Documents considered by the Committee on 1 March 2017 Contents

19Enhancing security in a world of mobility

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee and the Committee on Exiting the European Union

Document details

Commission Communication: Enhancing security in a world of mobility: improved information exchange in the fight against terrorism and stronger borders

Legal base

Department

Home Office

Document Number

(38088), 12307/16, COM(16) 602

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

19.1The purpose of this Communication is to identify “key work streams” and policy initiatives to maintain open borders and mobility within the Schengen free movement area while ensuring a high level of security. It draws on the Commission’s earlier Communications, A European Agenda on Migration and European Agenda on Security published in 2015 and places “strong borders” and “smart intelligence” at the heart of the EU’s response to the migration and security challenges it faces.

19.2When we first examined the Communication, we noted that the Government had little to say about the UK’s future relationship with EU partners in these two important policy areas—migration and security—once the UK leaves the EU. We suggested that it was reasonable to expect the Government to put more flesh on the bones as the time for commencing exit negotiations with the EU drew nearer, and is now imminent.

19.3The replies we have received from the Government have taken us no further in understanding how it intends to secure its stated objective of “keep[ing] our justice and security arrangements at least as strong as they are” and seeking “as far as possible, to replicate what we already have”.104 We contrasted the Government’s reticence with the approach taken by the previous Coalition Government ahead of sensitive negotiations in 2014 on UK participation in EU police and criminal justice measures adopted before the Lisbon Treaty took effect. In that case, two Command Papers were published setting out the Government’s assessment of the implications for the UK of remaining bound by the measures or opting out en masse and rejoining a more limited number which were considered to be in the national interest. We asked the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service (Brandon Lewis) why the Government was unwilling to ensure a similar level of transparency by:

19.4We also asked the Minister whether a bespoke agreement would be necessary to enable the UK to replicate, “as far as possible”, the UK’s existing relationship with Europol and to indicate whether maintaining access to Europol’s databases, analytical resources and secure means for exchanging information would be a priority for the Government during exit negotiations.

19.5We noted that the UK would no longer be bound by general EU data protection rules which govern the sharing of information in the field of criminal law once it left the EU, or by more specific data protection rules contained in various EU information-sharing criminal law instruments. We asked the Minister what assessment the Government had made of the implications for the UK’s ability to continue to share sensitive law enforcement information with EU Member States post-Brexit and whether he accepted that the UK’s domestic data protection laws would need broadly to replicate EU laws if information-sharing were to continue to the same or similar extent post-Brexit.

19.6The Minister tells us that the UK’s 2014 block opt-out decision “provides a good reference point and an opportunity to consider the value of certain measures to the UK” but that, following the referendum, the UK is now “in a very different position”. The Government has made clear that “we will not publish anything that would undermine our ability to negotiate the best deal for Britain” and that both Houses of Parliament will have a vote on the final deal agreed between the UK and the EU. The Minister adds that the UK’s future relationship with Europol should recognise “the unique position we hold” and be based on “a mutually beneficial model of cooperation”. He is unwilling to speculate on future data protection arrangements, other than to affirm that “part of the Government’s negotiating objectives will include practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and intelligence, which includes sharing information”.

19.7All that the Minister is willing to tell us is that the Government will seek an agreement with the EU on law enforcement and security cooperation which is based on “a mutually beneficial model of cooperation” and includes the sharing of information. As he indicates, both Houses of Parliament will have a vote on the final deal. Before that point is reached, the Government will need to tell its EU negotiating partners which EU information-sharing instruments and other law enforcement and security measures are of particular interest to the UK and what form of cooperation the Government is seeking to achieve. We reiterate our disappointment that the Government is unwilling to share this basic information with Parliament and do not accept, as the Minister implies, that this would undermine the Government’s ability to “negotiate the best deal for Britain”.

19.8We see little value in pursuing these matters further, given the Minister’s evident reluctance to provide any meaningful response. Accordingly, we clear the Communication from scrutiny, while drawing this chapter to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee and the Committee on Exiting the European Union.

Full details of the documents

Commission Communication: Enhancing security in a world of mobility: improved information exchange in the fight against terrorism and stronger external borders: (38088), 12307/16, COM(16) 602.

Background

19.9Our earlier Reports listed at the end of this chapter provide a detailed overview of this and other Commission Communications, notably the European Agenda on Migration and the European Agenda on Security.

The Minister’s letter of 7 February 2017

19.10The Minister questions whether the comparison we have made with the assessment published by the previous Coalition Government in the context of the UK’s 2014 block opt-out decision is valid:

“[…] the 2014 block opt-out decision took place in the context of the UK’s ongoing EU membership. The question now is how we should interact with the EU outside the bloc. So although the 2014 decision provides a good reference point and an opportunity to consider the value of certain measures to the UK we are now in a very different position.

“As the Prime Minister stated in her speech on 17 January, and as Parliament has also agreed, we will not publish anything that would undermine our ability to negotiate the best deal for Britain. The Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament.”

19.11Turning to the UK’s future relationship with Europol, the Minister comments:

“As I made clear in my address to the House of Commons on 18 January, the UK makes a key contribution to security and justice in Europe and globally, and we will seek an agreement with the EU that recognises the unique position we hold. As our future relationship with the EU will be subject to negotiation it would not be appropriate to comment on the details of any future agreements at this stage. However, our pre-existing security relationship with the EU and its Member States means we are uniquely placed to develop and sustain a mutually beneficial model of cooperation in this area from outside the Union.”

19.12The Minister concludes:

“Lastly, it would not be right to speculate on the implications of sharing sensitive data with the EU or the UK’s domestic data protection laws until we know what a future arrangement will look like. While, I accept that the nature of our relationship with the EU will change, the PM has announced that part of the Government’s negotiating objectives will include practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and intelligence, which includes sharing information.”

Previous Committee Reports

Twenty-fifth Report HC 71-xxiii (2016–17), chapter 11 (11 January 2017), Nineteenth Report HC 71-xvii (2016–17), chapter 9 (23 November 2016) and Thirteenth Report HC 71-xi (2016–17), chapter 9 (12 October 2016). Our Reports on earlier Commission Communications, The European Agenda on Migration and The European Agenda on Security are also relevant: First Report HC 342-i (2015–16), chapter 6 (21 July 2015), Second Report HC 342-ii (2015–16), chapter 1 (21 July 2015), Seventh Report HC 342-vii (2015–16), chapter 4 (28 October 2015), Twenty-third Report HC 342-xxii (2015–16), chapter 2 (10 February 2016).


104 See the Statement on Next Steps in Leaving the European Union made by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Mr David Davis), Hansard, 10 October 2016, col.55 as well as his response to an oral question on preparations for triggering Article 50, Hansard, 1 December 2016, col.1650.




3 March 2017