UK-EU security cooperation after Brexit Contents

6Brexit negotiations and contingency planning

The state of negotiations

131.The EU has not yet opened negotiations with the UK on future security cooperation, although the current stage of negotiations should determine the extent to which the status quo can be maintained during a transition or implementation period. Slides published by the Article 50 Taskforce of the Commission (to inform discussions about the future relationship) make no mention of any bespoke arrangements for the UK, merely outlining third country models for participation in JHA measures, and the likely impact of those models on future UK-EU cooperation.168 It may be that they are intended to act as a starting point for discussions on alternative models for the future relationship, so it would be premature to assume that they represent the negotiating position of the EU27.

132.Clearly, the UK’s future security relationship with the EU is dependent on more than the two parties’ ability to reach agreement on that subject alone. The Prime Minister and Brexit Secretary have said as recently as December that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, making it clear that they would be willing to walk away from negotiations if the terms of the future relationship were unfavourable.169 The Chancellor committed an additional £3 billion of funds in the Autumn Budget to preparations for “every possible outcome” on Brexit, and Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in January that preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit were being reviewed by Ministers on a weekly basis.170 The Home Secretary told us in October that it was “unthinkable that there would be no deal” on security,171 and the Policing Minister said in January that “it is always safe to agree with your boss but I do on this occasion”.172

133.We have set out in this report our assessment of the extent to which the UK’s ambitions for future security cooperation with the EU are consistent with the likely negotiating ‘red lines’ of the EU, based on the evidence received about third country cooperation on EU security. That analysis is based on the assumption—and hope—that the Brexit negotiations remain on course for a stable transition or implementation period, until December 2020 at the earliest, and that they are not derailed at any stage by insurmountable differences. It is not the purpose of this report to comment at length on the progress made to date in the Brexit negotiations more broadly. Nevertheless, we consider it relevant to this inquiry for us to consider what happens if no deal is reached with the EU, either for a transition or implementation period from 30 March 2019, or for the long-term relationship when that period comes to an end.

Contingency planning for a ‘no deal’ Brexit

134.The Home Office has acknowledged that, although it does not “want or expect a no deal outcome”, a responsible Government should prepare for such a scenario. It said that “Preparation and planning is underway across the whole of Government to prepare for the outcome of negotiations”, but it gave no indication of the nature or extent of this planning in relation to security.173 We approached the NCA with a view to taking oral evidence on its role in Brexit contingency planning, but we were advised that representatives would be unable to provide such information in public. Instead, we received a private briefing on Brexit planning during a visit to the Agency in January.

135.We asked the Policing Minister when the Government would begin contingency planning for a ‘no deal’ outcome on security, and we were told that “The contingency planning is there”, but he was “reluctant to get drawn on the timing of drawing down contingency plans”, because “we are about to embark on a negotiation”.174 In October, the Home Secretary told us that the Home Office had received £50 million from the Treasury to prepare for additional Brexit costs and planning.175 We asked the Policing Minister what proportion of this budget was being spent on contingency planning for policing and security cooperation, and he responded: “I am not spending it, that I know. [ … ] I think it is mostly in the immigration area”. The Europe Director confirmed that “The money that has been set aside is predominantly for contingency planning on the immigration side”. Subsequently, the Minister told us that £60 million had now been provided by the Treasury to support the Department’s Brexit planning, but did not specify how much was being spent on policing and security cooperation, merely stating that the money has “funded an increase in staff numbers to support the policy and operational response to the decision to Exit the EU, including its implications for policing and security cooperation”.176

136.In the Chancellor’s Spring Statement on 13 March, it was announced that the first £1.5 billion of the £3 billion Brexit planning fund would be allocated to central government departments and devolved administrations during the 2018–19 financial year. The Home Office will receive the largest proportion of this budget, with £395 million allocated.177 It is not yet clear what proportion of this sum will be spent on policing and security cooperation, rather than immigration and Border Force.

137.It is understandable that UK law enforcement agencies wish to refrain from making public assertions about the implications of Brexit—and of different forms of Brexit—for the UK’s policing and intelligence capabilities. The result of this risk-aversion, however, is that the public debate on this aspect of Brexit has been seriously lacking in detail and urgency. We were disappointed that the leading policing agencies were unwilling to provide evidence in public on Brexit contingency planning, including what emergency capabilities will be required in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario, and what further resources they wish the Government to provide.

138.The Policing Minister was not able to give us any information on the Home Office’s contingency planning in this area of Brexit, and could not even say whether the Department had specifically allocated any funds towards it. We were left with the impression that the policing and security elements of Brexit are receiving very little focus at the Ministerial level. Given the emphasis placed by the Prime Minister on the importance of law enforcement cooperation with the EU, and the large sum devoted by the Chancellor towards Brexit preparations, we were amazed by this approach to contingency planning in this field. The Government appears to assume that the UK’s dominant role in Europol and other forms of cooperation will make it easy to secure a bespoke future security relationship with the EU, going far beyond any forms of third country involvement to date. This attitude, along with lack of planning for alternative scenarios, suggests that the Government is at risk of sleep-walking into a highly detrimental outcome. We recommend that the Government dedicates a substantial proportion of the £3 billion Brexit planning fund to policing and security cooperation, to include:

139.If the authorities of an EU country are aware, in future, of a terrorist plot against the UK, we have no doubt that this intelligence will be passed onto the UK security services, regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. In the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario in security, however, the UK risks losing information and capabilities linked to the wider intelligence picture for a range of serious crimes, including terrorism. This might include the ability to check whether an otherwise unknown individual, found in the company of a child, has a history of child sexual offences in their home country; the ability to flag the identity of a missing child to EU authorities, so that border security can apprehend their kidnapping relative before they board a flight to South America; and the ability to extradite an EU national who has fled home after committing a serious violent crime, to face charges in the UK. It is in these scenarios that people may be put at greater risk of harm if the UK and EU do not secure a comprehensive security agreement. We agree with the Home Secretary that such an outcome should be unthinkable, but we are not convinced that the Government has a clear strategy to prevent the unthinkable from becoming a reality.

140.Given the uncertain prospects for a comprehensive deal on law enforcement cooperation, we see no alternative to contingency planning for the loss of some or all EU security measures. It is time for the Government to flesh out the details of the ‘bespoke deal’ it says it hopes to secure in this area, and be open with the public and Parliament, by explaining how it proposes to address the potential pitfalls and obstacles identified in this report.

168 European Commission, Internal EU27 preparatory discussions on the framework for the future relationship: “Police & judicial cooperation in criminal matters”, TF50 (2018) 26 - Commission to EU 27, 24 January 2018

169 For example: House of Commons Hansard, Oral Answers to Questions: Exiting the European Union, Vol 633 Col 588

171 Oral evidence taken on 17 October 2017, Q12

172 Oral evidence taken on 23 January 2018, Q133

173 Home Office written evidence (PSC0007)

174 Oral evidence taken on 23 January 2018, Q131

175 Oral evidence taken on 17 October 2017, Q52

176 Home Office supplementary written evidence (PSC0008)

177 Spring Statement: Written statement - HCWS540, 13 March 2018

Published: 21 March 2018