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Leaving the EU: Departmental Priorities

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 12 March 2019

24. What recent assessment he has made of the implications for his departmental priorities of the UK leaving the EU. (909734)

My Department continues to ensure that the necessary preparations are in place to mitigate potential impacts associated with leaving the EU wherever possible. For all scenarios, these preparations remain on track. In a no-deal scenario, we do not expect any immediate impacts on our departmental priorities, although there are risks in terms of pressures on the courts. We will react to longer-term impacts that are harder to predict, such as financial impacts, should they arise.

In recent years, 15 German nationals have been extradited from Germany to the United Kingdom, including for some very serious offences, but last month that country made it clear that it will no longer extradite its citizens to the UK after Brexit. What other countries does the Secretary of State anticipate will take a similar approach, and what, if anything, can he do to respond to this massive Brexit headache?

In terms of the European arrest warrant, we have to accept that as a consequence of Brexit the current arrangements will no longer be available, but we will continue to work very closely with EU member states to ensure that we can address this matter as effectively as we can.

Last week, I met the area commander in Glasgow East, and it was clear that the police are having to focus on Brexit preparations, yet that is not what people in my constituency actually want them to be focusing on—they want them to be focused on catching criminals in the street. If we do not have access to the European arrest warrant, it will not matter that all these contingency plans are in place. The only people who are going to benefit from that are those who seek to evade justice.

As I say, largely because of the constitutional issues with Germany, there are issues with the European arrest warrant; I absolutely accept that. We will take every measure that we can to ensure that authorities can co-operate. With regard to security issues, leaving the European Union with a deal is much better than leaving without a deal, and therefore the House should support the deal this evening.

The Tories’ disastrous handling of Brexit poses a serious threat to our economy and to our rights, and a real threat to our justice and security too. Any loss of access to the European arrest warrant or to European criminal records databases would damage our justice system, yet we have nothing but warm words from the Government on future justice co-operation. I was recently in Brussels discussing this with European partners, and it is obvious that the Government have failed to give this matter the priority it so urgently deserves. So what guarantees can the Secretary of State give today that his Government’s approach to Brexit will not leave our citizens less safe and will not let criminals off the hook?

If the hon. Gentleman cares about criminal justice co-operation, as I am sure he does—I certainly do—then there is a course of action available to him later today to ensure that we can have further criminal justice co-operation, and that is voting for the Government’s deal.