Following the Prime Minister’s visit to Brussels to take part in the Council of Ministers – the forum where Ministers/Prime Ministers from every elected government meet to set the direction of travel within the EU – she returned to the House of Commons to give a statement on its conclusions. The meeting with primarily focused on security and climate change.
That is why I asked the Prime Minister if she would confirm that leaving the EU in a no deal scenario would mean that we lose access to EUROPOL, EUROJUST, the European Arrest Warrant and SIS 2 – the border security monitoring databases.
As an outgoing Prime Minister I would have hoped for straight talking answers. She has no need to try and defend herself from her backbenches as they have already started selecting their next leader. The Prime Minister should have confirmed that we would lose access to these vital security measures. Instead she focused on internet security. It is time we had a grown up discussion about a no deal Brexit. Something this UK Government will not have.
A cross-party Bill was introduced to Parliament on Wednesday which would allow Parliament to block a no deal Brexit once and for all. It was drafted by my friend Yvette Cooper MP and the Conservative MP Oliver Letwin MP.
I spoke of how we needed to rebuild trust between each other, both in Parliament and across the country, so that we could try and find a solution to the Brexit mess we find ourselves in. Parliament has voted, as have I, time and time again to block a No Deal Brexit this Bill merely makes it a reality.
One MP intervened on my speech to say that the European Arrest Warrant wasn’t that important because he believed that one case undermined its purpose. This is utterly wrong. As a former Minister of State for Counter-Terrorism and Policing as well as a Direct Rule Minister for Northern Ireland I can tell you that any loss of access to these vital tools would undermine our security and safety.
The division was won by a single vote – 313 to 312 and has now meant that the Bill can proceed to the House of Lords.
The Solicitor General was before the Justice Committee this week and I wanted his assurances that we would remain part of the European Arrest Warrant and EUROJUST.
The Solicitor General went as far as to admit that no deal would undermine our safety and security and how the deal before Parliament is simply an aspiration and not legally binding.
On EUROJUST the minister made it abundantly clear that we are huge beneficiaries of it. He pointed out that in 2017 the UK was involved in 82 coordination meetings, coming only second to Germany for involvement and we were involved in at least a quarter of joint investigating teams. This is a vital service that we are set to lose under current proposals.
Yet again the UK Government has evaded answering my serious concerns over national security.
During Home Office Questions, I asked the Home Secretary to explain how we will have access to important security instruments, such as EUROPOL, EUROJUST and SIS 2, if the Prime Minister’s pointless red lines on the European Court of Justice stay in place.
The Home Secretary tried to boast that this was not a problem as it was all covered in the political declaration. What he didn’t explain, however, is the political declaration is not binding. It is merely a wish list of things the UK Government want to achieve. As much as the Home Secretary might wish for these things to exist after Brexit day they won’t.
The Government need to wake up, listen to MPs concerns and change direction. Reheating the same old deal does nothing to protect our national security and does nothing to move us on from the mess this government has created.