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Monday, July 15, 2013

Is the Government shutting the book on EU crime and justice reform?

MPs are today being asked to back the Government’s plan to opt-out of 133 EU crime and justice laws but opt back in to 35 of them, including the European Arrest Warrant. As we’ve pointed out before, opting back in means accepting full European Court of Justice jurisdiction over these measures for the first time – a major transfer of power in the wrong direction for Conservative MPs which stood on a manifesto promising to “work to bring back key powers over legal rights, criminal justice and social and employment legislation to the UK.”

The Government has promised more time for Parliamentary committees to report on the proposed ‘opt back ins’ and there will be another vote on opting in, after negotiations with the European Commission and other member states are complete. The Government has also proposed a series of domestic reforms that would improve the functioning of the EU Arrest Warrant.

Nevertheless, the Government’s proposal to opt back in to 35 laws, which includes the three most significant – the EAW, Eurojust and Europol – does raise serious question marks about the Conservative leadership’s pledge to renegotiate EU powers. More time for scrutiny is welcome but the risk is that Parliament is presented with a fait accompli after EU negotiations - will MPs be able to vote on individual opt-ins or be presented with a final list as they have been this time? As a statement of intent in future negotiations about EU involvement in this area, opting back into 35 measures seems rather weak.

The wider question many Tory MPs will have is whether this closes the book on this area of the UK relationship with the EU for good? They will want reassurances that, after this messy legal and Coalition compromise, a majority Conservative government would seek to reopen the issue and remove all ECJ jurisdiction over crime and justice and return to a voluntary system of practical cooperation.

We hear that most Conservative MPs will vote for the Government motion today, and the rebellion is likely to be limited mostly to the usual suspects. The question is: will Tory MPs vote with the Government today because they have faith in Conservative leaders to deliver changes to EU crime and justice cooperation in future, or because they don't want to kick up a fuss?


crapshooter said...

If the jurisdiction of the ECJ is so pernicious, why doesn't Open Europe recommend withdrawal from the Single Market where the same rules apply? The reality is that the 27 other member states have decided to pursue their co-operation in this area through the so-called community method, ie by using the institutions of the Commission, the Parliament and the Court. We have the right to pick and choose the areas in which we take part. And we have the right not to take part at all. But what we can't expect is the right to take part on a basis different to that of everyone else.

Rik said...

This is an issue that can still cause headlines for 3 or 4 months.
Seeing from that angle Cameron is best served by not running the risk that one of his major weak points (credibility on delivering re UK-EU relation) is put in the spotlights again. Cameron should simply be prepared that other parties will make a bit of drama on this. It doesnot necessarily has to be his own party. Very difficult to control.

Whoever is in no 10 probably all are best served by being as flexible as possible. If not during the elections the coming years otherwise their voters might go against them (either on the issue itself as well as how politics deals with the electorate's clear wish for a referendum).
In this respect a full opt-in is the least flexible option. It is a wholesale approach plus it is a transfer to E-Courts. Get a 'votingright prisoner' or a 'lifesentence' case out of these opt-ins before the election and you will be torn to pieces. The Conservatives most of all of course.

Seen from that angle it is simply pretty risky to go for the standard opt-in.
What I would do is try to reneg a Danemark at least to start with. Hard to see with the EZ getting in the firingline again the EU wanting to make a big fuzz about this (and there is a Danemark template that likely can be copied).

Anonymous said...

As far as I am concerned ANY further transfer of sovereignty to the EU/ECHR is tantamount to TREASON - if it involves no mandate from the people.

The UK has had the largest empire of any state in history and is actively involved (rightly or wrongly) in resolving global conflicts, with or without the UN. All of Europe appreciated the UK's involvement in both WW1 and WW2, are we not a safety valve for Europe?

The UK has one of the largest and powerful armed forces - no other EU state is similar to the UK in this respect. Given these facts, why would we expect the EU/ECHR to understand any of this? It is to our continual detriment that we seek to be involved with either.

Many of the judges in the ECHR come from countries that have not known what freedom and democracy is until recent times - witness the ridiculous pronouncements last week about UK terror convicts.

In addition, both the EU and the ECHR have hidden agendas that increasingly want to grab as much power from EU sovereign states as possible, despite the fact that it is way beyond their mandate. It is just another form of political interference in OUR way of life and OUR culture.

I, for one, do not recognise any EU law until such a point as we have a proper referendum on both the EU (and for that matter the ECHR).

After having attended the Coronation Festival this weekend at Buckingham Palace, I fully appreciate our culture, democracy, history and freedom. It is what holds us together as a nation.

I, and many like me, are prepared to fight for our way of life to protect it from useless UK and EU politicians who are just on one big gravy train.

Long live sovereign states, different cultures, laws and ways of life! I respect them all and don't need the EU to nanny me on the subject.

God Save The Queen.