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Leaving the EU: No Deal

Volume 663: debated on Tuesday 9 July 2019

9. What steps his Department has taken to prepare for the UK leaving the EU without a deal; and if he will make a statement. (911805)

Our justice system is respected across the world. That was the case before we joined the EU, and it will continue to be the case after we leave. The Department has taken all necessary steps to ensure we are prepared for a deal across MOJ interests and for the possibility of a no-deal exit, to the extent it is possible to do so.

This includes working closely with other Departments to ensure that essential services continue; working with suppliers of key products to ensure essential supplies are in place; providing the courts and judiciary with additional training and resources to enable them to prepare for possible changes; and ensuring that contingencies are in place for any potential traffic disruption in the south-east of England.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer and welcome the strong statements he has made recently on a possible no-deal Brexit. Does he agree that, regardless of how much preparation is done, the implications of no deal for our justice systems would be dire?

What I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that leaving the EU without a deal risks some significant impacts across the justice system, including potential disruption to goods and services to our prisons; an increase in case load and case complexity across court jurisdictions; increased pressure on our courts system; the loss of access to several law enforcement tools, including the loss of data exchange tools, making it more difficult to protect the public; and market access impacts on our legal sector, restricting or removing our ability to operate in EU markets. So do I think a no-deal Brexit is a good idea? No, I do not.

I commend the Secretary of State for his honesty, but I wonder whether he would pass on his knowledge on this subject to the two candidates to be the next Prime Minister, because, despite their recent and mercifully brief visits to Scotland, they seem unaware of the impact on the safety of people living in Scotland and across the UK if we leave the EU without a deal. Has he spoken to them to explain that if we do not have the use of the European arrest warrant, it will be extremely difficult to apprehend people who commit violent crime in this country and then go back to the continent, whereas at the moment this can be done within a matter of days?

Both candidates for the leadership of my party have made it clear that they do not want a no-deal Brexit, and I wish them well—[Interruption.] I understand that the chances are “a million to one”, so I wish them well in their endeavours.

It would seem that the Secretary of State and I must be reading different newspapers. In an earlier answer, he mentioned problems of data protection if we leave without a deal. Has he explained to the candidates to be Prime Minister that leaving without a deal means we would lose membership of Europol and, because of data protection rules, that would mean that not only would the police no longer have access to data held by Europol, but information that Police Scotland has currently been providing to Europol will be removed from Europol databases, thus prejudicing ongoing investigations? Does he agree that it is not acceptable for people in Scotland to have their safety so prejudiced?

First, I can confirm that I suspect we do read different newspapers, but I agree that the loss of access to various law enforcement tools would make it more difficult to protect the public. I am sure there are ways in which these issues can be addressed, but a much better way forward would be to leave the EU—this is where we disagree—with a deal.

A no-deal Brexit poses a serious threat to our justice system; ending access to the European arrest warrant and criminal database would leave us all less safe. The Justice Secretary agrees about those no-deal dangers, but I also fear that no deal is a stepping stone to a free trade deal with the United States of America. Labour’s justice spokesperson in the Lords recently asked whether our prisons would be up for grabs for American corporations in any post-Brexit free trade deal with the US, and the Government’s vague answer alarmed me. So will the Justice Secretary clearly state today that our prisons should not be part of any post-Brexit free trade deal with the USA?

First, I think I read different newspapers from the hon. Gentleman, although I do read the Morning Star when he has an article in it. [Interruption.] Which is not quite every day, although it sometimes feels like it. On trade deals with the US, it is the intention of this Government, and, I suspect, of the next Government, to enter into a trade deal with the US, but we would want to do so in a way that protects public services.