Friday 19 October 2018 / 11:25 AM Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott MP’s speech on ensuring our national security post-Brexit

Ensuring our mutual security


Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Than you too to the Centre for European Policy Studies for hosting my speech today.


I intend to address our post-Brexit Security Treaty and International cooperation on Justice and Home Affairs arrangements. I cannot at all pre-empt to the outcome of those talks. Who can? But I want to set out today what is the desired outcome, to best achieve our mutual safety and security going forward.


To be clear, safety and security is a collective endeavour. It is also a multi-national endeavour. The conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere which have contributed so much to the rise of instability and terrorism are increasingly multi-national affairs. Terrorism, cyber attacks, wars do not stop at borders. International threats require international solutions.


Let me be clear at the outset. I fully and wholeheartedly support Jeremy Corbyn’s argument – made in the heat of the last General Election campaign in 2017 – that the


“informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an
effective response that will protect the security of our people, that fights
rather than fuels terrorism.

Protecting this country requires us to be both strong against terrorism
and strong against the causes of terrorism. The blame is with the terrorists,
but if we are to protect our people we must be honest about what threatens our




The honest assessment must be that war on terror has failed. Our armed services are there to keep us safe. As Jeremy Corbyn said, we will deploy our armed services when there is a clear need, a clear plan, appropriate resources and the outcome will be a more peaceful world. This is not how successive government have deployed our armed forces – far from it. Their misuse – by successive governments – has not enhanced our safety.


Improving our intelligence and security co-operation – if it is done with intelligence and co-operation and with those objectives in mind – should contribute to all the factors preventing or mitigating the risks of conflict.


That is the subject of my talk today.











Improving security intelligence and co-operation

My clear view is that we should aim for a win-win outcome from Brexit that ensures the security of the UK and the EU27, sharing our expertise and assets for the greater good in an accountable relationship after Brexit. On the other hand, if we fail to achieve this in a reasonable timescale we could be risking a lose-lose situation for both the UK and the EU27.


There is sometimes a risk when we discuss these issues, with their technical jargon, committees and acronyms, that we forget we are talking about people.


Home affairs policy in the UK and across the EU pursued correctly can be an effective way to deliver better outcomes for our citizens and communities, in terms of security, safety, rights and justice. This is especially true for the most vulnerable in our society. They are main victims of terrorism, the main victims of an oppressive state machinery, the most likely to be the victims of crim, and the most likely to be unjustly caught up in criminal justice system.


So it is vital that we continue our cooperation on issues, which I know the EU has made progress on with UK, involvement in areas such as: tackling organised crime, modern slavery; tackling tax injustice; tackling financial crime; fighting money laundering and other progressive policies such as the European Protection Order, which protects women against violence. Which the UK rightly opted into.  These are successes we want to build on.


It is absolutely vital that the UK government redoubles its efforts in pursuing a successful agreement on security with the European Union, and I trust that the European Union will respond constructively. Security is a mutual endeavour. So, negotiations must be a genuine two-way street.


I am very conscious that as a new Home Secretary in any future UK Labour Government one of my first and most solemn undertakings is to ensure the security of my country. In doing so, I am fully aware that that security has become increasingly dependent on successful cooperation with others. That cooperation incudes within the European Union in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice. In the area of security, no one can ‘go it alone’, not the UK, the EU or anyone else. We must aim for a pan-European Solution in the area of security.


But there are key challenges as we attempt to formulate a new Security Treaty.


The UK currently has the advantage of having been granted a “special status” in the area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ). But, on the current trajectory, the UK’s relationship with the EU in this field will fundamentally change with the UK becoming a third country outside of the Schengen area. Agreements are needed for both continued information exchanges to allow the continued participation by the UK in security initiatives, in addition to further agreements to enable continued cooperation in other areas of police and judicial cooperation.


In simple terms, as we leave the EU we will need some form of over-arching Security Treaty or individual agreements on the key elements of our security arrangements with the EU.



These required elements will include:


  1. a) A Data adequacy agreement
  2. b) Further agreements on police and judicial cooperation
  3. c) Continued co-operation on social policy



One of the most underestimated, but vital, priorities will be the urgent necessity of an adequacy for data transfers for law enforcement:


An adequate data protection regime in the UK is fundamental to ensuring mutual trust, human rights and the exchange of personal data for law enforcement purposes. What does this mean in simple terms?


We will continue to have enacted EU data protection legislation (the Data Protection Act implementing GDPR). But we will still have to demonstrate compatibility with the EU’s data protection standards to be seen to be “adequate”. This is because:

-There are currently substantial questions over whether the Data Protection Act fully incorporates the data protection elements required by the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

-There are also national security exemptions from the GDPR used by the UK.

– There are issues with the retention of data and bulk powers granted to security services.

– There are concerns with the onward transfer of data to third country partners, such as the “Five Eyes”.


An adequacy finding would be an important step to ensuring continued integration of the UK in information exchanges, both to and from the UK and EU.


Others have raised the issue that even such and adequacy finding would be insufficient without a bespoke legal agreement that would authorise the UK and EU to continue to participate in information exchanges. This would allow the UK to continue to participate in security and law enforcement initiatives.


For me, as Shadow Home Secretary, I regard solving this issue of data flow and co-operation issue as absolutely vital to ensure security continuity for both the UK and EU. It is vital in terms of sharing data and for sharing police intelligence and routine exchanges in the field of justice.


Of course, data flow and co-operation must be subject to agreed provisions about data protection for citizens. There is some concern about arriving at mutually agreed and mutually agreeable provision on data protection. These are citizens’ rights and cannot be overridden. Dealing with these is a matter of urgency.


We must arrive at an agreement where both our systems for data sharing AND the protections for privacy and data are mutually agreed. This must be where we can both say for the other side that the provisions in both these areas are adequate and acceptable. Again, this is not something that can be kicked down the road. It is urgent.


All of this is especially important when we consider what all this is for, when our police are jointly tackling the threat of terrorism, organised crime, people trafficking, drug and firearms smuggling and other serious crimes.


I am confident that, if negotiators keep the seriousness of these crimes in mind, and their victims, then mutually beneficial solutions to all these problems can be found between people of good will.


Common legal instruments (standard contractual clauses, binding corporate rules, certification, codes of conduct and approved ad hoc contractual terms) are possible to achieve this. But this would be resource intensive and unsuitable for a broad framework for data exchanges on a large scale.  It may be that we need a bespoke arrangement that could be in place as early as March 30 next year, or that any transitional arrangement is able to include the current status quo.


I set out no prescriptions on the conduct of these negotiations. But I am clear that they must rapidly implement a system which achieves the same benefits on both sides that we have enjoyed until now. We cannot afford to have less security in the future than we have now. That should be evident.

Further agreements on police and judicial cooperation


In terms of agreement on policing and judicial co-operation, our priority must be to ensure that cooperation continues between the UK and the EU in areas where no adequate fall-back option exists.


There remain many unresolved issues regarding access to databases post-Brexit that urgently need to be addressed. There are a number of important issues which should be prioritised, specifically those areas where no adequate fall-back option currently exists for cooperation. Areas of cooperation that should be prioritised are continued cooperation with Europol, which is a crucial agency for our law enforcement, and Eurojust, another highly important agency which helps national authorities work together to combat serious organised crime.


We also need to prioritise access to security databases. The SIS II (Schengen Information System) is an important database of criminals and terror suspects, and more recent shared resources including ECRIS, the European criminal records information system and PNR, the Passenger Name Record which are also highly beneficial for investigations. These databases enable our law enforcement officers to respond quickly and intelligently to crime and terrorism in the UK and the EU – in short, they make us better at protecting the public.


It would also be important to ensure a level of cooperation beyond that foreseen under Council of Europe Conventions on extradition, and the requesting of evidence and confiscation orders. This means retaining the mutual benefits of the European Arrest Warrant. It should be obvious to all:


We don’t want gangsters, terrorists, drug smugglers from Europe to be able to find safe haven in the UK


The 27 Member States won’t want gangsters, terrorists, drug smugglers and others from the UK to find safe haven in Europe


We must work together to ensure that doesn’t happen. It’s in all our interests.


In the same vein, some in Britain have attempted to cast the European Court of Justice as a bogeyman. They say it is a red line. A matter of principle.


This really isn’t true. Any legal arrangement must have a court to enforce it. There must be a court where appeals can be made, which the ECJ provides currently. It is incumbent on everyone who is serious about security and about protecting rights to accept that there is a need for shared institutions will perform those functions. Because those functions, of implementation, of oversight, of appeal must continue. Otherwise the rule of law tends to break down and its implementation is arbitrary.


There must be a workable alternative to ensure security co-operation going forward. And it is incumbent on everyone who suggests overturning current arrangements to say what agreements, institutions and protections will be put in place so that we don’t diminish or undermine what has already been achieved.


The law, and international law implies both rights and responsibilities. We should commit to maintaining human rights standards in the UK as set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights to ensure mutual trust and shared values between the UK and EU post-Brexit. This would ensure safeguards for fundamental rights and maintain equivalence with the EU. This would ensure that cooperation would not be halted because of an unequal level of protection in the UK and EU.  The current Government has failed to do so.


The current Government has also failed to make progress on a future agreement to secure cooperation, we will work to overcome these challenges by promoting the principle of reciprocity. As long as cooperation strengthens the security of EU and UK citizens and the partnership is as beneficial to the EU as it is for the UK then we can make progress on the negotiation of an agreement in the security interests of the UK and the EU.







Social Policy


In terms of social policy, racism, religious hatred, misogyny, inequality and other evils do not respect borders. It is vital that we maintain and even improve standards once we are out of the EU, above and beyond the rights upheld by the Council of Europe and ECHR standards.


There is important EU legislation includes the Race Equality Directive, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of race and ethnic origin, Horizontal Equality Directive, which prohibits discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, and establishes a minimum level of protection for those that have suffered discrimination.


There is also the European Protection Order, which mean that protection orders are recognised in other Member States, and is important to ensure that the protection of all victims is not undermined by a diversity of national measures.


The Labour Party recognises the importance of measures on the prevention of financial crime and money laundering, including the fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive. Adopted this year, these rules introduce strong new measures to prevent money laundering & terrorist financing, specifically by ensuring due diligence & regulating virtual currencies.


Other measures in this field include the Regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders. These address the issues linked to the implementation of the existing instruments. Previously there was insufficient mutual recognition.  In addition there is new tool of the Directive on countering money laundering by criminal law, which deals more effectively with terrorist funding and helps to reduce the threat from terrorist organisations by making it harder for them to finance their activities.


The EU’s recent Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive shows how an internationalist approach to tackling large scale organised crime can only be done through international cooperation, changes in the law and through political will.


We must all realise the potential of cooperation to secure a better society. It is vital to maintain the standards established by Council of Europe and ECHR and develop them beyond March 29 2019.





There are two important things I want to convey in conclusion. You will be aware that there has been some political turmoil in my country and in Europe and beyond. Brexit is part of that.


But you will also be aware that the Labour is under new management. It is a management that is internationalist in outlook. It cherishes our rights, and our security, and our diversity. I represent a constituency with one of the most diverse populations in Europe. It includes a vibrant population of EU nationals, as well as many other nationalities. Some of these are of much longer standing. Everyone, whether they were born in my constituency or have come from overseas has the right to live free from terrorism, to have their personal rights protected, and to be protected from an over-mighty or arbitrary state.


There is a continuous, international struggle against money laundering, organised crime, terrorism and other evils.  There can be no question to which the answer is ‘stop the world, I want to get off’. We are obliged to work together on all of these areas and more, for a mutual interest and self-protection.


Large-scale money laundering and large scale tax evasion lies at the heart of unfair societies where criminal organisations and entities benefit to the cost of our own citizens and communities. Organised crime, unchecked can destroy communities.


We need for international cooperation to combat them, to combat people-trafficking, terrorism and modern slavery in all its forms. My speech today is a plea for urgency on all sides, and klaxon sound on the need for co-operation an all sides. The terrorists, the gangsters, the drug smugglers are organised efficiently and internationally. We have be better organised than them if we are going to combat them.


The outcome can be a win-win for security and safety and rights for all our citizens, whatever our new relationship might be.


International cooperation is not an optional extra but essential to the security of a single nation and for every individual within those nations. The price of failure is too great to contemplate.  But together we also have the prospect of success.