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Leaving the EU: Legal System

Volume 658: debated on Tuesday 23 April 2019

9. What steps the Government plan to take to ensure that the UK legal system operates effectively after the UK leaves the EU. (910426)

The UK and the EU have agreed the terms of an implementation period. If Parliament is able to support a deal, common rules will remain in place during that period. That will provide certainty to businesses and citizens. The UK and EU have also committed to explore a new agreement on family judicial co-operation and other related matters; ambitious arrangements for services and investment, including legal services; and a future security partnership. My Department continues to work to ensure we are in the best position to negotiate our priorities.

The former Brexit Minister, the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) said at the Dispatch Box that a no-deal Brexit

“would not result in a reduction in mutual capability”—[Official Report, 20 March 2019; Vol. 656, c. 1077]

on security and law enforcement co-operation.

However, the Solicitor General, when giving evidence to the Justice Committee, said:

“A no deal is deeply suboptimal when it comes to criminal justice”

and that

“we would lose the European arrest warrant”,


“raises all sorts of questions of delay and, frankly, potential denial of justice”.

Will the Justice Secretary tell me which Minister’s version of the post-Brexit future is accurate?

We are very clear that the best way forward is to reach a deal. That is what the Government are endeavouring to achieve and support from across the House would be quite helpful in delivering that.

The Solicitor General’s evidence to the Justice Committee was indeed crystal clear. Does my right hon. Friend also agree that it is critical for civil justice co-operation that there should be a deal? None of the ambitious objectives for future collaboration would work if there is no deal. For example, mutual recognition and enforceability of judgments in civil and family law cases would fall away immediately in the event of no deal.

My hon. Friend is right to highlight these issues. We have made progress in our negotiations, particularly in the context of family law. It is to the advantage of citizens in the UK and the EU that a deal is reached, which will enable us to enforce judgments in this area. Our ambitions are to go further and, in terms of the future framework, to make further progress on civil judicial co-operation.

In thousands of instances, we are not able to deliver justice in this country unless we have a proper extradition agreement with other countries in the European Union. As I understand it, even if the withdrawal agreement were to go forward at some point, we will still have to operate as a third party outside the European arrest warrant. Relying on the 1957 treaties will not be enough, so what plans does the Secretary of State have to ensure we are able to maintain a proper extradition arrangement with other countries in the European Union?

The hon. Gentleman is correct to say that on leaving the European Union we will not have access to the European arrest warrant. We would wish to be able to do so, but there are difficulties. For example, Germany has a constitutional bar in this area. The Home Office continues to work with EU member states to try to find a way in which we can have as effective extradition and arrest warrant arrangements as possible.

Justice issues are, of course, largely devolved. EU initiatives such as Eurojust and the European arrest warrant are well utilised by Scottish prosecutors and are hugely valued by them. In the current Brexit talks between the UK Government and the Labour party, will the Secretary of State confirm what proposals regarding justice have been discussed and if the Scottish Government have been or will be consulted on these or any forthcoming proposals that may result from the talks between the Tories and the Labour party?

I am not going to comment specifically on those discussions. What I would say in the context of no-deal preparations is that, as I understand it, the Scottish Government have not allocated any of the money given to them for no-deal preparation on justice matters. Certainly, when it comes to the United Kingdom, we are doing everything we can to prepare for every eventuality.

I can assure the Secretary of State that the Scottish Government’s no-deal planning is well advanced. The Justice Secretary’s Government recently opted into the Eurojust regulation. Eurojust plays a vital role in the fight against serious organised crime, particularly terrorism but also cyber-crime and child pornography. His Department said that opting in was necessary to ensure that the UK continues to work in line with our European partners in the lead-up to exit day and during the transition period. Will he tell us how many more justice opt-ins has he planned before Brexit takes place and will they feature in the Tory manifesto for the EU Parliament elections?

What I say to the hon. and learned Lady is that we want to work in a pragmatic way with the European Union, so that as we leave the EU, we continue to co-operate wherever we can to our mutual benefit. That does require us to reach a deal.