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Brexit: Europol

Volume 792: debated on Tuesday 11 September 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, following recent developments regarding the Salisbury incident, they will seek to ensure that the United Kingdom is able fully to contribute to Europol after 29 March 2019 and during any subsequent transition period.

My Lords, the UK will continue to participate in Europol and other EU justice and home affairs agencies during the implementation period, and to make a full contribution to the operational work of the agency.

My Lords, I must apologise for the fact that the words “and thereafter” did not appear in my Question, which was entirely my fault. It is truly important that our arrangements with Europol last long beyond next March and any transition period. Does my noble friend not agree that the prime duty of any Government is the security of their people and that we need these arrangements with our European friends and neighbours as a very important ingredient in providing security for our people?

I agree with my noble friend that the words “and beyond” are important. During the implementation period, we will be able to participate in existing EU JHA tools and measures. But, beyond that, we will separately seek to agree ongoing co-operation through future security partnerships. To that end, we have proposed a new coherent and legally binding agreement on internal security that protects mutually beneficial aspects of co-operation in this area and ensures that both the UK and the EU can continue to tackle fast-evolving security threats.

The Government acknowledged in the withdrawal document that the European arrest warrant would no longer be available to the United Kingdom after 29 March next year. That means that people wanted for serious crimes, up to and including terrorism, will no longer be accessible by the UK, and vice versa for some European countries. What action do the Government intend to take to ensure that we can get people wanted for serious offences back here to the UK and, for the reverse procedure, to the countries that need them?

The noble Lord is absolutely right that this facility continues to operate. To that end, the Commission has been very clear that it wants to continue co-operation on internal security, including extradition and Europol. I also point out that, at the recent press conference on 31 August, Michel Barnier recognised the progress in our discussions on security. Our focus now should be on trying to define an ambitious partnership.

My Lords, a European arrest warrant has been issued for the two Russians suspected of being responsible for the Wiltshire poisonings. But Norway and Iceland, both of which are in the EU single market and the Schengen area, have been waiting for 13 years to be part of the European arrest warrant—and they are still waiting because they are not members of the EU. What chance does the UK have of retaining the EAW if we are outside the EU, the single market and the Schengen area?

The noble Lord points out the issue of the two Russians. Of course, as well as an EAW an Interpol red notice was issued for those two people. The UK has made a significant contribution to Europol. It is important to note that in 2017 the UK was the highest contributor of data relating to serious and organised crime to Europol’s analysis project. We are also in the top three member states that contribute intelligence each day to different databases in Europol, and the UK is driving or co-driving almost half of all EU law enforcement projects in the fight against serious and organised crime. That is a very good reason why we should continue.

My Lords, I had the privilege some years ago of being the rapporteur in the European Parliament for joint investigation teams, which was supported very strongly by British staff who were key in Europol. Will my noble friend confirm that the importance of the 39 or 40 front-line staff of Europol will be taken into account in all our discussions, as will whether we will replicate our current operational agreements with third countries—17 in all—and whether we will continue to play a full part in the European Counter Terrorism Centre and European Cybercrime Centre organisations within Europol?

The answer to that is yes—and, for Europol specifically, it means that the UK will keep its liaison bureau in The Hague and will have access to European systems and facilities on the same basis as it does now.

Can the Government give an assurance that, in the interests of national security, they would not recommend any deal on EU withdrawal to Parliament which did not sustain and protect the current levels of security arrangements and co-operation that are now available to us through our membership of the European Union?

I do not think anyone would disagree with the noble Lord. Our ongoing security partnership should protect those shared law-enforcement and criminal justice operational capabilities. He and I have debated on the Data Protection Act, on the specific law-enforcement provisions, and, of course, on national security. It is incredibly important that we continue to co-operate, to the benefit of both the EU and the UK.

My Lords, the German constitution bans the extradition of people outside the EU. How will the Government get over the problem that, after we have no deal, there will be no extraditions between ourselves and Germany?

The noble Lord is absolutely right that there are specific provisions in Germany’s constitution, which we will have to take a practical and pragmatic approach towards as we move forward.