• Facebook
  • Facebook
  • Facebook
  • Facebook

Search This Blog

Visit our new website.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Theresa May to announce EU crime and justice opt-out this week

In January 2012, we published An unavoidable choice: More or less EU control over UK policing and criminal law. A year and half later, and it looks like decision time has arrived.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Theresa May will announce this week that the Government plans to take its 'block opt-out' from around 130 EU crime and justice laws - negotiated as part of the Lisbon Treaty by the previous government - and then apply to opt back in to those considered of vital national interest.

The opt-out boils down to this: In the first instance, the block opt-out is a choice between accepting all the laws and rejecting all of them. Accepting them also means accepting the full powers of the European Court of Justice over them for the first time. The decision to opt-out or accept the ECJ's jurisdiction has to be made by June 2014 and will take effect in December 2014.

However, once the block opt-out is taken, the rules allow the UK to apply to opt back in to individual EU laws. Opting back in also means accepting full ECJ jurisdiction over the law concerned and the UK cannot opt back out again in future.

In our 2012 report, we concluded that:
Open Europe recommends that the Government should invoke the 2014 block opt-out, which would allow it to consider the following options post-2014:
- Remain outside the EU crime and policing laws it has opted out of.  
- Opt back in to selected EU laws of particular importance, which would need the approval of the EU institutions and mean accepting the ECJ’s powers over the laws it opts back into.  
- Or, seek to negotiate a new arrangement (a variant of Denmark’s position) whereby the UK could cooperate with other EU member states on crime and policing but outside the EU legal framework and therefore without the jurisdiction of the ECJ.
It looks overwhelmingly likely that the Government will take the second option. Given the constraints of the existing EU treaties (option 3 would require EU treaty change) and the Coalition (the Lib Dems have been fighting the opt-out tooth and nail), this is the pragmatic decision to make.

Significantly, and symbolically, it would be the first time that powers flowed back from the EU to the member states - which is a good thing. However, it is also true to say that by opting back in to some measures the UK will be accepting the power of the ECJ over thee laws. The key issue will be the European Arrest Warrant - the likelihood is the UK will seek to opt back in to a 'reformed' Arrest Warrant, but the question is whether there is genuine reform - some things can be done domestically but more fundamental reform requires negotiation with other governments and the European Parliament.

In our view, in the long-term, one of the priorities for David Cameron’s reform and renegotiation strategy should be to return to a system of bilateral, practical crime and policing cooperation with EU partners, which does not involve ceding control to the EU institutions (option 3).

A ComRes poll for Open Europe in May found that just over 30% of respondents selected “Allowing the UK to have control over police and criminal justice laws” as one of their top four priorities in any UK-EU renegotiation, the fourth most popular option. A subsequent poll for Sky News found that 45% of respondents specified policing and criminal justice powers as an area of EU policy that they wanted returned to the UK, the second most popular option after immigration.

No one is opposed to practical co-operation between Europe’s law enforcement authorities. But the UK does not have to cede the same level of national control in order to cooperate with other important non-EU security partners around the world. Therefore, imposing EU-federalist solutions on an increasingly sceptical public simply increases the chances of the electorate throwing the baby out with the bathwater – rejecting the EU entirely.


Jesper said...

It is said that all politics is local politics, I'd say that all crime is local crime. Crime should be dealt with locally where possible, information regarding crimes and criminal can be shared across national borders and that is the way forward.

It might well be the case that local police is underfunded but the solution cannot be to divert resources from the local police to some vanity-project supposedly dealing with 'international' crime.

Why should the supra-national ECJ deal with local crime?

Rik said...

Transfer of powers to say the EU (ones that are or could be relevant in the eyes of the general public) should imho only be done when there is a real platform for them both politically (important political parties) as well as with the population.

Basically in a way similar to the change requirements for constitutions often with qualified majority (say 2/3th). But less formal of course.

If not you simply bump into problems when 51/49 turns into 49/51.
In this respect OEs option 3 looks by far the best one for the UK for any future cooperation. Preferably on a law by law basis and not as a package. Seperate laws make exit later much easier. Extremely relevant when the majority of popular support is marginally at best. Extremely relevant in the relation EU-UK as everything EUish lies very sensitive with the UK public. Plus if a fal back option exit has to be used it makes unwinding much easier.

This is imho one of the key weaknesses of the EU set up. Topics have moved into those of the mainstream voter. But procedures have not adjusted to that. Meaning that if something is (or becomes) unacceptable for the population in one country you will have a huge potential problem at hand. As the only way is often complete exit.
The present system worked when the EU looked to be growing naturally and while dealing with less politically sensitive stuff. Those days however look to be over. In the present climate it could be dynamite. Say how would it deal with a Cyprus Euro exit. Basically it means art 50 has to be used unless all agree. Which is very unlikely in the present situation. Will be a huge mess.

Another problem is that standards are not de facto standardized, only de jure. What I mean is rules are the same, but the implimentation and enforcement can still be completely different. Effectively the basis for the Euro problems. And for the immigration policy problems. And for lot of the legal (criminal law) stuff.
As topics have become closer to the public because of eg Lisbon the procedure should be reversed. Create same practical standards first and from there move to international cooperation ans that sort of things.

The role of Ecourst is also very unproductive in this stage. It simply as standard procedure extend EU powers to the max. While btw the legislation was not drafted with keeping this in mind. Could lead to all sorts of unexpected consequences.
referably in any arrangement therefor imho the role of Ecourts should be minimized.

Denis Cooper said...

"Significantly, and symbolically, it would be the first time that powers flowed back from the EU to the member states - which is a good thing."

It's typical of the habitual duplicity of the Tory party that they try to misrepresent the exercise of an existing power under the EU treaties as being a repatriation of power.

Cameron did much the same thing some time ago, claiming that he had repatriated the "bailout power", when there was no such "bailout power" to be repatriated; it was just other EU member states graciously agreeing that (for the time being) the UK would no longer be expected to participate in their illegal eurozone bailout schemes, except of course by committing more money to the IMF.

As for the substance of this article: the UK government should exercise the power to opt out of the lot, and then exercise the power to stay out of the lot.

clinihyp said...

Given that both Theresa May and David Cameron are ardent and dedicated Europhiles, they will go for option 2 then, if and when they get back into power they will claim that a successful renegotiation and perhaps offer a referendum even though little or nothing has actually changed.

Should they get an 'in vote', we can be sure they will immerse us ever deeper into the EU. Indeed Cameron has already done this without even discussing it with parliament, on one of his unannounced trips to his bosses in Brussels, just before Christmas last when he signed us up for joint military operations with the embryonic German lead EU army, modeled on the Weimar.

Anonymous said...

We should retain the complete opt out, certainly we should not even consider the option of handing power to make judgements to the foreign ECJ. If Cameron ne Blair wants us to stay in the eussr and thinks he can renegotiate our position this would be a start on the renegotiations opting back in would do the opposite.

clinihyp said...

Announce, re- announce, then announce again,who knows? someone might believe you