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End of Transition Period: National Security)

Volume 686: debated on Monday 14 December 2020

What recent assessment she has made of the potential effect of the end of the transition period on national security. (910163)

The safety and security of our citizens remains our priority. We are working closely with operational partners to ensure we are ready for a range of scenarios at the end of the transition period. We will continue to co-operate with European and international partners to tackle shared security threats.

The deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police has pointed out that losing access to EU databases such as the Schengen information system will move the average time for securing a criminal conviction from six days to 60 days, describing this as a “capability gap” and as having a “massive impact”. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, what emergency contingency plans does the Department have in place until—possibly—replacements for the existing cross-border arrangements are agreed?

National security remains our absolute priority. This country is a safe country and will remain so after the end of the transition period. The hon. Lady asks what alternative arrangements are in place. Obviously, we continue the negotiations and await their outcome, but we are prepared for a range of scenarios. In the event that it is not possible to reach an agreement, the UK has well developed and well rehearsed plans in place. They involve transitioning co-operation with EU member states to alternative, non-EU arrangements by the end of the transition period. These are tried and tested mechanisms, which the UK already uses with so many other countries.

The Minister recently wrote to me that, in the event of no deal on policing and security co-operation, the UK would fall back on non-EU arrangements. Does he agree with the former National Security Adviser’s comments this weekend that these fallbacks are all “slower and more clunky” and that they would leave us all less safe? Moreover, when the current head of UK Counter Terrorism Policing said that we need an agreement that retains or improves levels of co-operation, can the Minister promise the police, the Security Service and, most importantly, the British public that this Government will deliver precisely that?

I have already said that this country will remain one of the safest places in the world. It is worth underlining to the hon. Gentleman that the UK will continue to be a global leader on national security; we are now and we will remain so in the future. I hope that, equally, he will note the level of preparedness and the hard work by our police and all our other agencies to ensure that we are well prepared for the end of the transition period to give that assurance to the public over their safety and security and welfare and wellbeing, which absolutely remain a priority for this Government.