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Theresa May’s deal is a Hard Brexit on freedom, security and justice

4 min read

The Shadow Home Secretary writes that "If this deal is not stopped, we will crash out without the important protections we need in security, justice, police and freedom".

Theresa May is breaking up key aspects of all our security and justice arrangements with the EU, and will put us all at risk as a result. The full political declaration she has brought back from the negotiations with Brussels, and which she hopes will be ratified in Europe this weekend is a complete failure of statecraft. As it stands it will abolish the complex and highly effective co-operation that has been established between this country and the other Members of the EU in the areas of freedom, justice and security.  It is an ultra-Hard Brexit in each of these areas, and will have severely negative consequences in all of them.

We can list some of the vital policing and security tools that we will be losing on March 30 2019. The European Arrest Warrant will go, along with the real-time access to the Europol database. There is as yet nothing to allow access to the Schengen Information System or the Eurojust co-operation that currently exists among prosecuting and judicial authorities. There is too no agreement to ensure that this country’s systems will be regarded as adequate for data protection, which would block mutual database access.

Separately, on migration, there is a continuing lack of clarity on the extent to which the UK will continue to cooperate with the EU on the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), which is relevant as future cooperation will now need to go beyond tackling only irregular migration.

All of these failures will have severe consequences for all our policing and security co-operation, as well as key areas of freedom and justice. Currently, across Europe our police and security agencies can access each other’s data in real time to monitor the movement of drug and people traffickers, organised criminals and terrorists. The serial failing of this government mean large parts of that will now be going, unless this agreement is altered or ended.

Similarly, the European Arrest Warrant currently issued across countries to help bring to justice serious criminals who are responsible for each of these serious types of crime. That ends. The huge gap opened in our systems raises the risk that terrorists, master criminals and others will be able to escape justice and the exercise of those Warrants.  This country can become a safe haven of choice for criminals fleeing justice in Europe and we may be exporting our own criminals to Europe.

Many of the operational Treaty functions in these areas derive solely from our membership of the European Union. It is the height of irresponsibility to abandon those arrangements without any plan, or in some cases any possibility of replacing them.  

Much of this arises from the Prime Minister’s own reckless and stubborn insistence, for example on removing the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice without providing an alternative.  Any warrant needs oversight and the possibility of judicial appeal.  The Prime Minister must have known that when she made it a red line. Or, she was utterly irresponsible if she did not know that.

All along, Labour has upheld six tests that any deal would have to meet in order for us to vote for it. The fifth of those tests is, ‘Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?’ 

It is absolutely clear that the Prime Minister has completely failed to meet this test. This deal is not even close. Theresa May and this government have delivered only a Hard Brexit on security, justice, police and freedom. If this deal is not stopped, we will crash out without the important protections we need in these areas.

The Rt Hon Diane Abbott is the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington & Shadow Home Secretary 

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