Skip to main content

Brexit: Security

Volume 795: debated on Tuesday 29 January 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions ministers from the Home Office and the Ministry for Justice have had with the heads of police forces about security issues relating to Brexit.

My Lords, Ministers are in continued dialogue with a range of operational partners on policing and security co-operation. The Government are preparing for all eventualities, and this includes continuing to work closely with our operational partners on EU exit planning.

My Lords, while the economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit are dominating the headlines, is it not the case that the consequences of no deal on vital security co-operation with the European Union are equally alarming? Did the Minister see the item in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday about the retiring chief constable there who felt that he was in the dark over Brexit? Surely, he and other police chiefs around the UK need to be fully involved in preparing the vital future security relationship with the European Union.

I totally agree with the noble Baroness and, to that end, we had a useful debate on that subject last week. For her information, at his Home Affairs Select Committee appearance, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, who is the Brexit lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, confirmed regarding policing:

“If we crash out on 29 March, we will have the team up. We will have everything written. We will have the whole system and the network developed, and we will be there, sitting on the shoulders of forces across the country from a policing point of view to help them through what that looks like. We will be fully prepared”.

My Lords, will the Minister be so kind as to say what the extradition arrangements will be for each of the 27 member states on 30 March in the event of no deal? If she does not have those details at her fingertips, could she write to me and ensure that the letter gets here before 30 March?

I will try to make sure it gets to the noble Lord by 29 March. I shall not go through every one of the 27 states, but in the event of no deal we would rely on the Council of Europe European Convention on Extradition of 1957. Just for noble Lords’ information, it is already used for other non-EU countries—for example, Norway.

My Lords, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, Cressida Dick, has said that the way in which we currently quickly extradite and arrest people will have to be replaced, but it will be more costly and slower and will potentially put the public at risk. Does the Minister agree? Will the Government admit that the UK will be less secure outside the European Union, deal or no deal?

I do not necessarily agree with the second statement, but one thing I can say to the noble Lord is that the way to avoid no deal is for the House of Commons, which is currently deliberating on it, to agree to a deal.

Yes, it is a good question, and it is going to get an answer, if I can get a word in edgeways.

We have to work very hard to make sure that there are no gaps in capability and that, if we leave the European Union without a deal, some of the alternative mechanisms and instruments are in place.

Does the Minister agree that there has been great success in co-operation between the United Kingdom and European forces? Can she assure the House that the same systems, under another name, will still prevail and be as efficient as previously?

Under a deal situation, the political declaration has provisions for Eurojust, Europol, Prüm and PNR. Leaving without a deal would necessitate us relying on other mechanisms to fulfil those obligations.

My Lords, we will be relying on a 63 year-old convention from the Council of Europe. Will the Minister tell us how long, on average, extradition requests take with those countries where we currently rely on it compared with the European arrest warrant that we have with the 27 EU nations?

It is certainly the case that the European arrest warrant is a very smooth process. I cannot give the noble Lord an estimate of the exact time relying on the Council of Europe convention because it has not happened yet. I can give estimates of what happened when we relied on the convention, but I cannot give an estimate on what has not happened yet. There is no doubt—I think this goes to the nub of the noble Lord’s point—that the European arrest warrant is a very smooth process.

Can my noble friend assure the House that, although it would be very much a second best, bilateral negotiations are already taking place with all the countries of the European Union, particularly the larger countries—France, Germany, Italy and Spain—to ensure that we have bilateral agreements if we have the very unhappy result of no deal.

My noble friend is absolutely right. With particular reference to Europol, this is pertinent, as we would have to have a series of bilateral co-operation mechanisms. In addition, we would be moving our Europol liaison bureau to The Hague.

My Lords, the case in Georgia is likely to be an example of how long extradition takes when a country is not in the European arrest warrant. On access to databases such as the SIS and Europol, the Government are going to have to seek a data advocacy decision. Is not their unreliability on upholding European human rights standards going to prove an obstacle to getting that decision?

My Lords, it is important to point out that Ireland is not part of SIS II. Of course, we used alternative channels such as Interpol up to 2015, so it is clear that alternative systems do work. Our nearest neighbour, Ireland, is not actually part of SIS II.