Lords urge Government and EU to change mindset on Brexit security negotiations
11 July 2018
In the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee report published today, 'Brexit: the proposed UK-EU security treaty', the Committee calls on the Government and EU to make pragmatic compromises on security matters to achieve the over-riding objective of protecting the safety of UK and EU citizens after Brexit.
EU Member States currently enjoy levels of cooperation and mutual recognition that go far deeper than any comparable international collaborations. In its future partnership paper on security, law enforcement and criminal justice, the Government called for a partnership between the UK and EU "that goes beyond the existing, often ad hoc arrangement for EU third-country relationships", and has supported the idea of a UK-EU treaty that would provide "a legal basis" for continued cooperation.
In its report, the Committee examines the feasibility of the Government's ambition to negotiate a single, comprehensive security treaty with the EU.
Key findings in the report include:
- The Committee supports the Government's ambition to continue security cooperation after Brexit, but there is no evidence that sufficient progress has yet been made in the negotiations. The Committee believes it is unlikely that such a treaty can be agreed in the time available.
- Operational continuity and the security of both the UK and EU would be seriously undermined were there to be an abrupt end to cooperation in March 2019. The Committee therefore welcomes the agreement of both the UK Government and the EU that UK participation in those JHA measures in which the UK currently participates will continue during the transition period.
- The Committee supports in principle the Government's objective of securing a cross-cutting agreement on data protection. But this means that the sequencing of the negotiations will be vital: if future security cooperation is to be effective, the Government must reach an agreement on data before agreeing a security treaty.
- The Committee also notes that in some areas security cooperation will have to change post-Brexit. For instance, some EU states, including Germany, are constitutionally barred from extraditing their own nationals to non-EU states. The Government has yet to provide any evidence-based analysis of the effect of such changes.
Chairman of the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee, Lord Jay of Ewelme, said:
“The UK and the EU share a deep interest in maintaining the closest possible police and security cooperation after Brexit: protecting the safety of millions of UK and EU citizens must be the over-riding objective. But time is short, and neither side has yet approached the negotiations in this spirit.
“We heard evidence that, by mid-May, the UK and EU negotiators had spent little more than an hour discussing the future internal security relationship, despite the obvious mutual interest in making rapid progress. The safety of UK and EU citizens demands that the negotiators turn urgently to this vital task.
“The Government wants an overarching security treaty, which would to a large extent replicate the status quo. We don't think this is achievable in the time available. We also question whether it is politically realistic for the UK, in current circumstances, to be seeking a bigger role in EU agencies and better access to databases than some EU or EEA Member States.
“It's time for pragmatic compromises, on the UK side, and also on the EU side. Red lines won't save people's lives – getting agreement on effective police and security cooperation will.”
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