Britain’s post-Brexit security plans have been compared to a wish list to Santa, as Sajid Javid acknowledged the deal is not “perfect in every sense”.
The Home Secretary said he believed the Brexit agreement on offer is the “best option available” in ensuring a “smooth exit”, although he came under fire from the DUP for suggesting it will allow the UK to “take back control of our borders” and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the UK.
Mr Javid also recognised comprises have been made with Brussels but argued the deal was better than an “unplanned” no-deal Brexit, which he claimed would likely cause some disruption to security operations.
But as MPs questioned the level of crime and security cooperation between the UK and EU under the deal, Labour former Europe minister Chris Bryant said the Government’s aims were “no more deliverable than a letter to Santa Claus”.
Mr Javid also told MPs that it remains his intention to publish the Government’s immigration white paper before the end of the year.
Opening the second day of the Brexit deal debate, DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds referred to mentions of taking back control and ending the ECJ’s jurisdiction before highlighting Attorney General Geoffrey Cox’s legal advice on the Brexit deal and the Irish border backstop.
He asked Mr Javid: “How can he possibly stand here and recommend this deal and say it brings to an end the jurisdiction of the court of justice and takes back control?”
Mr Javid replied: “No-one can pretend that this deal is perfect in every sense. There inevitably will be some compromises with this deal with a number of objectives including, as we’ve just heard very recently from the Prime Minister, a need to ensure that the commitments in the Good Friday Agreement are upheld.
“What (Mr Dodds) is referring to is of course if – and it is an if – the backstop arrangement kicks in and he’s right to point to the legal advice, but also it’s worth keeping in mind that situation does not necessarily arise.”
Mr Javid said alternative arrangements, including extending the period, were available if there was no final deal on the future arrangement by December 2020.
On an “unplanned” no-deal Brexit, Mr Javid said: “(It) would mean an immediate and probably indefinite loss of some security capability which, despite our best efforts, would likely cause some operational disruption when we leave.”
He later said the agreement secured by Theresa May will allow the UK to continue to work with Brussels on cross-border investigations on modern slavery, using DNA databases to catch criminals, the fast-track extradition of suspects, along with working alongside Europol and Eurojust.
Mr Bryant, intervening, said: “That’s a great wish list, and it’s all in the Political Declaration, but it’s no more deliverable than a letter to Santa Claus.
“It really isn’t.”
The MP for Rhondda added: “It’s all very well having a wish list, but how on earth could a serious Member of Parliament vote for nothing more than a wish list?”
Mr Javid, in response to a later question on the immigration white paper from Labour’s Yvette Cooper, Home Affairs Committee chairwoman, said: “I can tell her that it’s certainly still my intention to publish it in December and that hasn’t changed.”
Tory MP Douglas Ross (Moray), who also sits on the committee, said Mr Javid had committed last week to publish before the “meaningful vote” on December 11 but then later said this was unlikely.
He asked: “What happened in those four or five days to change the Home Secretary’s mind and does he think it’s acceptable that this House should vote on the withdrawal deal without information in the white paper?”
Mr Javid responded: “He asks me what’s happened and it’s just worth reminding him and the House that this is the most significant change in our immigration system in 45 years and rather than rush the white paper it is important that we focus on the detail and we get it right.”
Tory former education secretary Justine Greening and Tory chairwoman of the Health and Social Care Committee Dr Sarah Wollaston later raised concerns over the fact education and health professionals are not highly paid and could as a result be excluded by the new immigration system.
Mr Javid said the new system would “take a careful look at salary levels”.