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Brexit: European Union Police Databases and Extradition Arrangements

Volume 791: debated on Wednesday 20 June 2018

Private Notice Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of Michel Barnier’s remarks at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights on 19 June, and in view of those remarks, how they intend to secure continued access to EU police databases and extradition arrangements.

My Lords, we note Mr Barnier’s comments, but we must bear in mind that this negotiation is only just beginning. We want to ensure that citizens across Europe benefit from the strongest possible security relationship between the UK and the EU after our exit, and to avoid a security gap. Our objective in negotiations will be to secure this outcome. In our view, this can be most effectively delivered through a comprehensive new internal security treaty.

My Lords, this and other matters are serious. The Government’s red lines, such as ruling out the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the CJEU, will, as Mr Barnier says, at the moment deny us access to EU databases and things such as the European arrest warrant, the security pact, which the Prime Minister has discussed, and recognition of court judgments. Given the serious nature of this and all the other issues of the negotiations, which have never been in front of this House, does the Minister agree that we should have a proper debate here on how the negotiations are going and the Government’s objectives? The debate could be on the White Paper, if it arrives on time at the beginning of July. If it is further delayed, we should nevertheless have a debate here on this range of really important issues.

My Lords, I have on many occasions had debates on certain elements of the issues that the noble Baroness raises. I commend your Lordships’ House for the quality of our debates on such matters. I am sure that the usual channels will, as they are wont to do, make time for such a debate. The issues that she raises are political choices. None of them are insurmountable as a legal barrier. We are not in Schengen now. We operated the EAW without CJEU jurisdiction up to 2014. The charter creates no new rights. EU citizenship matters only for those with constitutional barriers and we are already close to a solution on that in the withdrawal agreement, but I fully support her request for a debate.

My Lords, Michel Barnier said in his speech:

“To negotiate an ambitious new relationship with the UK, which we all want, we need more realism on what is possible and what is not when a country is outside the EU’s area of justice, freedom and security”.

Would the noble Baroness agree that we need much more realism on both sides, on the British side and on the European Union side, if the negotiations, which matter so greatly to the security of all our people, are to succeed? I was also greatly alarmed to hear that these negotiations have “only just” begun.

As I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, these are political choices that will be decided in the course of the negotiations. I think that both sides will be realistic in the final analysis and in what is ultimately agreed. I have full confidence in that.

My Lords, the European arrest warrant, as Mr Barnier said yesterday, is based on trust underpinned by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the concept of EU citizenship and free movement. As the Government have rejected all these foundations, how do they expect to retain access to the European arrest warrant after we have left the EU?

As to the European arrest warrant and other matters, as I said to the other two noble Lords, these are political choices. What we have in the EAW and other matters, such as ECRIS and SIS II, is strong co-operation between us and our European Union partners. I know the noble Lord will agree with me when I say that the most important thing when we leave the European Union is that we have a safe Europe in which our citizens can live.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, whatever Monsieur Barnier may say on this matter, the heads of security and intelligence in the other member countries of the European Union will make absolutely sure that we preserve our relationship? Am I right in saying that, at the moment, we extradite five times as many people to them at their request—criminals and people they wish to charge, including terrorists—as we request they extradite to us? The interests of security are quite clear, whatever Monsieur Barnier might say. He made a speech to the Agency for Fundamental Rights. The most fundamental fundamental right is the right to life, which is what the security agencies are there to protect.

My noble friend makes that point very articulately, and he is absolutely right on extradition—I am sure that he is. It is in everybody’s interest that we preserve that national security relationship. The UK has played its part in the huge move, in the past 12 months to two years, to help European countries when they have faced difficulties through terrorist attacks. Our police have been at the forefront of some of the aid that we have given to our European partners. It would be a detrimental move for there not to be co-operation between the UK and our European partners once we leave the European Union. Life, as my noble friend says, is the most important thing here.

My Lords, is not the key consideration in these negotiations that there is a mutuality of interest between ourselves and our EU partners in the field of security? Monsieur Barnier must surely recognise that we have very much to offer, as was shown recently by the remarks of the director of GCHQ.

The noble Lord is absolutely right. We have a mutuality of interest, as my noble friend has just pointed out—and, as I have said, it would be inconceivable that some of the work that we have done in co-operation with our European partners, which has been of mutual multilateral interest throughout the EU 27, would be lost in our exit from the EU.

My Lords, it is absolutely true that it is in everybody’s interest to have security co-operation. However, when the Minister says that it is just a question of political choices, that is complacent and, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Jay, unrealistic. There are legal constraints governing that co-operation. If you are going to have mutual recognition of judicial decisions, you have to have a common legal framework and a common jurisdiction. Nothing else is going to pass the European Parliament, I can be absolutely certain.

I am sure that what is at the forefront of the European Parliament at this point in time—and I am talking about the politicians, not the bureaucrats—is the sometimes fragile security situation that we have had in Europe over the last two years. I will come on to the legal point. None of the things that we have talked about today are insurmountable. I am not arguing against a legal framework, but none of the issues are insurmountable legally.

My Lords, I was Home Secretary when we entered the European arrest warrant as part of the negotiation at the time. I reinforce the points made by the noble Lord, Lord King, and my noble friend Lord Anderson. But I make a little offer. It is entirely right that we have to persuade Michel Barnier and others that it is in everyone’s mutual interest to retain our facility and access to the EAW, but in 2014 many of us had a real task in persuading the coalition Government, I think probably because of the Liberal Democrats, that remaining in or re-entering—because we had the opt-out—the EAW was essential. I offer my heartfelt skill in negotiating with Michel Barnier, as we had to do with the coalition Government.