Five days of debate has now started over the Government’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. This is the nearly 600 page document agreed between the UK Government and the EU nations. It is the legal basis for us leaving the EU.
Accompanying the document is a shorter ‘political declaration’. It is not legally binding and includes a wish-list of what the UK Government wants to secure in a future relationship with the EU. Neither of these documents detail how the UK will retain access to key security tools used by our police and security services.
The Home Secretary stumbled over his answer. Obviously knowing that the Government was not seeking to retain these vital tools. Let us be clear, the Government is undermining our security with their agreement and I cannot support it.
The Prime Minister has made it no clearer whether we will remain a member of EUROPOL following Brexit and now the Home Secretary has muddied the waters further.
Each time I ask if our police and security services will have continued access to EUROPOL, which enables them to share information on criminals with our European allies, I get no concrete response.
We must remember that there are two parts of the Brexit process before us: the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration. The two are inextricably linked, but only one is legally binding. The Withdrawal Agreement contains no international law agreement which will give the UK access to EUROPOL. The political declaration, which can be ignored, talks of ‘wishes’ ‘hopes’ and ‘aspirations’ of continued partnership.
This is not good enough. When pressed again the Home Secretary couldn’t give me any assurances. This is playing with fire when it comes to our national security.
The Prime Minister returned to the House of Commons today in a hope of selling her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
From the very beginning of this Brexit process I have said that leaving the EU without access to EUROPOL, EUROJUST and the European Arrest Warrant will put our safety and security at risk. Indeed, the Prime Minister noted in her reply that I have often pressed her on this issue.
The Withdrawal Agreement is so thin on the ground when it comes to security arrangements that I wanted assurances that we would continue sharing security systems after we leave the EU and not merely shadow them. Without access to these databases our police and security services will be greatly undermined.
The Prime Minister pointed to the political declaration saying that we will work together to “identify the terms”. This means that there is no agreement but merely the hope of achieving something. Also, unlike the Withdrawal Agreement the political declaration is not legally binding so all words contained within it are meaningless.
The first role of government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. This Withdrawal Agreement fails this test.
There are many reasons for voting against the Government’s Brexit strategy but this for me is one of the biggest. That is why I will vote against the Withdrawal Agreement when it comes to Parliament in December.
There have been two resignations from senior members of the Government’s cabinet today. The Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU have both departed because they stated they had no confidence in the proposals put before them. The Government is in a mess, the Prime Ministers authority lays in tatters and we are still none the wiser on what our future relationship with the EU will be once we leave. Remember a deal must be struck by October 2018 and voted upon by Parliament to ensure that we do not fall off a cliff edge in March 2019.
Many people pressed the Prime Minister on the political situation she finds herself in. I wanted to drill down into further detail on our future security relationship with the EU. It is shocking to see that the former Home Secretary is willing to throw the European Arrest Warrant overboard and put our safety at risk. I asked her what the Government is doing to support our police officers in catching criminals and bringing them to justice.