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Justice and Home Affairs Pre-Council Statement

Volume 655: debated on Wednesday 6 March 2019

The EU Justice and Home Affairs Council of Ministers will meet on 7 and 8 March in Brussels. This will be the last JHA Council meeting that the UK will attend as an EU member state. I will represent the UK for Interior day. The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the right hon. David Gauke MP will represent the UK for Justice day. The Scottish Government Minister, James Wolffe QC, Lord Advocate, will also attend for both days.

Interior Day on 7 March will begin with a policy debate on the proposed regulation to amend the European Border And Coast Guard Regulation. The regulation aims to reinforce the EU’s integrated border management strategy and further protect the external EU borders by providing the European Border and Coast Guard Agency with a standing corps of 10,000 staff with executive powers, dedicated equipment and the remit to act in third countries. This is a Schengen building measure which the UK does not participate in.

There will then be a progress report on negotiations on the package of seven legislative measures constituting the reform of the common European asylum system. The presidency are seeking compromises to enable them to make progress on these measures ahead of the European Parliament elections in May. The UK will only participate in the regulation relating to Eurodac, the EU’s fingerprint database of asylum seekers and irregular migrants.

The presidency will seek an exchange of views on co-operation with third countries on migration following the recent EU-Arab League summit. Over lunch there will be a discussion on achievements and perspectives on Home Affairs activity from 2014-19. I will use these opportunities to note the UK’s contribution to EU JHA activity, and to emphasise the importance of future co-operation between the EU and the UK on these issues.

The Council will then discuss the state of play on the EU’s response to terrorism. Ministers will be asked to consider whether there are any gaps in EU counter-terrorism policy, and whether new legislation or activity is required. I will highlight areas where the UK considers the EU can add value to member states efforts, and emphasise the importance of future co-operation between the EU and the UK to tackle the terrorist threat.

Finally, Ministers will discuss the issue of disinformation in the context of securing free and fair elections. I will intervene to indicate our continued willingness to share examples of UK good practice and expertise in this area post-exit.

Justice day on 8 December will begin with a progress report on the directive on whistleblowing. The presidency will update on trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament on this issue. The UK has concerns about the proportionality of this measure, and has indicated its preference for providing whistleblowers with a choice of reporting channels to support their disclosures.

The presidency will then present the text of the directive on legal representatives for gathering electronic evidence (‘e-evidence’), seeking agreement for a general approach. While the UK has not opted into the regulation (which requires service providers providing services within the EU to preserve or produce electronic data on request from a law enforcement authority of an EU member state), it will be bound by this directive, which obliges the same service providers to designate a legal representative in a member state to comply with requests. The UK supports the e-evidence proposals’ overall aim of enhanced international co-operation on e-evidence and its use in preventing and tackling harms to public security, and is thus content with the provisions in the directive.

The Council will also discuss Council decisions for negotiating mandates with the US for an agreement on cross-border access to e-evidence, and for negotiations on a second additional protocol to the Budapest Convention on cybercrime. The UK will need to decide whether it wishes to opt in to these Council decisions.

The Commission will provide a state of play on the implementation of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. The UK does not participate in the EPPO.

The Commission will present the results of the 4th monitoring of the code of conduct on tackling illegal hate speech and to underline the importance of the correct implementation of the framework decision on racism and xenophobia to ensure the continued effectiveness of the voluntary co-operation under the code of conduct as well as of the need to ensure that the offenders of illegal hate speech are brought to justice.

Over lunch, Ministers will discuss the impact of lawtech and artificial intelligence in the Justice System.