warrant, instead of reinventing something from scratch or having to renegotiate, as other countries including Norway and Iceland have done. It has taken them many years to do so, and the length of time involved in renegotiating those extradition agreements, whether with the rest of the EU or with individual countries, can cause huge delays and considerable legal uncertainty.
The Government are well aware of the importance of the European arrest warrant. Indeed, it was part of our discussion of justice and home affairs concerns over the past few years. I hope we will continue to make sure that we can respond to the up to 1,000 EAWs each year, which involve us being able to deport to other countries their suspected criminals, who would otherwise be able to find greater sanctuary here.
The most challenging area of all was raised by the police who gave testimony and evidence to the Select Committee: access to information and databases, and to that shared information across Europe. The temporary deputy assistant commissioner of the National Police Chiefs’ Council said:
“If we are curtailed in our ability to access intelligence systems that our overseas partners have put in place, we may risk people hurting children or committing harm because we cannot put that picture together. My response to you is yes, it increases the risk.”
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham gave a thorough account of the databases and the challenges they face, including the European criminal records information system, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) referred; the second generation Schengen information system; the passenger name record directive; and the Europol information system. On that latter system, some of Europol’s co-operation partners can store and query the data in the centre, but cannot have direct access, which is what is so important.
If we are outside the EU and trying to set up a new bespoke arrangement, the European Commission will be forced to make an adequacy assessment. So once we trigger article 50 and are setting the new arrangements from outside the EU, we will expect an adequacy assessment by the European Commission under its current legal arrangements. However, as the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West pointed out, there are some challenges with getting that data adequacy assessment in place. While that ought to be solvable given our shared objectives and security and intelligence co-operation, it another reason why it takes time to get this issue right and why we cannot simply assume that, because we have the same shared objectives, it will all be solved and it will all just come out in the wash.
If our objectives are to stay in Europol and the EAW and to keep access to those crucial databases, it would be helpful if the Government said that, rather than simply make broad-brush statements that we want to continue with co-operation around security. That would give greater certainty to our police and law enforcement officers about what they should be focusing on and planning for. The Minister will know that, if we are not able to do that, it will be important to have transitional arrangements in place. Frankly, if we do not have that, people’s lives will be at risk.
Let me leave the Minister with a final thought about the way in which the negotiations take place. I have raised my concern about the Home Secretary and Home Office Ministers not being present, and because there is shared agreement on the objectives both in the House and across Europe, I am concerned that this matter will be treated as a lower priority in the negotiations. It is not as controversial an issue as some others, which we will all row about. It will not therefore be one of the main things on which the Prime Minister will continually keep her attention. However, it must be taken immensely seriously, otherwise it will just slip between people’s fingers and we will end up with the details not being ready in time and it therefore not being sorted out.
My other concern is that this issue must not be used as a bargaining chip in the wider negotiations. There will be all kinds of rows, debates and trade-offs across Europe around trade, immigration rules and so forth, but we should not have trade-offs around security. It would be better if issues around security co-operation could be treated as a separate part of the negotiations, and could be dealt with as rapidly as possible to get some early security and show that the Government are giving the matter sufficient attention. Our Select Committee will hold further evidence sessions, and I am sure other Select Committees and Members will also be scrutinising this subject in detail.
Britain voted to leave the EU, but nobody voted to make Britain less safe. I know the Government will take safety and security seriously, but they need to be taken sufficiently seriously to make sure that we do not inadvertently get a gap in our security arrangements which ends up putting lives at risk. In the end, we are talking here about terror, security and cross-border crime, so this is about any Government’s first duty: to keep their citizens safe.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, on which I sit, especially as I agreed with pretty much everything she said.
Security did not feature especially prominently during the referendum campaign. I understand why that was: a lot of what we have been talking about is very complex and does not fit easily into a brief soundbite, and much of our security co-operation is not done through our membership of the EU. Our security against military threats from other countries is protected by our membership of NATO, other alliances and bilateral relationships. Our security in terms of terrorist threats is largely dealt with on a bilateral basis, country to country between intelligence agencies, as well as through multilateral agreements such as the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and the USA.
Those relationships are entirely separate from our membership of the EU and are in no way compromised by this country’s decision to leave. To that extent, I never subscribed to the claims of some on my side of the referendum campaign—the remain side—that we would suddenly become a very dangerous place in the event of a vote to leave, or indeed to the ridiculous hyperbole that ISIS would be delighted by a leave vote. Indeed, Mark Rowley, the assistant commissioner for specialist operations at the Met police and the UK’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, reported that there has actually been an increase in co-operation between European member states’ police and intelligence agencies since the vote to leave the EU. This ad-hoc co-operation was no doubt due to, and necessitated by, intelligence shortcomings before some of the recent terrorist atrocities in Europe.
To focus on the military and high-level intelligence co-operation and counter-terrorism that takes place outside the EU architecture is to ignore the many policing and criminal justice measures inside the EU structures, which make the police’s practical work of keeping us safe easier and more efficient. I have spoken to a number of police officers—in my previous work as a barrister, I acted for and against the police regularly—and I know many police officers, both locally and outside my own area. Some voted to leave and some voted to remain, but all share a clear desire for our existing EU police and criminal justice co-operation to stay the same, or to be replicated as closely as possible.
Just last night I was speaking to the president of the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales, Gavin Thomas, at an event at which a number of Members were present. He cited the example of how access to European Union DNA databases has allowed checks that previously took days or weeks to be performed within 15 minutes. He is a full supporter, as are the leads of many other police staff associations and senior police officers, of maintaining our current policing and criminal justice relationships with the EU.
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Is he aware that similar evidence exists in relation to the Schengen information system? The National Crime Agency has stated:
“Loss of access to SIS II would seriously inhibit the UK’s ability to identify and arrest people who pose a threat to public safety and security”.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. In fact, I do not think that a single senior police officer or police organisation takes a view counter to the one he has just outlined.
Beyond the police—apart from some concerns about the European arrest warrant, which I do not share—I do not detect any desire among members of the public for any rowing back on our policing and criminal justice co-operation with the EU. I do not detect any such appetite within this place either. Certainly since I have been here, the only pushback—particularly on these Benches—has been on the requirement to submit to the oversight of the European Court of Justice. I will come back to that matter shortly, but to take it out of the equation for the moment, I doubt that there will be a voice of dissent in this place relating to the panoply of policing and justice co-operations we currently enjoy. Time does not permit me to go through each and every one of them, so I shall focus on just four.
Europol exists to assist law enforcement agencies in member states to tackle cross-border crime. It focuses on gathering, analysing and disseminating information, rather than on conducting actual investigations. The UK has 12 liaison officers at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague, which I was able to visit with colleagues on the Home Affairs Committee last year, including the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz). It is a very impressive operation indeed. It is important to note that Europol also has representatives from non-EU countries such as Norway and the US. We had a long conversation with representatives from the US and the Department of Homeland Security, who have a significant presence there. It was not immediately clear from that conversation that they were significantly worse off for not being a member of the EU. However, they certainly do not have the automatic right of access of EU member states to the Europol information system. There is a specific provision for them to have access on a case-by-case, supervised basis.
We were also able to meet online counter-radicalisation officers from the European Cybercrime Centre, an initiative very much championed by our Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary. The Europol information system is a central database with information on suspected criminals and objects associated with crime, such as vehicles. If a vehicle is suspected of being connected to a crime in Kingston, for example, British police officers can search the EIS to find out whether there is any information on that vehicle, or people associated with it, anywhere in the EU. In 2015, the UK sent and received 37,000 alerts through Europol channels, half of which related to high-priority threats such as child sex exploitation and firearms. As crime and criminals respect state borders less and less, the role of Europol in supporting cross-border co-operation will only increase and become more vital. It must be retained, with British involvement.
I shall move on to the Prüm convention. Like the EIS, Prüm allows and facilitates member states to search each other’s databases for fingerprints, DNA profiles and vehicle registration details. The UK has not yet fully implemented Prüm, although I believe that it will do so later this year, but we ran a pilot for DNA profile exchange in 2015. As I mentioned, I heard from a senior police officer yesterday that that has allowed checks that would previously have taken hours or days to be performed in 15 minutes.
The hon. Gentleman is the Chamber’s resident expert on Prüm. Does he agree that it is important that we continue to implement the terms of the agreement, irrespective of our decision to come out of the European Union, because it provides important data sharing on DNA and fingerprints? Does he agree that, having made the decision, we should continue with that process pending the negotiations?
Pending the negotiations, we should continue down the path of integration in all these policing and criminal justice measures. We have already done that in respect of Europol in a decision that was approved by the House last month.
I shall move on to another important measure: the passenger name records directive. This was explained to members of the Committee at Copenhagen airport. It is a common system for collecting and processing data held by airlines, including names, travel dates, itineraries, seat numbers, baggage and means of payment. These data are vital in tracking criminal and terrorist movements to prevent and detect crime. It is important to note that the EU has bilateral data sharing arrangements for passenger name records with the US, Australia and Canada. It is also negotiating an arrangement with Mexico, so there is no good reason why a non-EU country cannot participate in what is clearly a system that has mutual benefits.
The European arrest warrant has had a transformative effect on the ability of the police and prosecuting authorities to get those who need to face justice in the UK—whether relating to a prosecution or a prison sentence—back to the UK to do so. It bypasses the fiendishly complicated extradition rules that apply with respect to some other countries, because countries that are part of the European arrest warrant arrangements cannot refuse to extradite their own citizens, and there are legally mandated time limits during which extraditions have to take place. In 2015-16, 2,102 individuals were arrested in the UK and deported on European arrest warrants. Those were people we plainly did not want in this country. We have been able to repatriate more than 2,500 individuals from EU countries since we have been a member of the European arrest warrant system, including some well-known terrorists, serious criminals and paedophiles. There is a list of high-profile cases, but I will not go into it now. I agree with the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) that this is the most effective extradition system in the world, and it would be madness if we were in a situation in which we had to leave it.
I am not an expert on this subject, but there is concern that, under the European arrest warrant, UK citizens could find themselves extradited to other EU countries in which the justice system falls far short of what we would regard as adequate. Does my hon. Friend have any concerns about that?
I am sure we will hear my right hon. Friend’s expertise in the defence field in a few moments. The starting point of the European arrest warrant system is that any country in it has a legal system that will give a British citizen a fair hearing, just as citizens of that country would have a fair hearing here. That is the starting assumption, and that was why the House approved our membership of the system. I accept that some people hold the view that my right hon. Friend describes—I mentioned that fact earlier—but, on balance, the majority of people in the House and in the country think that being a member of the European arrest warrant keeps us safer.
Perhaps my hon. Friend would like to know that that was the view of the Criminal Solicitors Association, whose members largely represent defendants, and of the Criminal Bar Association. They agree that, on balance, membership of the European arrest warrant system is an advantage because it is a court-led system that involves judicial overview, unlike the classic extradition system, which is an Executive process.
I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful intervention.
There are many other measures that I could mention: ECRIS; the Schengen II information system; the system for providing enforcement alerts, including for those wanted on European arrest warrants, which includes more than 70 million live alerts; and the European image archiving system, which is a database of genuine and counterfeit ID documents and travel stamps. In all those fields, I agree with the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, that we should be aiming for full membership, or the closest possible approximation to it.
Turning to the UK’s position since the general election, the Government have put us in a good position to take forward policing and justice co-operation with the EU. First, in December 2015, we decided to opt into Prüm II. Secondly, in December 2016, we decided to opt into new regulations governing Europol, and I was pleased to sit on the European Committee that unanimously approved that decision. Thirdly, the Prime Minister set out yesterday how a global Britain will continue to co-operate with its European partners in the fight against the common threats of crime and terrorism. She made it clear that she wanted our future relationship with the EU to include practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and the sharing of intelligence material with our EU allies. That came as no surprise because she personally led several such initiatives during her many years in the Home Office.
Clearly it is up to the European Union and others to decide whether to allow the UK to remain part of the policing and criminal justice architecture that we are debating today, but the case for the EU and EU member states to do so is clear. It is probably clearer in this area than in any other area of EU co-operation, not only because it affects the security of each citizen of every EU member state, but because the UK is at the forefront of each and every one of these criminal justice measures. For example, 40% of contributions to Europol’s shared intelligence come from the UK—we are behind only Germany—and the UK is the main contributor of intelligence in several of the most important areas. It would not be in the interests of any EU member state, or the EU as whole, to shut itself off from access to that vital intelligence in pursuit of some lofty EU principle or ideal—this is a matter of practicality. If the tables were turned and another country that contributed 40% of Europol’s intelligence—this intelligence helps British police officers to fight crime—were leaving the EU, I would be the first to call on our Government to do everything possible to maintain access to that intelligence and to preserve our co-operation with that country. Without wishing to labour the point, it would be an act of self-defeating nihilism for the EU to seek to shut the UK out of policing and criminal justice co-operation measures.
How could we co-operate outside the EU? We could either be allowed to remain a member of such measures, which would require EU legislation to be rewritten, or we could be given informal or bespoke access, which the US already has with Europol. Once any legal hurdles are overcome, the two main sticking points will be money and judicial oversight. As for money, I am clear that we should pay to play. If we are to benefit from Europol, for example, which has an office and staff in The Hague, there can be no question but that we should expect to pay. On judicial oversight, I understand that oversight of the European Court of Justice is a sticking point for many Members and for many members of the public who voted to leave, but that must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, looking at each measure on which there is co-operation. When we enter multilateral agreements with other countries on issues such as extradition, there is often an international court that arbitrates, such as the International Criminal Court.
I do not believe that we immediately became less safe because we decided to leave the EU. The measures we are discussing are hugely beneficial to law enforcement. The police and the public want us to continue with them, and I am pleased that the Prime Minister agrees. The litmus test for me on this and all other EU co-operation is simple: if we were not currently a member of the EU, is this is something in which would we be looking to get involved because it would benefit British people? For all the measures we are debating today, the answer is a resounding yes.
There will undoubtedly be legal hurdles to overcome, but it is clear beyond peradventure that our side is willing. I hope that the EU will respond in kind and that the starting point for any negotiations will be not whether we should do it, but how we should do it. Some Members have demanded guarantees and more information, but given the consensus in this area, it falls on everyone in this House, particularly those with expertise and legal training, to contribute on the question of how we assist the Government to ensure that we maintain this vital co-operation in policing and criminal justice for the benefit of all our constituents in Britain, and of citizens in Europe as a whole.
This is a very important debate and, as it comes the day after the Prime Minister’s very important speech, I want to begin by reflecting briefly on what we learned yesterday about the Government’s objectives in the forthcoming negotiations. It is now clear that Ministers will seek transitional arrangements and that Parliament will have a vote at the end of the process, both of which the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union called for in our report. I should observe that it was published on Saturday and that the Prime Minister adopted these proposals three days later on Tuesday—somewhat faster than the normal Government response to Select Committee recommendations. With that standard having been set, the members of the Committee who are in the Chamber today hope that it will continue.
The most significant of the announcements was that we will be out of the single market and partly out of and partly in the customs union. In such decisions—this is the link to today’s debate—lies our future economic success and security. However, despite the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday, it is in trade and our relationship with the customs union that the greatest uncertainty still exists. Why do I say that? The Government have made it clear that, one way or another, they want to secure continued tariff and barrier-free access for UK businesses to European markets—they could not have been clearer about that. It is an objective that the Select Committee supports and one that was also supported by the vast majority of businesses that gave evidence to us.
However, there is no guarantee that this will be achieved. There is no guarantee that the EU will be prepared to give us what it may well regard as the best of both worlds: free trade with Europe and the right to set our own common external tariff and to negotiate new trade deals. The Government may therefore be confronted down the line with a rather uncomfortable choice between remaining in the customs union and once again seeing tariffs and bureaucratic obstacles rising between British businesses and their largest market. What would be the consequences? One way to answer that question would be to look at the Government’s workings. In oral evidence to the Exiting the EU Committee, the Secretary of State said that the Department was
“in the midst of carrying out 57 sets of analyses, each of which has implications for individual parts of 85 per cent of the economy.”
In our report, we acknowledged that the Government were looking at different options for market access and said:
“In the interests of transparency, these should be published alongside the Government’s plan in so far as it does not compromise the Government’s negotiating hand.”
Now that we have the plan—the Prime Minister’s speech from yesterday—will the Minister assure the House that those economic assessments will be published, so that the Select Committee, Parliament and the public can see for themselves the basis on which the Government reached their view both on leaving the single market and on changing our future relationship with the customs union?
I turn to the broader issues of security and foreign policy. We live in an age in which our very interdependence makes us more vulnerable to crime, terrorism and threats to peace and security. However, that same interdependence is the best means we have to deal with those threats. During the referendum campaign I did not come across a single person who said, “Well, I’m voting leave because I really object to the United Kingdom and its European neighbours co-operating on policing, justice, security, foreign policy and the fight against terrorism.” Continued co-operation in all those areas is therefore not about trying to hold on to bits of membership as we leave. On the contrary, it is about ensuring that we continue working together in our shared national interests at a time of—let us face it—great instability and great uncertainty. We only have to look around the world. The middle east is still reeling from the Arab spring and the consequences of people seeking more security, more of a say and better governance, and from the response of those who were or still are in control. That response was, in many cases, very violent and brutal—think of Syria, think of Libya and think of the resulting flow of refugees, including those who have come to the shores of Europe.
The conflict that has dominated global politics for 50 years, Israel-Palestine, remains unresolved. In passing, I welcome the Government’s support for UN Security Council resolution 2334, which rightly has some strong things to say about the threat from Israeli settlements to the prospects for a two-state solution. We all want a safe and secure Israel living alongside a Palestinian state. Given the number of countries, including European countries, that sent Ministers to the conference in Paris last Sunday to discuss a way forward, the Foreign Secretary should have been there instead of appearing to undermine the conference by not attending.
Across Europe, of course, we face a shared threat from Islamist terrorism, as the people of Germany and Turkey have tragically experienced in recent weeks, and as the families of those who were murdered in Sousse, Tunisia are now reliving as the inquest takes place. We know that North Korea is trying to develop long-range nuclear missiles, and we know that China is seeking to establish a presence on rocky outcrops in the South China sea in its disputes over territorial waters. We know that Russia, resurgent, is seeking respect in the world—“uvazheniye” is the word in Russian—although seizing Crimea, invading Ukraine, bombing civilians and hospitals in Aleppo and engaging in cyber-attacks is a slightly strange way of going about getting it.
In the United States of America, we will witness on Friday the inauguration of a new President who, to say the least—notwithstanding what the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) said in his intervention—appears to be sceptical about the international rules-based system and the institutions, such as the EU, NATO, the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations, that we created precisely to give the world greater security. I was astonished to hear him describe Angela Merkel’s decision to provide shelter to 1 million refugees as a
“catastrophic mistake…taking all of these illegals”,
as if he were completely unaware of America being a country built on providing a welcome to those seeking shelter. That is best expressed in these famous words:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”—
words forever associated with the Statue of Liberty.
Like the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames), I do not regard NATO as an outdated institution, although of course there are things that could be reformed. Nor, incidentally, do Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, because they see NATO, as well as their membership of the European Union, as absolutely fundamental to their future security.
All the things that I have described affect Europe, and they all mean that co-operation in Europe—we are leaving the institutions of the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe—is in our shared interest. That is why it is essential that we find a way in the forthcoming negotiations to continue working closely with our neighbours on foreign policy, security and defence, which I know the Government support. But there are some practical questions. We will no longer be attending the Foreign Affairs Council, so how exactly will that continued co-operation work? Will the Government press for what I have called a common foreign policy area—a new structure to bring together EU and non-EU member states to discuss shared concerns about foreign policy?
We already have the special deal that allowed us to opt into certain arrangements on policing and security co-operation, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper)—the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee—and others have asked what exactly will happen after we leave. That point was put forcefully by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown).
The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union told the House that one of the Government’s main aims during exit negotiations will be
“to keep our justice and security arrangements at least as strong as they are.”—[Official Report, 10 October 2016; Vol. 615, c. 55.]
That was a very specific pledge to the House, and the question is, how are we going to achieve it? As we have heard in this debate, replicating what we have at the moment represents a significant challenge. We have heard about the practical benefits of the Schengen information system, because it is really important to know who is wanted, who is a suspected foreign fighter and who is missing. How will we ensure that we continue to receive that information after we have left? We have heard about the Prüm decisions, and being able quickly to search DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration databases is really important in combating cross-border crime and terrorism. We have also heard how being part of Europol gives us access to its databases and expertise. I could give many other examples, and the challenge for the Government will be to replicate those things once we have left.
We have heard about the issue of data sharing. As I understand it, some of the current instruments make no provision at all for sharing information with third countries, with the European criminal records information system being one such example. Others expressly prohibit the transfer of data to third parties, with the Schengen information system being an example. Existing models of third country co-operation with Europol do not allow direct access to Europol’s extensive information systems. As I understand it, the Home Office has carried out a review of EU law enforcement and security co-operation measures, and it would be helpful if the Minister told us what conclusions it reached, particularly on the options available to the Government to secure the continued participation that every Member who has spoken in the debate thus far wishes to achieve.
Will the Minister also tell us whether the Government’s negotiating objectives specifically include retaining access to those data and that information? Will he confirm the extent to which the UK’s data protection laws will need broadly to replicate EU laws if information sharing is to be able to continue to the same or a similar extent once we leave? That point was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry). The former Attorney General, the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), asked how we will negotiate agreements without accepting a degree of oversight from some court, be it the ECJ or another court. Will the Minister confirm that in this area, as in others, the Government will seek transitional arrangements to make sure that there is no interruption to the flow of information?
The process on which our country is about to embark will inevitably involve uncertainty until such time as matters are resolved by agreement, but if the Government are to honour their pledge to keep our justice and security arrangements at least as strong as they are now—that is a very high test—the security and safety of our communities is one area in which we simply cannot afford there to be any uncertainty whatever. We also cannot afford an outcome in which there is no deal at all. The Prime Minister said yesterday that
“no deal…is better than a bad deal”.
In the case of security, no deal is and would be a bad deal, and we simply cannot afford to allow that to happen.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), and may I commend him on his work, the early start his Committee has made and its first report? I read that report with interest on Saturday, and it certainly showed that the Committee has hit the ground running. I hope it made some impact in relation to yesterday’s speech, too.
I am going to keep my remarks short, as I am not an expert on security issues—ask me about the NHS and I would be absolutely fine. However, this is a big issue of great importance to my constituency. There have been a number of instances where intelligence reports have been put out in the newspapers and this has caused a lot of concern to my constituents, so it is important that I speak in today’s debate.
I shall focus on two particular issues. I could, of course, discuss many others, some of which have already been mentioned—for example, Eurodac, Europol, the European arrest warrant, the Schengen information system and the European criminal records information system—but I shall just pick up on a couple that relate to cross-border security and the sharing of intelligence, subjects that have been covered by several hon. Friends and other Members so far.
As my right hon. Friend the Minister outlined earlier, the maintenance of the UK’s current strong security co-operation with the EU will obviously feature heavily in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, as was outlined yesterday. Nevertheless, there should be absolutely no doubt that many of the tools and institutions that currently underpin security and police co-operation are vital for the safety of our nation. That is ever more true, given the current security concerns.
I welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment in her speech yesterday that the Government will continue to co-operate with our European partners in important areas such as crime and terrorism. I particularly welcomed her saying:
“With the threats to our common security becoming more serious, our response cannot be to co-operate with one another less, but to work together more.”
I agree that there is a good opportunity for us not only to maintain the current co-operation but to extend it. We should not give up on the opportunities provided by this significant debate—one that we have not necessarily had for a long time.
We all face the challenges of cross-border crime and deadly terrorist threats, which certainly do not respect borders. As the Prime Minister outlined so clearly yesterday, with the threats to our common security becoming more serious, our response needs to be enhanced. The political arrangements on matters of law enforcement and the sharing of intelligence materials with our EU allies has never been more important, as my right hon. Friend the Minister said earlier.
Before Members ask why on earth I am mentioning the European convention on human rights and the protection it gives to individuals in our criminal justice system, I should say that I raise it because I still think that while we are having these debates a lot of people in the country either confuse the convention and the European Union and think one is interchangeable with the other, or worry that the debates we are having about the ECJ and our exit from the EU will at some point have an impact on the convention.
If Madam Deputy Speaker will indulge me for a second, I still think that our leaving the EU will make it much easier for us to bring ourselves out of the European convention on human rights. Although it is a topic for another day, I have no doubt that it will be debated for a serious amount of time, in both this place and the other place. I am concerned that our potential withdrawal will limit the rights on which those in the criminal justice system could rely, so such debates are crucial. When he responds to the debate, will the Minister assure me that the Government will put the protection of human rights at the forefront of their agenda, when governing both inside and outside the EU?
There is considerable consensus among UK law enforcement agencies on the tools and capabilities that we must retain if we are to keep the British people safe. One of those tools is the European arrest warrant, which was mentioned earlier. The EAW facilitates the extradition of individuals between EU member states to face prosecution for a crime of which they are accused or to serve a prison sentence for an existing conviction. Since 2004, through the EAW the UK has extradited more than 7,000 individuals accused or convicted of a criminal offence to other member states, and brought 675 suspected, convicted or wanted individuals to Britain to face justice—that is no small number. Ultimately, we need to think about that number and how many different individuals in society have been affected over the years.
The European arrest warrant has been used to get terror suspects out of the country and to bring terrorists back here to face justice. An important example is when in 2005 Hussain Osman, who tried to blow up the London underground on 21/7, was extradited from Italy in just 56 days. Before the warrant existed, it took 10 long years to extradite Rachid Ramda, another terrorist, from Britain to France. It is crucial that we replicate it or ensure that something similar continues in its place, because I do not want to see us return to the days when it took years to extradite citizens.
On the issue of the European arrest warrant, which was debated extensively in previous Parliaments, may I mention that there are a number of instances in which British citizens have been subjected to complete failures of justice under that system? I will leave it at that, but that is a point that my hon. Friend needs to take on board.
I thank my hon. Friend for intervening. The Prime Minister said yesterday in her speech that this is about not just maintaining our current system, but enhancing the system that we have. If that means having debates on the European arrest warrant to ensure that the system works to stop exactly what he mentions, then that is what we should do, and this is the prime opportunity to do so.
I turn now to cross-border intelligence sharing, which has been instrumental to the safety of our nation. In particular, I am talking about the mechanisms, data gathering and analysis executed by Europol—the agency that supports the law enforcement agencies of the EU member states by providing a forum within which member states can co-operate and share information. Will the Minister assure me that we will continue to have access to Europol after our departure from the European Union? There is no doubt that every hon. Member will be saying that over the next few hours.
Does my hon. Friend agree that UK intelligence agencies, including individuals working in my constituency in Cheltenham, protect not just British lives, but European lives as well? As part of any future arrangement, we want to ensure that they continue to do the vital work both within our shores and beyond.
My hon. Friend is a great champion of the security services, particularly those that are in his constituency, and of his constituents who work at places such as GCHQ. Those agencies protect people not just in the European Union, but in the wider world with associate members. That must be at the fore of the Government’s thinking. This is about not just British domestic interest, but international interest at the same time.
There is no doubt that the UK’s participation in criminal and policing capabilities and intelligence sharing, such as the European arrest warrant and Europol, have resulted in a safer United Kingdom. The UK has always taken a lead in European security matters, managing the relationship between the European Union and the United States and taking the lead in producing EU policies on counter-radicalisations. The EU action plan on terrorism was drafted during a UK presidency. May I press on the Minister the importance of this continued co-operation long after we exit the European Union?
Like other hon. Members, I must highlight the need for as much clarity as possible on this issue. My constituents and the British public put security and law enforcement very high up the agenda, so I am very pleased that the Government have enabled this debate to take place today. People are rightly concerned that we should be giving them more confidence that, whatever relationship we have with the European Union in the future, we maintain the highest level of security.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett). I rise to speak in this debate and to make my final contribution in this House before I leave to take up the post of director of the Victoria & Albert museum, the world’s greatest museum of art, design and performance. It has been a profound privilege to represent Stoke-on-Trent Central in this Chamber for six and a half years, and I wish to place on record my thanks to Mr Speaker, the Clerks of the House, the doorkeepers and, perhaps above all, the Library staff, who I fear will now face quite a drop in demand for their services.
It perhaps seems particularly perverse to leave the House now—let me apologise to the political parties and to the people of Stoke-on-Trent for inflicting a by-election on them—just as this place is about to enjoy the largest return of powers since the Act in Restraint of Appeals, not least in terms of security, law enforcement and criminal justice.
As power and sovereignty are returned to the UK Parliament, the question for us today and into the future is whether we will see a Britannia unchained that will forge a new Elizabethan era of free trade, cultural exchange and innovation. Or is it the case, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) has suggested, that we live in a world that is so interconnected in economy, security and political power that we have, in leaving the European Union, exposed ourselves to international headwinds that will batter rather than benefit us? At this stage, we have no answer to that.
The Prime Minister’s speech left no doubt about the strategic direction in which the Government are heading, but let me say that I welcome the tone of it: the need to end division and heal some of the anger surrounding our decision to exit the European Union is a vital task of political leadership. The saddest and bleakest moment of my time in this Parliament was hearing the news of the murder—the political assassination—of my friend Jo Cox: the brilliant, gifted and beautiful Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen. It remains a devastating loss for the Labour movement and humanitarian affairs. We should not forget that her killing took place amid some of the ugliest and most divisive rhetoric in the lead-up to the referendum. I pay tribute today to the enormous dignity and resilience of her widower Brendan Cox and her close family.
Amid the Brexit debate, I continue, before I am perhaps seduced by a Crown office, to represent a constituency that voted 70:30 to leave the European Union. Week in and week out, I campaigned with colleagues for us to remain in the EU. I remember some days not meeting anyone in the potteries who wished to stay inside the EU. Like many Members in the House, I accept the result, but the division of opinion between the official Labour party position and many of our heartland voters has served only to highlight some of the deep-seated challenges that centre-left parties are facing. From Greece to the Netherlands, Sweden and France, the combination of austerity, globalisation and EU policy has hammered social democratic politics.
The challenge that my right hon. Friend the leader of the Labour party faces is not unique to him. All parties are coalitions, but what Brexit has done is exacerbate the divergence of priorities between, say, the Labour voters of Cambridge and those in Redcar, Grimsby or Stoke-on-Trent. Keeping a metropolitan and post-industrial coalition together is no easy task.
In Stoke-on-Trent, my voters wanted to leave the European Union for three reasons: sovereignty and a return of national powers to this Parliament; a reaction against globalisation and a political economy that they thought had shut down the mines and steel industry and eliminated 80% of jobs in the potteries; and immigration. The concern about immigration was not racism. It was about the effects of large-scale migration on public services and wage levels in an already low-wage city.
I often put the case that the EU was a bulwark against the ripcords of globalisation, and vital for policing and national security. I said that 50% of our pottery exports went to the EU, that EU investment had assisted regeneration in north Staffordshire and that our great universities of Staffordshire and Keele both benefited from EU funding. It made no difference. Now we need a Brexit that delivers for Stoke-on-Trent and other communities feeling left behind by globalisation and rapid socioeconomic change.
Again, the question is still out: will presaging judicial and immigration control be detrimental to economic growth? Is that the society we want: probably poorer, but more equal—Sparta, rather than Rome? I continue to have great concerns about leaving the single market and the effects on British business and prosperity, but as we leave the European Union, there is also a moment for progressive reform.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) has made the case for a Marshall plan for parts of the midlands and the north to equip them for contemporary challenges. The House could think creatively about industrial strategy, freed of state aid rules, revolutionising our skills and training with a new focus on vocational education and building a new internationalism. The tension on the Government Benches is, as I read it, between a national popular politics—a post-liberal vision of Government action and redistribution—and a vision of Britain as a low-tax more deregulated state in the Singapore-Hong Kong model. It will be interesting to see how those approaches play themselves out.
I will watch developments from my new post at the Victoria & Albert. The museum is European in heritage; Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg was instrumental in its foundation as he felt that Britain needed to follow the German model of design, education and technical skills. Where have we heard that before? The V&A’s heritage is also proudly global, with a collection drawn from across the empire and the wider world. Its current lead exhibition, which explores the life and legacy of John Lockwood Kipling, a sculptor and potter from Burslem in Stoke-on-Trent who went to Bombay but missed north Staffordshire so much that he named his son Rudyard after a local beauty spot just north of Stoke, speaks to exactly that mix of European and imperial influences.
The V&A, along with other national museums, now stands at the hub of our creative industries sector. If we are concerned, as we are in this debate, with security, we should reflect on the need for economic security. The UK’s creative industries are now worth some £85 billion a year to the UK economy. The creative industries sector is the fastest growing sector of the UK economy with the capacity to deliver further jobs and growth, and it is a major component in soft power. Museums are sources of inspiration, innovation, creativity and synergy. The UK’s museums are global leaders in their fields and great drivers of British culture and identity right around the world. At the V&A, curators have introduced the brilliance of David Bowie’s designs and Alexander McQueen’s fashion right around the world.
When it comes to Brexit, the V&A and other museums will continue to build their connections in China, India, the Gulf and elsewhere, but their success is also a European success. The story of British art and design is also a story of European culture and our place within it. More than that, so many who work in our cultural sector are EU citizens. I welcome the Prime Minister’s recognition of the urgent need for a reciprocal arrangement with the EU on its nationals working in the UK and on British citizens currently employed in the EU. Similarly, trade negotiations with the EU will need to recognise the importance of the digital sector to the British economy.
There is a broader Brexit issue for our leading cultural institutions. It seems to me that when there is this growing sense of disparity between the winners and losers of globalisation, museums and other cultural institutions need to help to lessen the division. In an age when art, design, the humanities and culture are so important for our competitiveness and quality of life, we cannot have London detaching itself from the rest of the UK. This is a chance to think more creatively about education provision, as art and design are under real pressure in our schools. We need to build stronger connections between national and regional museums, and wider support for our creative industries. In short, Brexit demands a stronger connection between South Kensington and Stoke-on-Trent. I will try, as director of the V&A, to do just that.
The father of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central, Tony Benn, famously said that he was
“leaving parliament in order to spend more time on politics”.
I am not quite doing that, but I do think that museums have a responsibility, as places of learning, discourse and inquiry, to interrogate, in a non-partisan way, the big challenges of the day. I hope to do just that and I hope to see many hon. Members there.
Finally, let me place on record my thanks to my personal staff. Within this palace, there work thousands of people writing, researching, prepping and advising, and for five long years, Mr Alan Lockey and Ms Carrie Martin have helped me in my job enormously. I put on record my debt to the people of Stoke-on-Trent for sending me here—the greatest privilege of my life—and I thank the Speaker for his indulgence in my speech this afternoon.
It is an enormous pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt). He is pretty well my next-door neighbour and we talk regularly. We were even on a Radio 4 programme that he organised only a week ago on Asa Briggs and all the matters to which he referred. I regard him not only as an hon. Member, but as a good friend. The valedictory comments that he just made were rather reminiscent of a maiden speech. I simply wanted to put on record that he has performed a great service to this House and to his constituents before I get into the more substantial questions before us.
I thank the hon. Gentleman, who is my constituency neighbour, for giving way. Does he agree that my hon. Friend the soon to be departed Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) has, since 2010, been a truly class act in north Staffordshire and the potteries, not least in his efforts to save the Wedgwood collection for the nation?
Absolutely. We are indebted to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central for that. We have all taken an active part in trying to do what we can regarding the museum, and it is marvellous not only that that collection is still there, but that it is now in secure hands under the aegis of the director of the V&A himself. I do not know whether he has taken up his contract yet, but he is getting close to it. I thank him very much for everything he has done in that context, and for our area and region.
The hon. Gentleman questioned whether, under Brexit, there would be a “Britannia unchanged”. I can assure him that there will be a “Britannia unchained”. That, to me, is the most important question of all, to which I have devoted the best part of 30 years of my political life. I believe very strongly that we will benefit enormously from this. It has been a long journey, and a very interesting historical journey, as people will discover one day when they get the full measure of what has actually taken place. It will benefit not only my constituents, 65% of whom voted leave, but the 70% of leave voters in Stoke-on-Trent Central.
The hon. Gentleman referred to sovereignty as one of the main issues before his constituents. That is connected with the question of trust which, as I said yesterday on a programme on Sky after the Prime Minister’s speech, is at the heart of the issue not only in this country, but across the whole of the European continent, which happens to be, largely speaking, within the European Union. This vote is not against Europe but against the European Union—that is what the discontent is about. There is a lack of trust between the member states, and between the citizens and the institutions and elites within the member states who have implemented these arrangements, which simply have not worked. They have generated monumental degrees of unemployment—up to 60% in some countries, including Greece and Spain. The problems that come from an over-dominating Germany have had a detrimental effect on stability in terms of the progress and evolution of the European Union. The situation has recreated the very insecurity and instability that people wanted to deal with in the aftermath of the second world war, in which my own father was killed fighting against the Waffen-SS Panzer division in 1944, winning the Military Cross, of which I am very proud.
I voted yes in 1975. I wanted to see a situation that could work but, unfortunately, the manner in which this has developed has become dysfunctional. In the discussion on the statement yesterday, I noticed that a sense of realism was bearing down on many Members because we know that we have to make this work. This is not anti-European. It is not anti-European to be pro-democracy. I know that there are some good and honest remainers who are still worried about the outcome, but I say to them, “Have confidence. Have trust in the people”—as Lord Randolph Churchill said in the 19th century. This is not a 19th-century problem, however; it is a 21st-century problem. This is not Euroscepticism in a negative sense; it is about trying to ensure that we have proper democracy, and that when we get on to the great repeal Bill, we will be able to achieve the reaffirmation of Westminster’s jurisdiction.
What does that actually mean? It means that we will be implementing in this Chamber the decisions taken by the electors in general elections, for which the people of this country fought and died. That is a crucial issue for the future of Europe as well; it does not just apply to us, but we were the first to have the opportunity to do something about it, because we had the referendum, for which some of us fought for a very long time.
At a conference at the European Parliament the other day, we discussed matters of security, terrorism and all the rest. In front of about 300 chairmen of various parliamentary committees from all over the European Union, the chairman of the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, Elmar Brok—I have parried and fought with him for the best part of 20 years in various forums of the European Union—accused the United Kingdom of cowardice in holding a referendum. I replied that holding the referendum was an act of courage, not an act of cowardice, because we have seized the opportunity to defend the necessity of having a proper democratic system in the United Kingdom, and we will now be able to implement it.
With respect to this business of justice and home affairs, and all that goes with it, my European Scrutiny Committee held an inquiry in April or May last year—before the referendum—into the manner in which decisions are taken in the Council of Ministers. I am prepared to bet that there are people in this Chamber who do not know that virtually no votes are taken in the Council of Ministers. As a result of the European Communities Act 1972, decisions taken by the Council of Ministers—quite often stitched up behind closed doors—come straight down to this Chamber and we are under an obligation to implement them. Such decisions are often on matters such as those we are discussing, and they are of direct relevance to the whole question of security, terrorism and crime.
If people do not know that that is how the system functions, I strongly advise them to speak to me privately, when I can provide them with further information—I will not go into it in the Chamber today, but it is vital to democracy. Such decisions are not taken on a democratic basis, as people have imagined, and that is a reason in itself for our getting out of the European Union. I was absolutely delighted by what the Prime Minister said yesterday. As I said during our proceedings on the statement, her speech was “principled, reasonable and statesmanlike.”
Justice and home affairs was intended to be intergovernmental. It was never meant to be governed by majority voting and all the rest; it was meant to be a separate pillar. I say to the hon. Gentlemen and Ladies of Labour that they, under Tony Blair, collapsed the pillar so that the matter became part of treaties subject to the European Court of Justice. That was never the original intention.
In this debate, we are engaging in an element of déjà vu, but we are also giving ourselves the opportunity to indicate the extent to which we will move forward after Brexit into a different environment in which decisions on all these incredibly important matters will be dealt with by this House on the basis of votes cast by the voters of the United Kingdom and nobody else.
I drafted the repeal Bill in May last year and submitted it to various people. As a result of a process that I do not need to go into in detail, it was accepted in principle by the Government. I have no doubt that the wording will be slightly changed—or somewhat changed—but that does not matter. I set out five principles, which I will not go into now, other than to say that they meant that we would withdraw from the European Union and transpose all legislation currently within the framework of the EU’s jurisdiction into our own Westminster jurisdiction, and that thereafter we would deal with it as we went forward.
I apologise for not being in the Chamber earlier, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was here for the opening speeches, but with my colleague my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) and others, I have been cross-examining my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), who was the Minister for Europe and is now the Leader of the House. We had important questions to put to him, and we got some interesting answers.
The repeal Bill will require careful attention. As a result of the Bill, we will be able to reintroduce a proper democratic system into this House. We will have to accept some things as a matter of policy, and we heard some of them in my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s brilliant speech yesterday, but we cannot absorb the European Court of Justice. The issue of the Court is raised in debates on this subject matter probably as much as it is on any other subject matter within the framework of the European Union.
The Prime Minister’s speech yesterday made it clear that the UK will continue to co-operate with its European partners in important areas such as crime and terrorism once we leave the EU. She said that, faced with common security threats,
“our response cannot be to co-operate with one another less, but to work together more”—
subject, of course, to the question of the European Court of Justice—and to ensure that the UK’s future relationship with the EU includes
“practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and the sharing of intelligence material with our EU allies.”
She went on to make it clear that
“we will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice”.
As Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, I and my colleagues, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome—my wife is from his constituency, so I should be able to remember its name—continue to see a raft of EU initiatives in the sensitive area of law enforcement and security co-operation. The Government tell us that while the UK remains a member of the EU, all rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force, which is true, and that they will
“continue to negotiate, implement and apply EU legislation.”
I say quite explicitly, however—I put this to the Leader of the House this afternoon—that during the period in which we are engaged in the negotiations, it is absolutely essential that we have proper explanatory memorandums on matters relating to security and terrorism and to justice and home affairs, because we must examine such matters properly and form a judgment about the extent to which we will actually implement them. When, on a matter requiring unanimity, we are in a position to vote against it, we must do so, and when a matter is subject to qualified majority voting, we must insist on a vote, rather than allow an agreement to be stitched up behind closed doors.
As my Committee recommended, we must at the same time give reasons for what we are doing, to increase transparency and accountability. Some of these matters to do with the question of terrorism and all that goes with it are so important to our security that if we do not believe that what the EU is proposing is in our national interest, we must take a stand. In my opinion, there is an absolute requirement on the Government to make sure that the reasons for that are put on the record.
Although the generalisation that we want to achieve a degree of co-operation is important, if we do not like things that are proposed—things that are not in the UK’s interest and that we would never contemplate accepting post-Brexit—we must not allow them to go through by consensus in un-smoke-filled rooms. Indeed, if we had had our wits about us, we would never have accepted such things in the first place. The European scrutiny process therefore needs to be considered, and my Committee is looking into it very closely.
As the House will recall, the coalition Government decided that it was in the UK’s national interest to rejoin 35 EU police and criminal justice measures that were adopted before the Lisbon treaty took effect and were subject to the UK’s 2014 block opt-out decision. They included Europol, Eurojust, the European arrest warrant, joint investigation teams, important data sharing instruments—EuroDac and so on—the Schengen information system, the European criminal records information system and the so-called Swedish initiative, which provides a simplified mechanism for the exchange of law enforcement information and intelligence. Since then—the Prime Minister was then the Home Secretary— the Government have rejoined the Prüm measures, which provide for the rapid automated exchange of information on DNA profiles, fingerprinting and vehicle registration data. The United Kingdom also participates in the European investigation order, which will take effect in May this year, and many other criminal justice measures.
On the new EU justice and home affairs proposals, there appears to be inadequate recognition in the explanatory memorandums that the context in which the UK will continue
“to negotiate, implement and apply EU legislation”
has changed profoundly because of Brexit. To quote the Prime Minister, the UK is leaving the European Union. The Government cannot continue with business as usual within COREPER and UKRep. I trust that Sir Tim Barrow will, as the new UK representative, carry on in a way that will be entirely consistent with what is required in relation to COREPER and UKRep. We cannot continue with business as usual in the handling of sensitive EU justice and home affairs proposals in COREPER, the Council and the trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament. Given that the UK is under no obligation to participate in most new EU justice and home affairs proposals, the Government must explain on the record in each case how a decision to opt in would be in the national interest and consistent with taking back control of our laws, as the Prime Minister said, and ending the jurisdiction of the European Court.
Since last June’s referendum, the European Scrutiny Committee has pressed the Government to clarify how the measures in question will be affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU and how they envisage managing security and law enforcement co-operation post-Brexit. Under the repeal Bill and otherwise, there will need to be significant adjustments to how that is handled. What sort of relationship do the Government intend to establish with Europol and Eurojust? Will they seek an agreement to enable the UK to continue to apply a new arrangement regarding the European arrest warrant? We cannot have it both ways. We cannot be out of the jurisdiction of the European Court and yet have all the laws interpreted by the judges in the European Court in Luxembourg. That just cannot happen, and that has to be taken on board.
What assessment have the Government made of the operational value of EU data sharing instruments? Would access to those instruments require the UK to comply with EU data protection laws in practice, even if it was no longer under a legal obligation to do so? Answers to those questions are absolutely fundamental, because otherwise we will not be able to implement the commitment to
“take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice”.
As I said in an intervention, we also have to take into account the fact that justice, home affairs, terrorism and security—all the problems that have accumulated in the 21st century—are not exclusive to the European Union. They apply across the whole world. The fact that the European Union exists and has developed a body and a framework of law does not give it any absolute value. This House and its predecessors have been legislating for 400 years or more. We do not need to be told how to do this. Yes, we want to co-operate with other countries, but for heaven’s sake let us take on board the fact that we can work out what is in the interests of our own citizens in accordance with the decisions they take in general elections. We will bring in our own immigration Bill, not have one imposed on us through deals done behind closed doors, and it will do exactly what the British people want, because they will have voted for it.
We are talking about important matters arising from the decision taken by the British people, and I pay tribute to them; I do not, however, pay tribute to the campaigns. I thought that the “Project Fear” campaign was a disgrace, and I said so in the House at the time. I do not think there was any treaty change, either, although the Prime Minister kept on telling us there was—I challenged him on that and even put the matter to Mr Speaker. That was around the middle of June, and the Prime Minister was gone by the end of the month. The bottom line, however, is that neither side of the campaign covered itself in glory, and there were things I deeply regretted.
For that reason, I did my own campaign in my own area, and I am glad to say that in the area in which my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central are situated, we notched up votes of between 65% and 72% in favour of leaving. He was quite right: it was about sovereignty and the very matters I am talking about. It was about whether we could run our own country in our own fashion through our representation in this House. It was as fundamental as that. Everything else pales into insignificance compared with democracy, if it is properly conducted. It is absolutely sure that the current EU is undemocratic, and it is as well that we are getting out of it.
Our Committee has issued a press release regarding another matter that I doubt has been mentioned so far—whether UK nationals will need authorisation to travel to the Schengen area post-Brexit. The UK is not entitled to contribute to the proposal being drawn up, as it is not a Schengen country, but the Government will have to monitor the negotiations closely. In that regard, my Committee has some questions. What are the main differences between the model proposed by the Commission for visa-free entry to the Schengen area and the full Schengen visa regime? Do the Government intend to seek visa-free access to the Schengen area for UK nationals post-Brexit? Do they intend to press for an exemption from the new travel authorisation for UK nationals, or will they seek instead to minimise the cost and complexity of the application process? If they cannot secure an exemption, would they wish to introduce a reciprocal travel authorisation system for EU nationals travelling to the UK after Brexit? All those matters are in the press release that was presented to the media this afternoon, and I sincerely trust that they will give it the attention it deserves.
This is a vital debate on the best example of a policy area that impinges directly on citizens. Elsewhere in the EU massive resistance to EU proposals is building up among citizens, but we have had our referendum and the people have decided that we should get out. That is what we are doing. Let us get on with implementing that decision.
First, I would like to pay a personal tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt). He grew up in the best constituency in the world and went to school in the best constituency in the world, Hampstead and Kilburn. I also thank him for sending me a long handwritten letter after my maiden speech, which was much appreciated by a newbie.
I am in danger of breaking the rules again, so I will come to the debate at hand. The problem with being so low down the pecking order is that everything has already been said and articulated very well by others, but I thought I would speak about the worries of my constituents, 75% of whom voted to remain in the EU. As such, they voted in support of continued security co-operation with our European partners, as indeed they did on many of the other matters raised in today’s important debate. As Londoners, the strength of feeling over the upcoming renegotiations on security protection should come as no surprise. London residents are obviously not alone in their experience of the devastation inflicted by terrorism, but they are particularly clear-minded when it comes to the value of EU-wide security arrangements in bringing people to justice.
The hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) has already referenced a time when the European arrest warrant played a crucial role in allowing the police to do their jobs, help keep Londoners safe and bring offenders to justice. He cited the famous example of 2005, when the failed bomber, Hussain Osman, was brought to justice in just a few weeks because of our access to the European arrest warrant.
Other agencies and conventions, such as Europol, which has been mentioned several times this afternoon, and the European Criminal Records Information System help to combat crime across borders through international co-operation and the sharing of forensic data. For a global city such as London, where my constituency is, abandoning European security co-operation could compromise our effectiveness in confronting a number of issues beyond terrorism, including human trafficking, intellectual property crime, money laundering and mobile organised crime groups.
I believe that my friend, the Mayor of London, was absolutely right to demand that London has a seat around the table, alongside the devolved nations, in ensuring that continental security apparatus is kept intact. It was extremely disappointing to see no direct reference to London’s additional law enforcement needs in the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday.
The Government’s decision in December to opt into new Europol regulations was a welcome one, and in principle, would appear to back up the Prime Minister’s words on maintaining a continental approach when gathering criminal intelligence and producing threat assessments. Londoners—not just in my constituency, but everywhere—will want to know whether the Europol regulations we have adopted will outlast the EU negotiations, and whether the Government will develop alternative frameworks of co-operation on policing and security matters, including on the matters I have outlined. Only when we have such answers will my constituents be reassured that their security needs and those of fellow Londoners are being considered with the utmost care by this Government.
Beyond continued co-operation and information sharing with our European partners, it is clear that Brexit will pose financial challenges to the economy. One area that we shall scrutinise is, of course, the money spent on policing, particularly the current spend. In arranging any post-Brexit settlement, the Home Office must fully recognise London’s position as a major global capital. It is no surprise to know that this city incurs extra security costs in trying to keep the large population safe when policing major events and in protecting our most famous landmarks, such as this Parliament in which we sit today. At present, these extra needs cost £300 million a year, but London receives funding from the Government only for barely half this amount. So in addressing our post-Brexit security and law enforcement needs, making sure that the capital has the money to protect itself will be of the utmost importance. We want answers from the Minister on this issue.
I have a few other questions that I want the Minister to answer. Will he ensure that the Home Office gives the Met the full amount it needs through the national and international capital cities grant? There is currently a more than £100 million shortfall, which threatens the police’s ability to protect Londoners. Will the Minister make it clear where our future lies in respect of our relationship with Europol? This will be vital for accessing criminal records information systems, yet we know the EU’s deputy chairman has already made it clear to Denmark that it
“should not be under any illusions”
about its ability to negotiate a parallel agreement to membership.
Finally, there is the question that everyone has asked over and over again. What will be our future relationship with the European arrest warrant? In November, the Director of Public Prosecutions said that up to 150 essential extraditions would not have been possible without the European arrest warrant system and our relationship with it, and the former director general of MI6 has warned that losing abilities such as that provided by the arrest warrant would make the UK “less safe”.
I hope that the Minister will make it clear how we can continue to protect our citizens and to protect London, where my constituency is. I urge him to address these practical security questions: that might even earn the Government some good will from those who will be sitting on the other side of the negotiating table. As I am sure the Minister will recognise, the No. 1 priority of any Government is to ensure the security of their civilians, but it is not entirely clear to me at present how this Government intend to do that.
I think that, in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks, it was recognised that something had to be done to speed up extradition processes and reduce the amount of bureaucracy involved. That, in addition to the fact that some career criminals seemed to be using countries such as Spain—the so-called Costa del Crime—as a permanent home, meant that I was happy to give the then Government the benefit of the doubt. I have always supported the principle of a European arrest warrant, and we have heard many important speeches in support of it today. However, although I do not disagree with the principle of what has been said, it cannot be denied that there are cases that have given rise to concern.
The European extradition warrant makes the assumption that standards of justice are the same in all EU countries, that standards in prisons are the same, and that bail conditions will be the same as well. In short, it assumes that human rights are respected in exactly the same way throughout the European Union. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), the Chairman of the Justice Committee, said that he had no doubt that standards of justice in Germany and France were exactly the same as they are in the UK, and I do not really have any doubt about that either, but I do have concerns about the overall standards of justice in other parts of the European Union.
Some of the cases that concern me have already been mentioned briefly. There was the case of Andrew Symeou, who spent nearly a year in prison, having been denied bail, because he was not a Greek resident. In other words, he was extradited because he was a European, but was unable to get bail because he was not actually Greek. He served time in some pretty awful places. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and I are members of the Council of Europe. I do not know what visits my hon. Friend has made, but I have certainly seen a Greek detention centre, and, having served as a special constable, I would say that the conditions were illegal under any European rules and regulations.
We were shown a room that was probably not much more than a quarter of the size of the Chamber. It contained 30 or 40 people who were being held in those conditions for up to a year for various immigration infractions, and who, as far as I could tell, were given very little time out. That was totally unacceptable. It would have been unacceptable to hold anyone in conditions like that for 48 hours in a UK police station. It comes to something when people are actually begging to be sent to a Greek prison because their existing conditions are so bad.
There was the case of Gary Mann, who was tried for and convicted of an affray-type offence within 48 hours of being arrested. He had not, in fact, been involved. He was released, but there was subsequently a demand for him to return to Portugal to serve a two-year sentence. He was not given access to facilities that we take for granted, such as translation facilities, which are extremely important.
There have been other such cases. There was, for instance, the case of Edmond Arapi, about which I read on the Fair Trials International website and of which I had not been aware before. Apparently he was convicted of murder in his absence, despite the fact that at the time the murder in question took place he was working, or studying, in the United Kingdom. There were numerous witnesses to say that he had been in the UK on the day and nowhere near the country in which the murder was supposed to have taken place, yet he went through years of hell because of the strong possibility that he would be extradited to Italy to serve, I think, a 19-year sentence.
It could at least be said that, in those instances, the motivation was to reduce crime and to deal with straightforward criminality, even if we think that the standards applied were simply not good enough. Other cases are now beginning to emerge that have a more worrying motivation, and I want to pay particular attention to what the Romanian Government are doing at the moment. They have indicated that they may serve an arrest warrant against an award-winning Sky journalist, Stuart Ramsay, and his team, who put together a documentary about gun-running in Romania which the Romanian Government did not like. I do not know whether the claims made were accurate, but he is an award-winning Sky journalist and I have no reason to doubt them. If Governments do not like journalists’ stories about them, they have the right to rebut them, but it is simply unacceptable for Governments to start issuing arrest and judicial proceedings against journalists who have upset them. That would never be acceptable in this country.
There is another ongoing case that I find particularly worrying: the extradition warrant served against Alexander Adamescu, also by the Romanian Government. He is becoming a bit of a cause célèbre at present. His father runs a newspaper in Romania which has been highly critical of the Romanian Government. The Romanian Prime Minister at the time said he was corrupt and had him arrested, and he was found guilty in a short space of time. There are all sorts of reasons why one might question the court case but it is not really for me to do so here. The point is that when his son, who is a UK resident and an aspiring playwright, filed charges against the Romanian Government, he was served with an EAW and was arrested on the streets of London on his way to speak to the Frontline Club about the importance of journalistic freedoms. There was also an attempt to kidnap his wife by masked men, which still has not properly been dealt with, and nobody has been found.
These are very worrying cases as they give rise to the concern that, rather than trying to have people arrested to resolve criminality, some Governments—on the basis of those two cases the Romanian Government are one that worries me—seem to be using the EAW to send out a message that anyone who questions them or tries to hold them to account will run the risk of being taken off the streets of the country in which they are resident, arrested and sent back to Romania or elsewhere for trial.
There is another problem that the European Scrutiny Committee has looked at in the past, when we had the Fair Trials team in to give us evidence: some of the judges are politically appointed.
My hon. Friend makes an important point.
I have listened with great interest to what has been said in this debate. I was of course a supporter of Brexit, but that in no way means I oppose the EAW or the principles behind it.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the EAW has benefited some of our constituents? Four days before Christmas a father in my constituency was reunited with his son who had been abducted and taken to Poland. He was recovered on the issuing of an EAW.
I do not deny that for one moment; the EAW has led to some very important results for us, where we have had terrorists and other serious criminals either extradited out of or back to the UK. As my hon. Friend knows, I served as a special constable for eight or nine years, so there is no question but that I will always support any Government in wanting to bring about stricter measures against criminality. But the issue here is that there is a price to be paid, and we pay it in the human rights of citizens in our own country. If we are prepared to allow countries which apply a lower standard of justice, of fairness in court, or of access to bail to extradite our citizens or residents of this country in order to keep the bureaucracy running smoothly, everyone who is living in this country is paying a price in terms of their human rights in order to reduce bureaucracy and improve an extradition procedure. We need to think very carefully about that price.
Brexit offers us an opportunity. I have no problem with the countries my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst mentioned—Germany or France—or indeed many other European countries, but if it becomes the case that some countries are not giving people bail, are holding them in pre-trial detention for an unacceptable length of time, or are using the EAW as a means to silence criticism of them through the press, it is absolutely right that we use Brexit as an opportunity to renegotiate the whole system, and to work with countries that apply our systems of justice but to state with the utmost respect that we are unwilling to sacrifice the human rights of people such as Alexander Adamescu in order to maintain membership of the EAW. I hope that a Justice Minister will meet me to discuss this case on a subsequent occasion.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), even if I do not always agree with everything he has to say. I should also like to extend my best wishes to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) as he starts a new chapter in his career. I am pleased to take part in this important debate, in which there is an unusually wide degree of consensus, although not unanimity.
Participation in EU schemes brings value, and the Government should be doing all they can to keep the UK as closely involved in them as possible. If Brexit is to happen, we on these Benches believe that it is utterly essential that we do everything open to us in the negotiations to preserve our involvement to the maximum degree achievable. However, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) said, success in that ambition cannot be taken for granted. As the Minister said, it is in the interests of the other EU member states that the UK is involved, and it is undoubtedly true that the UK contribution to these institutions is significant and very much valued. Indeed, it is no doubt a matter of huge regret that a member state that has been hugely influential in shaping initiatives such as the European arrest warrant, Europol, passenger names records and so on has now put its ongoing participation in these schemes at risk. However, nobody should be complacent in thinking that securing meaningful ongoing participation will be straightforward, because all the evidence shows that there are significant political and legal hurdles to overcome. That point was well made by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), in her opening speech.
Justice and home affairs are areas of shared competence, so agreements on participation may well need approval from the EU institutions and individual member states. In some of those states, that could involve parliamentary ratification or even a referendum. All of that will be made more complex still if the Government are going to set out clear red lines that could make those hurdles even more difficult to overcome. That includes the Prime Minister’s obsession with escaping any aspect of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) was right to make that point at the start of the debate.
Let me turn to a couple of the schemes and institutions in which it is vital we seek to preserve a role for the UK. The introduction of the European arrest warrant has resulted in a step change in how quickly suspects and criminals can be repatriated to face justice. Other Members have already made this point, and I will not repeat all the benefits of the system that have already been highlighted. Last May, the then Home Secretary told the Home Affairs Committee that if we were not in the European Union, we would almost certainly not have access to the European arrest warrant. On the basis of evidence submitted to the Committee so far, that seems almost certain to be correct. This would create one of the biggest headaches for the Government. The then Home Secretary also noted the length of time it had taken for Norway and Iceland to negotiate access to something not even as comprehensive as the European arrest warrant system. Sixteen years on from the start of negotiations, an agreement is not yet in force. She also noted that such deals often contain massive loopholes that the European arrest warrant does not. For example, some states will simply not extradite their own nationals, and will insist on any trial taking place in their own courts.
Do the Government accept that it will not be possible to negotiate a single deal for one procedure with the European Union as a whole, or are they going to make an attempt to do so? Or are they resigned to negotiating 27 different agreements, as Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has suggested will be required? In the likely event that work on either of those options cannot be completed within two years, will the Government be seeking a transitional arrangement? Otherwise, as the Chair of the Justice Committee suggested, we will revert to the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition. In those days, it took an average of 18 months to extradite someone; now, under the European arrest warrant, it takes 15 days in uncontested cases or 45 days if contested. Police officers everywhere will be interested to know what planning will be done so that law enforcement agencies can cope with a more expensive and complicated procedure.
The Home Affairs Committee visited Europol last year—we have already heard about some of the other benefits of that institution—and all its members were impressed by the work that has been done under the leadership of Rob Wainwright. On that visit, as the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry) highlighted, we noted the presence of US liaison officers. Indeed, 14 third countries have negotiated operational partnerships with Europol. Although some such arrangement could probably be agreed within two years, that status is just not as good as what the UK currently enjoys as a full member. Before the referendum, Mr Wainwright warned that the UK would become
“a second-tier member of our club”
if it left the EU and that, like Iceland and Norway, it would be denied direct access to Europol data and, of course, would not have direct influence on the overall direction of the agency, which has proved so beneficial in recent years. Those are not trivial matters and could mean that a request for information on missing or wanted persons takes days rather than hours, which could be crucial for those involved. That is why the NCA’s David Armond has called on the Government to seek something more than the operational partnership enjoyed by other states.
There could be problems with our relationship with Europol, in particular the all-important access to data, if the Government move away from EU data protection standards, as other hon. Members have mentioned. We have heard that the ECJ has struck down the EU-US safe harbour agreement on similar grounds. Under the new Europol directive, we will also need to seek approval from the European Parliament, which has refused to back an EU-US terrorist financing tracking programme for similar reasons. While it is good that the Minister said that the Government are not settling for an operational partnership and are looking for some form of bespoke agreement, we need more detail about exactly what is envisaged. Will the Government ensure that data protection standards here do not jeopardise our relationship with Europol? What if that involves some influence from the ECJ?
While the UK enjoys only partial access to the Schengen information system, the evidence to the Select Committee so far has been that it has been a game changer for police. It facilitates real-time information sharing and alerts, and the police national computer is linked into the system. Access for non-EU and non-Schengen countries is limited, with countries such as Australia having to ask an institution such as Europol to search on its behalf. Norway and Iceland have agreements to access the database, but they are required to make payments without any say on policy development and, significantly, they must implement ECJ decisions or face losing access. The SNP would have no hesitation in saying that such commitments are absolutely worth it if we can secure similar access, but do the Government believe the same? Does the Prime Minister’s obsession with the ECJ take precedence?
Similar issues arise with Prüm, to which Schengen membership, financial contributions and ECJ jurisdiction have secured Iceland and Norway access. According to David Armond, the Interpol agreement that we would have to fall back on if and when we were excluded from Prüm would be time-consuming, bureaucratic and far less effective. Similar problems also arise with ECRIS, the European police college, the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security, Eurojust, and the passenger name record, and the Government’s efforts at securing access and membership must be scrutinised. I welcome the Minister’s commitment to work with devolved criminal justice organisations and Governments. Although justice is devolved, the devolved Governments will sadly not be directly at the table when the negotiations happen.
In conclusion, if anything illustrates the idea that the European Union can be about empowering states, rather than ceding state powers, it is surely the field of policing and security. If we fight serious and organised crime and terrorism on our own, we are not so much taking back control for the police and other services involved in that fight as risking tying one arm behind our back. We all benefit and are more powerful by co-operating and sharing sovereignty at that level. It is essential that the Government prioritise security, not obsessions about the ECJ or EU data protection rules, and I hope they will assure us today all that their priorities are in that order.
It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald). I note the degree of consensus from the Government Benches—although it is perhaps not the same as the degree of enthusiasm for the vote last summer—and I found a certain solace in point 11 of the Government’s plan and the commitment to continue co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism. However, those are just words at the moment and the Government must demonstrate with action how the evident need for international co-operation will be realised.
I add my voice to the many better qualified than me who detailed the aspects of co-operation that best serve the citizens of the United Kingdom. I understand that there are 133 EU measures in place on co-operation, and we have a fair amount of work on our hands to co-ordinate and work in concord.
There are a few issues of particular relevance to Wales and the western seaboard. As we well know, the common travel area allows Irish and UK citizens to travel between the two countries without showing a passport. We welcome the announcement that that is to remain, but I will explain why, from the point of view of Wales and of the security of Wales, the border warrants consideration.
Key Welsh ports such as Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock deal with thousands of passengers and huge amounts of freight coming from Ireland each and every day. Milford Haven is a major port for fuel arriving by sea, and Holyhead is second only to Dover in terms of passenger numbers, with 1.9 million passengers in 2015. In the present circumstances, will the security status of the port of Holyhead be revisited? Plaid Cymru’s police and crime commissioners, Arfon Jones and Dafydd Llywelyn, have warned that, were the border to become more tangible, it is likely that there would be a rise in criminality in Holyhead in the form of cross-border smuggling, and even the possibility of terrorist violence focused on physical manifestations of the border. That possibility must be avoided at all costs.
David Anderson QC, the outgoing independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, highlighted in his December 2016 report that ports on the western front could be the “soft underbelly” of this island’s security. With more than 1,680 miles of coast and relatively small police forces covering vast rural areas, the practical difficulties of policing Wales’s coastline are enormous. Ports and police services in Wales are already facing immense pressure, as public service cuts have seen their capacity slashed—this is, of course, a domestic issue as much as an international issue—and there are concerns that posts may be lost at Welsh ports if the cuts continue. As we are aware, the Border Force is already struggling to fill the gaps.
A senior police officer has warned me that
“people will be coming in and we’ll be missing them.”
There are real concerns that the still-unresolved police funding formula and the high priority accorded to urban adversity will disproportionately affect rural police forces such as Dyfed–Powys and North Wales. I urge the Policing Minister to consider the risks of over-simplifying the number of funding indicators if it is evident that they fail to take account of the variation in policing needs and policing environments across forces.
I specifically request a meeting with the Policing Minister to discuss concerns about the future funding of North Wales police in light of what we are discussing today. From stopping the smuggling of goods and people to stopping outright acts of terrorism, if the Government are serious about ensuring the continued security of this country in a time of great uncertainty, they must recognise and address the unique issues faced by Welsh police services. Brexit must not mean more cuts and more uncertainty for the forces that work day in and day out to protect us.
As the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) observed, one of the disadvantages of taking part so late in a debate is that many of the things that I might have wanted to say have already been covered. The other disadvantage, of course, is that there are fewer people left to hear me.
I principally want to make the case for differential arrangements in Scotland in a post-Brexit world. The areas that we are discussing exemplify why that ought to be the case. Policing and law enforcement in Scotland have long been quite separate from that in England and Wales in their structure, administration, budget and legislative framework. The police’s mandate from the criminal justice system predates devolution. Devolution and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament transferred legislative responsibility to a Parliament elected in Scotland, but that process did not set up a separate arrangement for policing and did not establish a separate criminal justice system. No one has suggested that those matters should change post-Brexit, but I hope the Minister will acknowledge that position, and discuss how the arrangements will be different in Scotland and what processes need to happen to make that a reality.
I also want to talk about the general political context in which this debate takes place, as well as some of the criteria that inform public opinion and political dialogue in Scotland. Members of this House, including those who do not represent Scotland, will know only too well that the politics of Scotland is largely influenced by the legacy of the 2014 independence referendum. I do not want to go into that in any detail, but two aspects of that discussion, which ended in September 2014, are relevant to today’s debate.
The first of those relates to the relationship that people in Scotland were to have with the European Union. We were told during that debate not only that the prospectus for an independent Scotland was a bad one, because Scotland’s position within the EU could not be guaranteed, but that if people in Scotland wished to retain their European passports, the best way to do so was to vote to stay within the United Kingdom. Only that, we were told, would guarantee that people would be able to maintain their existing relationship with other European nations. The second thing that was said was about the concept of respect. We were told that if people voted to renew the Union between Scotland, and England, Wales and Northern Ireland, that would be a matter not of opinions and views being subsumed into a much larger neighbour, but of a partnership in which the views of the people of Scotland would be respected and treated equally, albeit in an asymmetric power relationship.
What has just happened with Brexit severely tests both those propositions and the assurances given in that debate. We have yet to see what type of United Kingdom emerges in a post-Brexit world, but clearly many fear a dystopian future in which this country turns its back on the rest of the world, and becomes insular, isolated and riven by sectarian and ethnic division. That may not come to pass—I very much hope that it does not—but clearly the United Kingdom of the future is going to be manifestly different from the one on the ballot paper on 18 September 2014.
The other thing to say is about respect, which is another notion that will be sorely tested. Public opinion, as expressed on 23 June 2016, on the matter of relationships with other European nations is manifestly and palpably different in Scotland from that in England and Wales. That presents all of us with something of a dilemma. Given the muted tones and more thoughtful nature of today’s debate compared with some of the exchanges in recent weeks’ Brexit debates, I hope that we might be able to confront these paradoxes and decide that together we should try to do something positive about them.
That was what the Scottish Government attempted to do in “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, the paper that they published before Christmas. I commend it to any Member who has not read it as it sets out a prospectus for a differential relationship that Scotland would have in a post-Brexit world. It suggests that Scotland should be given the authority and competence to be an associate member of the European economic area, because attitudes in Scotland are different from those in England and Wales, particularly on the freedom of movement of people across borders.
I want to make it absolutely clear—I encourage people to recognise this—that the Scottish Government’s document and the position that they are now campaigning for are not seeking to say that Scotland should be an independent country, or that any part of the UK should remain part of the EU. In that sense, they respect both the 2014 decision and the 2016 decision. They try to square the circle with regard to how opinion north of the border is manifestly different from that in the south. I therefore commend the document to Members; we should explore it.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that polling released this afternoon shows widespread support in Scotland for the Scottish Government’s plan to stay in the single market? Indeed, in the early days after the EU referendum, both the Secretary of State for Scotland and Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Conservative and Unionist party in Scotland, were demanding that Scotland should remain part of the single market.
Indeed. Members will think that we prepared that exchange, but we did not. It is worth quoting the Secretary of State for Scotland, who said in June last year, just after the Brexit vote:
“My role is to ensure Scotland gets the best possible deal and that deal involves clearly being part of the single market.”
Those are not my words, but the words of the Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland. Of course, he might have changed his mind in the months since then.
The Scottish Government’s document suggests that there are three levels of legislation that should be looked at when considering how we manage Brexit within these islands. I hope that no one would suggest that a constitutional decision of such magnitude as to withdraw this country from its main international association can be done without having any effect on the constitutional arrangements within the county—it is obvious that that will be the case. There will have to be, either as part of the great repeal Bill or in a Scottish Bill, some provision to give new powers to the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Government believe that those powers fall into three areas. First, there are some areas in which the Scottish Government already have competence that are going to be repatriated straight from Brussels. We should make sure that they go straight to Holyrood without stopping at Westminster on the way. Secondly, there are areas of additional legislative competence that should be given to the Scottish Government when they are devolved from Brussels, particularly in the field of employment legislation and, indeed, some immigration matters. Thirdly, if we can persuade the United Kingdom Government to consent to and support the idea of arrangements in Scotland being different, but still consistent with leaving the EU, we will need a legislative competence Bill that allows the Scottish Government to form future relationships.
The matters we are discussing in this debate very much fall into the first category I described, albeit perhaps with the exception of security. Criminal justice and law enforcement are areas in which the Scottish Government already have competence, so the repatriation of powers should see that competence expanded.
Will the Minister tell us what dialogue is taking place between Ministers of the Crown here at Westminster and their Scottish counterparts about how the arrangements I have referred to should be made? They will involve matters of great detail that require great expertise, so it would seem rather ridiculous simply to say that this is all a matter for the Department for Exiting the European Union. We need to explore in some detail criminal justice and law enforcement, and how the relationship for the special aspects of Police Scotland in terms of the security system will work following Brexit. That should not be left to the Brexit Department; it should properly be a matter for the Home Department. When he responds, I hope the Minister will set out not only that the Government intend to have that dialogue, but suggestions about how it might take place.
The Prime Minister made it clear in her speech yesterday that one of her objectives in exiting the European Union would be to release the United Kingdom from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. During yesterday’s proceedings on the statement made by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, an issue arose of how cross-border trade disputes are to be settled if the UK refuses to be bound by the rulings of the ECJ. The Secretary of State did not give a comprehensive answer to how such disputes will be arbitrated once the UK is outside the EU, which raises the possibility that he does not yet know.
It gives me enormous concern that the Department for Exiting the European Union does not yet have a clear idea of how the role of the ECJ will be replaced once we leave the EU. Although it might be possible to cobble together a mutually acceptable compromise for trade deals, as the Secretary of State airily declared yesterday, the ECJ has a far greater role to play in our national life than just being the arbiter of trade deals.
As members of the EU, we benefit from a range of different schemes for sharing data and resources across borders, including the Schengen information system, the European arrest warrant, Europol and the European criminal records information system, among many others. We collaborate with our European neighbours on matters relating to family law, asylum and the freezing of assets.
The Prime Minister argued passionately in favour of those measures as Home Secretary, and when leading the Government’s case for opting into 35 justice and home affairs measures in 2014. In this very House, she argued that without such measures we would
“risk harmful individuals walking free and escaping justice, and would seriously harm the capability of our law enforcement agencies to keep the public safe.”—[Official Report, 10 November 2014; Vol. 587, c. 1229.]
Our membership of the European Union gives us an automatic right to the co-operation of our EU neighbours in all those measures. Once we exit the European Union, we will lose that automatic right. As we have seen with the single market, the Prime Minister and her Cabinet are failing to support measures that they have spent their whole careers championing as fundamental to our security and public life.
It is entirely possible that we can negotiate a new agreement to maintain access to data and resources. The UK has been instrumental in setting up many of the cross-border police and crime systems that the EU has adopted, and our contribution will be missed when we leave. It is to be hoped that this will provide a powerful negotiating tool when we come to strike a new deal. However, so much of that cross-border co-operation and data sharing depends on all parties accepting the jurisdiction of the ECJ. There are several reasons for that. First, the EU can only act in compliance with the charter of fundamental rights. The ECJ is the ultimate arbiter of that, so it is impossible for the EU to sign an agreement with the UK that conflicts either with the charter or with ECJ case law.
Secondly, any agreement needs to be policed. If the UK acted in ways that breached the terms of this agreement, it would be open to an EU citizen to take a case to the ECJ and have the EU’s decision concluding the agreement annulled. Thirdly, the developing jurisprudence of the ECJ is binding on EU member states. If the UK failed to keep pace with legal developments on the continent, or diverged from EU law on any significant matter, a gap would open up. The international deals that the EU signs with third countries tend to include a mechanism for discussing legal divergence, including the ability to allow the agreement to be terminated if the differences cannot be reconciled. The UK would therefore have to stick closely to the rulings of the ECJ to avoid the agreement being annulled.
One of the most valuable contributions that membership of the European Union makes to the UK’s continuing security is the sharing of data between national police and intelligence agencies, but the sharing of personal data must be subject to stricter safeguards to prevent misuse. Within the EU, all countries have signed up to data protection legislation that governs the sharing of this data. Once the UK has left the jurisdiction of the ECJ, which oversees the data protection legislation that governs such data sharing, any bespoke agreement will have to continue to be governed by similar levels of protection.
Should UK law diverge from EU law on data protection, any agreement will become void if the ECJ deems that UK law is insufficient to protect European citizens’ data. That would result in the flow of data from the EU to the UK being immediately stopped, putting at risk the ability of British police and security forces to investigate and prosecute potential threats.
Given the Prime Minister’s determination, as expressed yesterday, to cut all ties with the European Court of Justice, I urge the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to form, with the utmost urgency, a proposal for the future of information sharing and co-operation on security matters between the UK and the European Union. He needs to set out detailed plans for how collaboration can be continued if the UK will not accept the jurisdiction of the ECJ. He also needs to state how the risks of any bespoke arrangement will be addressed, especially the risk that UK and ECJ case law diverge in the future, making negotiated arrangements untenable.
I hope that Members on both sides of this debate will acknowledge that the full implications of rejecting the ECJ were not put to voters in a referendum campaign and that, had they been, the Prime Minister might not now be so determined to remove the UK from its jurisdiction. I hope that the very real risks to our future security are being properly considered by the Secretary of State and look forward to hearing his proposals in greater detail in due course.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney). Her constituency is very close to my heart, because I fought my first parliamentary election as the Labour candidate in Richmond Park and lost by, I think, 26,000 votes. However, it was enough to ensure the election of a Conservative Member, Jeremy Hanley. At the count, the Liberal Democrats were very angry with me because Alan Watson, who is now in another place, lost by a very small margin. At least I have the comfort of knowing that the hon. Lady has now been elected as the Member for Richmond Park. I wish her well in her career, which I am sure will be long and distinguished. I have to say that I was fond of the former Member for Richmond Park, who was always extremely courteous and had great respect and affection for the House and for you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
I am sorry that I missed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt). I was sad to hear that he was to leave the House to take up an appointment outside. I feel that I was at his political birth—I sat on the panel that interviewed him for the seat of Stoke-on-Trent Central. We had interviewed 25 people before my hon. Friend came in; he was so stunning in his interview and we were so impressed that we immediately put him on the shortlist—and, of course, party members in Stoke-on-Trent selected him by a very large majority.
I remember one of the panellists saying that one day my hon. Friend would become the leader of the Labour party and Prime Minister; instead, he has gone for a better-paid job, probably with much better influence and less stress, as the director of the V&A. His amazing career outside the House has been matched by his complete devotion and dedication to the people of Stoke-on-Trent Central. I know that because I have been up there twice in the past five years and seen the great affection that local people have for him. He is dedicated and hard-working and will be greatly missed. We all wish him well in his new career. He is going to keep the museums free, and we are all going to visit him at his first exhibition.
What has been good about this debate was the passion of both Front Benchers. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) gave an extraordinarily good speech, and we heard another good speech from the Minister for Policing. Both supported the immensely important role that we play in justice and security in the EU. In fact, I do not think there was any difference between what the Front Benchers said on this subject: they both realised the importance of our remaining at the forefront of this agenda in the European Union, even though we are leaving it.
The Minister spoke with all the passion of one who supported the remain campaign during the referendum. He reminded us of the importance of the institutions and how vital it is that we remain part of them in one way or another. It is significant that we lead the rest of Europe as far as justice and security are concerned. We need the European Union, but it also needs us in a whole variety of organisations and institutions and in different ways.
Europol has been mentioned a number of times. Like the Minister and shadow Minister, I am a great fan of Europol. I pay tribute to Rob Wainwright for the excellent work that he does. During all the years that we have been members of the EU, how rare it has been for a Brit to be head of an EU agency or organisation. What an incredibly good job Rob Wainwright has done as director of Europol.
The Prime Minister is keen that we should not just have bits of the EU, but this is a bit that we desperately need. We desperately need to be part of an organisation that has a proven record in dealing with organised and serious crime. In the terrible migration crisis that has gripped the EU over the past few years, the involvement and support of Europol from the Hague has been vital to the hotspots that have been created.
Many years ago, when I was a member of the Home Affairs Committee, we went to Holland to see a demonstration of Europol in action; it had traced millions of pounds-worth of drugs to the other side of the world. It helps British police forces to do the very same thing, by getting information from Interpol. The issue is about connections.
My hon. Friend is right. He knew about it then, and I have reminded him.
I know the Minister is busy tweeting parts of my speech, but may I occupy his time for just one moment? It is possible for us to get an arrangement with Europol that will mean not that we are sitting on its management board, but that we are very near that position. We know, from watching what the United States has done, that it is possible to be there. It is not as good as running the organisation, but it is being near the centre of power, which is where we need to be with Europol. As we have heard, every serving chief constable, the head of the NCA and the head of the Metropolitan police say how important it is for us to stay a part of it. The Policing Minister knows that, because I am sure that police officers have said as much to him. At the very least, we should be able to negotiate something equivalent to what the United States has negotiated, whereby we have a room, a desk and access to the kind of information that we so desperately need.
On criminal records, the Minister has responded to me on ECRIS but we do not have details. I spoke yesterday to the national police director of information, Ian Readhead, who runs our database system from Hampshire. He told me how vital it is for our country to have access to ECRIS because it means that we know exactly where people are, and if someone has committed an offence, we can contact their country, which will give us within minutes the results of a check on whether that person has a criminal conviction. Some 200,000 foreign national offenders were arrested in our country last year, half of whom—100,000—are EU nationals. That is why it is extremely important that we have access to the database.
ECRIS is not extended to any non-EU members. Those are the rules. The only exceptions are full members of Schengen, so Switzerland and Norway have access to the database. Of course, we have no prospect of joining Schengen or, indeed, of wanting to join Schengen, so we must be very careful in our negotiations to ensure that we have information sharing so that we can get data from the rest of the European Union.
We heard from the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry), who is the House’s resident expert on Prüm. After some delay, the Government decided to opt into Prüm, but we will not start sharing the information that is provided under it—the DNA and fingerprinting expertise, and the other information that we need—until later this year. I hope very much that the Minister will ensure in his negotiations that we continue to benefit from Prüm until we leave the EU, and indeed that we have an agreement to allow us access to the important information gained through Prüm after we have left the EU.
I do not think that anyone so far has mentioned the issue of foreign national offenders. The latest figures show that there are 4,217 EU national offenders in the United Kingdom, costing £169 million a year. At the top of the list is Poland, with 983 citizens in our prisons. There are 764 from Ireland and 635 from Romania. The Chair of the Select Committee on Justice, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), will remember that we questioned the prisons Minister on the issue of foreign national offenders. We could not understand why—since we have a prisoner transfer arrangement with Poland, and both Poland and the United Kingdom are in the European Union—we have not been able to transfer Polish prisoners back to Poland. The answer came back to us from a senior official at the Ministry of Justice that the Government probably could have transferred more prisoners back. It is important that we look at that, especially if we can do the prisoner swap before we leave the European Union. Otherwise, once we come out of the European Union, Poland will be in exactly the same situation as any other country with regard to prisoner transfer arrangements. We should try to make sure that the swap happens as quickly as possible.
A number of Members have mentioned the European arrest warrant. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham made an impressive contribution on that issue. I have concerns about it, because other EU countries are issuing warrants on the basis of their law and their constitutions, and in some cases for very minor offences. Our system is being clogged up with a number of warrants that have been issued against nationals of other EU countries. We should be much more careful before issuing a European arrest warrant: it should be for serious and important offences, not for someone who has stolen a bicycle in another part of the EU, as has been the case. As the Minister negotiates with the rest of EU on the European arrest warrant, this is an opportunity to look at the issue anew. While accepting the importance of the principle of the European arrest warrant, which we would like to keep, we can also look at the defects inherent in it. It is a great scheme but it has its flaws, and this is an opportunity to ensure that they are dealt with.
My final point relates to EU nationals living in this country. As I said to the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, I do not know—she did not know either—whether we will have another debate on leaving the EU and home affairs issues other than those that we are discussing today, but I would have thought it essential that we clarify the position of EU nationals living in this country. The Prime Minister gave a guarantee in her speech yesterday that they would be allowed to remain here in tandem with British citizens being allowed to remain in the EU. That is short of an absolute commitment from the Government, for which Members in all parts of the House have asked. Now we have even more uncertainty. Can the Minister tell us the cut-off date for EU citizens who are resident in this country? Will it be 23 June 2016, in that everyone in the country on that date will be allowed to remain here as residents, will it be the date when we trigger Brexit, or will it be the date when we leave the European Union? I realise the Government’s difficulty: they do not want to set a date in the future, because they fear that lots of people would suddenly arrive in order to claim residence.
However, there will be a huge problem in processing the 3.5 million EU residents, because people from some EU countries do not require a passport to enter the United Kingdom. Italians come here on the basis of an Italian identity card, which is not stamped—one cannot stamp an identity card. No matter what the Government say, we still do not have 100% exit checks, and if someone presents their EU passport or identity card, nobody knows when they have arrived. Therefore, how will it be possible to process 3.5 million people in the space of two years?
That is why the best course of action is to make this commitment now—to say that we will allow EU citizens to remain here and to set the date, so that there is no uncertainty or rush in the future. We can get this clarified at a very early stage rather than waiting until the end of the process. There are still EU nationals seeking employment in this country who are being told by employers that they will not be able to stay. There are people who may not be given jobs because they are EU citizens, and people who may not be able to rent accommodation under the new rules regarding landlords and tenants because they now have to show their passport in order to rent property in the United Kingdom. It is essential that we have the situation clarified.
Whatever the detail—it is good to see the former Immigration Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), here as I talk about these matters—the negotiations will be very complicated, and they will not be easy when it comes to enforcement and criminal justice. We need regular reports back to the House on how they are going, because they will affect the safety and security of our citizens. The primary task of any Government is to protect their citizens, which is why it is important that we get as much information as possible.
This has been an important debate, if a somewhat select affair, and there have been many excellent contributions from colleagues. The safety and security of citizens is the first responsibility of any Government.
Given the need for the UK and EU member states to collaborate, to co-ordinate intelligence and to share information, this debate matters. The fact that the Government have scheduled it is a good signal of their intention to maintain close relationships on security, law enforcement and criminal justice. But there are other important issues to debate urgently—freedom of movement, principles for negotiating new trade deals, change to single market membership and associate membership of a customs union, whatever that might turn out to be—and, welcome as our general debates so far have been, I cannot help wondering whether the Government are avoiding debating some of the most crucial issues.
The Minister has said that he wants to have a future relationship with EU states on security and law enforcement, and we welcome that. Maintaining our close relationship on security is vital. Our security must not be compromised by our departure from the EU. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) has said, it is good to hear both Front-Bench teams agreeing on that important point. It is in our national interest to continue to have the closest possible collaboration on these issues. We must maintain our ability to participate in the European arrest warrant, our Europol membership and our ability to participate in information sharing, particularly via the Schengen Information System. We need those measures in order to stay safe.
Justice and security were barely mentioned during the referendum campaign, and the Government have no mandate to water down such measures. The European arrest warrant is strong. The Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, have favoured participation in it, and the current arrangements must be maintained. The Minister must not just outline his commitment to the European arrest warrant, but signal how he intends to ensure that it is maintained to the UK’s benefit.
Similarly, full Europol membership is vital. Anything less has been described as “damage limitation”. After we have left, will we still have access to the same databases and sources of information as we do now? How will Ministers ensure that privacy laws do not encumber our access? The Government must ensure, and explain how it will ensure, that Britain’s security and safety are in no way diminished. This is not about trade, vital though that is. This is the most fundamental duty of any Government. Our security and safety are not to be weakened, and our partners need to know that we intend to work together with them more closely than ever. As threats emerge, we must work more, not less, closely with our allies as good partners.
The right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) spoke with great care and authority of the need to sustain our involvement with international bodies. Like many of us who campaigned to remain in the EU, he accepts that we are leaving, but, like the rest of us, he sees the danger of departing without resolving the serious and vital security issues. The UK recently opted in to the new adopted regulation on Europol. The Government passed that test of their resolve, but good intentions are not sufficient. The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) spoke of the need for Ministers to explain how the UK can remain part of the existing structures, on equivalent terms. The detail counts, and the House will hold the Government to their stated objective of maintaining our current beneficial relationship.
The Chairman of the Justice Committee, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), urged the Government not to rule out making the financial contributions that may be required so that we can continue to benefit, in particular, from intelligence databases. This is a most reasonable request. Will Ministers confirm that they will not dogmatically decline to make such contributions for domestic political reasons, thereby putting our information-sharing processes at risk?
We have all agreed this afternoon how important security co-operation is to the safety of our citizens. This is the closest to consensus that we are ever likely to see in this Chamber when we discuss Brexit. However, as the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), rightly said, agreement in this House does not mean that achieving the right outcome will be easy—it will not—hence her call for an explanation of how the Government intend to proceed.
My right hon. Friend gave the example of Europol’s success in achieving arrests in child exploitation cases. Everyone in the House will want to ensure that our capacity to identify and detain the individuals responsible for such crimes is in no way diminished. That ought to be possible, but it will require consistent and unwavering resolve from the Government. These matters must not be up for negotiation: there must be no trading away on these issues.
The Prime Minister spoke yesterday about not wanting to retain “bits of membership”, but as the Chairman of the Exiting the European Union Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), said, collaboration on justice and security is not a bit; it is a vital tool in securing safety in this country. With that in mind, will the Minister commit to ensuring that a transitional agreement protects us from any interruption in access to data and intelligence?
My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) made an excellent speech, in which she detailed the specific concerns of her London constituents. She wants the reassurance, as do we all, that co-operation on security and law enforcement measures will outlast our EU membership.
Lastly, I want to turn to the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt). It was a privilege to sit by him as he made his maiden speech almost seven years ago, and I am pleased, although I did not know he would speak for the final time in this House today, to take this chance to wish him well in his new and exciting role. He has always conducted himself with the utmost courtesy, speaking on issues as important as social mobility and as niche as the management of British waterways. I will miss him, and I know others will, too. I know that he has found opposition frustrating—banging your head against a brick wall is not for everyone—but I feel confident that he will use his new role to make a difference on inclusion and broadening opportunity, and I wish him every success.
May I say what an excellent debate this has been? It has been a debate of very high calibre. Indeed, it has been attended by no fewer than five Chairs of Select Committees. The issue of security, law enforcement and criminal justice is of significant importance in the context of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. I am sure that all hon. Members would acknowledge the value of this debate, which is the fourth in a series promised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. These debates have proven to be of real assistance to the Government, not least this one, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) pointed out, is on an issue that impinges directly on all of our citizens.
As the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, a global Britain will wish to continue to co-operate with its European allies on tackling crime and terrorism. That is in the interests of not only the United Kingdom, but the continuing European Union, given the significant strengths that we can bring to the table. One of the 12 objectives that the Prime Minister outlined yesterday for the negotiations ahead is to establish a new relationship that enables the United Kingdom and the European Union to continue practical co-operation to tackle cross-border crime and to keep all our people safe.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State reiterated that objective to the House yesterday and made clear, during his appearance before the Select Committee in December, that a future relationship on security, law enforcement and criminal justice co-operation will be one of the Government’s priorities when the negotiations commence.
The UK is leaving the EU, but self-evidently it is not leaving Europe. The reality of cross-border crime and threats to security will remain. In December, as referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee report on this subject concluded that there is a shared, strong mutual interest between the United Kingdom and the 27 continuing EU member states to make sure that co-operation on tackling these threats continues. To that end, the UK already has strong bilateral relationships with member states and other countries across the globe that help to address security threats and serious organised crime, as well as facilitate the delivery of effective justice. We intend to continue that close co-operation with our European and global allies on promoting security and justice across Europe after we leave.
In my speech, and when the Minister came before the European Scrutiny Committee, I referred to the question of the attitude to be adopted in relation to votes in the Council of Ministers. Will he give some indication as to the kind of trend towards being sure we make it clear where we stand on Brexit matters within the framework of the decision-making process in COREPER?
As my hon. Friend pointed out, there is clearly now a change in the staffing of COREPER so far as the UK is concerned. As we move closer towards Brexit, and particularly after we trigger article 50, it is inevitable that that position will develop and change.
There were a number of points made by hon. Members during the debate and in the short time available to me I would like to comment on as many of them as possible. The hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) asked what guarantees can be given that security and law enforcement will not be compromised as a consequence of our departure from the EU. Of course, we have not even started the process of negotiation. We have not yet even triggered article 50. We are leaving the EU, but, as I previously indicated, co-operation on law enforcement and security with our European and global allies will remain a priority for the Government. The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have both spoken with several EU partners who have been clear about their wish to maintain strong co-operation with the United Kingdom. That is a good basis for starting the negotiation, but clearly this is very early days.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) made an excellent speech. He referred approvingly to the Prime Minister’s speech and made it clear that it is important the United Kingdom continues to be a close friend of the continuing EU. That is certainly the spirit in which the Government intend to approach the negotiations.
The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West and a number of other Members raised the issue of data protection in the continuing EU, and the extent to which the continuing EU would wish to, or be able to, share data with the UK. I would point out that on the day of departure, the UK’s data protection arrangements will be in perfect alignment with those of the continuing EU.
Forgive me, but I have very little time.
Again, that will be a good basis for continuing the negotiations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), the Chairman of the Justice Committee, raised the European arrest warrant. He said that the United Kingdom should seek to remain within the arrangements of the warrant and that we should seek to be pragmatic in the negotiations. That is certainly the case so far as the United Kingdom Government are concerned. We look for similar pragmatism from our continuing EU colleagues.
The hon. Member for West Ham, my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Ben Howlett), the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq), the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) and for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) and the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) asked what access we would have to Europol. Again, we are clearly at a very early stage in the negotiations, and they will obviously take time to progress, but the Prime Minister has stated that law enforcement co-operation will continue once the UK has left the EU. We are exploring options for co-operation arrangements with Europol once the UK has left the EU. But I repeat that these are very early days.
I will be brief as I know that the Minister has limited time. Will he clarify one point? He said that negotiations were at an early stage. I understood that there were to be no negotiations until article 50 had been triggered. Is he telling the House that negotiations in this area have actually begun?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to upbraid me. The negotiations are at such an early stage that they have not yet commenced. To that extent, he is quite right. He has chastised me, and I am pleased to stand corrected.
The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford asked whether there was anything in EU treaties to prevent us from remaining a member of Europol. I understand that the EU treaties do not allow for non-EU members to join Europol as full members, but, as indicated already, we are seeking bespoke arrangements with the EU in this regard, and certainly we would wish to pursue access to Europol on as enhanced a basis as possible.
For clarification, the Exiting the European Union Committee has been given evidence suggesting that although the treaties do not provide for it, neither do they rule it out. I accept the Government’s interpretation, but it would be helpful to have that confirmed.
The position, as I understand it, is as I have just stated, but now that the right hon. Lady has raised the question, I shall pursue and investigate it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bath asked whether the UK would be putting human rights at the forefront of our negotiating agenda. The UK has a long-standing tradition of protecting our rights, traditions and liberties, and we see no reason to depart from that.
The Ministry of Justice has responsibility for the Crown dependencies. I have just spent two days with the Justice Select Committee speaking to the Government of the Isle of Man, and they have a simple message—no demands or list of conditions: will a Minister come to the Dispatch Box and say that the Crown dependencies will not be forgotten throughout this process or in any agreement reached with the rest of the EU?
I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. In fact, there have already been many meetings with representatives of the Crown dependencies, and that will continue throughout the process of exiting the EU.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry) rightly reminded us that many security arrangements are agreed largely on a bilateral basis and that the UK has significant strengths in this regard, and of course those arrangements will continue undisturbed by our departure from the EU.
The right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), who chairs the Exiting the European Union Committee, congratulated my Department on its speedy response to his most recent report, at least in two respects. I am glad to see that we are giving satisfaction. He asked whether the Department would be publishing the economic analysis underpinning the plan that the Prime Minister outlined yesterday, and if so when. I can assure him that the analysis continues and will continue for some time. However, he must understand—I am sure that he does understand—that going into too much detail about that analysis at this particular stage could compromise our negotiating position. I give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance he has had before: as time passes, we will consider and reconsider the issue of how much information should be passed to his Select Committee.
The Minister says that the analysis is continuing. Will he tell us whether it will continue for another two and a half years, which would avoid the need to publish anything before the negotiations are concluded? It seems to the Select Committee perfectly reasonable, without compromising the Government’s negotiating hand, to reveal to the House and the public the Government’s analysis of the different options, which will help to inform people’s view about the Government’s plan.
I have no doubt that that analysis will continue for some considerable time, although I doubt whether it will continue for two and a half years. I have heard what the right hon. Gentleman has to say, and we will certainly continue to consider the position. At this particular stage, however, I believe that giving such detail would compromise the negotiation.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) gave his valedictory contribution, and on behalf of Conservative Members, I would like to wish him well in his future endeavours. He reminded us quite correctly that the United Kingdom is part of the greater European culture, and I am sure that under his direction the Victoria & Albert museum will continue to reflect that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stone expressed concern about the use of the European arrest warrant for crimes that he regarded as trivial. The European arrest warrant was radically reformed by the previous coalition Government to offer better protection for British citizens and others who are subject to extradition proceedings. British citizens can no longer be extradited where a case is not trial-ready, where the conduct is not a crime within the United Kingdom or where it is simply not proportionate to extradite. These protections are set out in UK legislation. Concerns about the European arrest warrant were also expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), who raised specifically the Adamescu case. The Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, my right hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis) has listened and attended carefully to the points raised. Concerns about the use of European arrest warrant were also expressed by the right hon. Member for Leicester East.
The hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) raised the issue of the common travel area, which is a matter of concern. The common travel area long predates our membership or Ireland’s membership of the European Union. It goes back to 1923, and the Government have made it very clear that preserving those arrangements is at the forefront of our minds as we approach the negotiations.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard) raised the issue of respect for Scotland in the United Kingdom. He referred to what he described as the spectre of a dystopian future, in which the UK turns in on itself. That is not the future that the Government see for the UK outside the EU. In fact, we see a more global Britain, a more outward-looking Britain—a Britain that is not confined by the limits of the EU. He also raised the issue of respect for Scotland and the paper that Scotland has recently issued. He will be aware that in order to address the issue of the impact of Brexit on the devolved Administrations, the Government established the Joint Ministerial Committee for exiting the European Union. That is the forum in which these issues are raised, discussed and debated, and there is a meeting this week. I do not believe any suggestion that there is a lack of respect for Scotland or indeed for any of the devolved Administrations.
Would it not enhance the discussions taking place at the JMC if there were discussions between Ministers in his Department and their counterparts in Scotland in order to prepare some of the detail of these very particular matters?
Discussions will certainly continue, but I must say that I regard it as highly unfair of the hon. Gentleman to suggest that there is any lack of respect for Scotland. I believe that the Government could have done hardly any more to accommodate the concerns of the devolved Administrations.
The debate has been genuinely useful. Both my right hon. Friend the Policing Minister and I have made it clear today that this issue is of the utmost importance to the Government as we prepare to negotiate our exit from the European Union, and that has been reinforced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who has said that co-operation with the EU in the fight against crime and terrorism will be one of the Government’s principal priorities when negotiations begin. We are determined that the United Kingdom will continue to be a leading contributor in the fight against crime and the promotion of security and justice, not only in the United Kingdom and the European Union, but throughout the world.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered exiting the EU and security, law enforcement and criminal justice.