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Thursday, November 06, 2014

On EU Crime and Policing the UK lost an opportunity to negotiate a new deal

Open Europe's Christopher Howarth wrote the following article for the Telegraph. For more information as to the UK's crime and policing opt out please also see Open Europe's An Unavoidable Choice

Why is the European Arrest Warrant so controversial?

MPs are being faced with two equally unpalatable choices
To those unaware of the tortuous nature of EU treaty negotiations, it may seem odd that MPs are being asked to vote to opt into the European Arrest Warrant – and not just because it may cause ructions within the Conservative Party ahead of the Rochester and Strood by election. Weren't we in it already?

Actually, the EAW is only one of a package of 35 EU police and crime laws that the Government wants to opt into by December 1. And here's why it matters so much, both to the Government, and to its opponents:

Where did it all start?
It all goes back to the Lisbon Treaty. Prior to that, all EU crime and policing laws were dealt with "inter-governmentally". However, the architects of the Treaty were keen to place these measures under the remit of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the enforcement powers of the European Commission.

Realising that signing up to the ECJ’s jurisdiction would complicate its desire to avoid a referendum on the Treaty, Britain's Labour government brokered a deal. The ECJ would get jurisdiction in 2014, but in return the UK would get a "block opt out" on around 130 crime and policing measures.

This opt-out could have provided the basis for Britain to negotiate a new deal, perhaps using a bilateral UK-EU treaty, thus solving some of the underlying concerns. But this opportunity was lost - possibly as a result of internal Coalition politics.

But why does the vote have to be now?
Last summer the Prime Minister finally exercised the opt-out – which takes effect on December 1. But, having done so, the UK has until then to decide whether to opt back in to some of these laws on the new terms.

Having decided not to renegotiate a new deal, the Government is presenting Parliament with a choice of two bad options: stay out of the 35 measures the Government argues are essential to fight crime, or go in on terms that hand over ultimate authority over these laws to the ECJ and the European Commission for the first time.

But why is the European Arrest Warrant so important?
Of these 35 laws, the EAW is the most controversial for several reasons. On the one hand, there are obvious concerns about handing over British citizens to another EU state without giving that person the right to ask if there is a case against them. On the other hand, the police argues it is vital to protect the public from crime.

If the UK opts in, it will forfeit to the ECJ the ultimate ability to say no to the extradition of its citizens – a step that even states within the US are able to take. Stay out, and we will fall back on previous arrangements that were slower, less reliable and therefore may allow some criminals to escape justice. And yes, the UK Government has made some welcome domestic reforms to how the EAW operates, but time will tell whether these will withstand future ECJ interpretation.

What does this all mean?
It means that, unfortunately, MPs have been presented with an unenviable choice. However they vote in the coming weeks, many Conservative MPs will certainly want to revisit this issue in any EU renegotiation.


Denis Cooper said...

"And yes, the UK Government has made some welcome domestic reforms to how the EAW operates, but time will tell whether these will withstand future ECJ interpretation."

Even if these domestic changes are not ruled contrary to EU law by the ECJ, do they mean that the EAW would now pass what might be called the "Symeou Test"?

In other words, if these changes had already been in place would Andrew Symeou have been spared his four year ordeal?


I don't think so.

The alleged offence was not trivial and it would have been a crime under UK law, so that's those two elements out of the way; and is there any reason why we should have more confidence in the Greek authorities now than in 2007 or 2009 or 2011?

Average Englishman said...

The International Arrest Warrant only makes sense if all of the justice and policing systems in the EUSSR are of the same standard and work to the same rules. They blatantly do not. All of the legal systems of the EUSSR are not as good as each other and to make out that they are by joining them up in this way is simply wrong. It is not correct to join the systems up and then try to knock them into shape; they should only be joined after the legal systems have been shown after changes over many years to be effectively one. This is the same problem in law and order terms that afflicts the Euro. Create the single currency first and then try to get all countries to be good with their money like Germany - didn't work now did it. Now it's create the single justice system and get all countries to be good with their law and order practices like the UK - that won't work either.

The UK joining and accepting the arrest warrant will mean that a UK citizen could potentially be dragged off to Greece, Bulgaria or wherever without good reason or in my view, due process. What value now upon Dave's recent celebration of the initiation of the rights of 'Habeus Corpus'. Such hypocrisy.

If Dave and his crew vote this in then there will be an endless succession of bad justice for UK citizens and bad headlines for Dave thereafter.

Rik said...

Another related issue.
It is totally unclear to me in how far LibDem make an early start with a reneg difficult if not impossible.
Very likely the same for most voters.

Communication to the electorate is simply very poor in this respect.
While it should be part of the next election strategy towards basically all other parties.

Gives a reason why current attempts are pretty poor. Related to Cameron's credibility issue with defectors and possible defectors. You might be PM but having yourself a majority in Parliament is what counts here.
Makes LibDem poor when focussed on especially the democracy issue.
Makes them the real thing compared to Labour (whose policies are a) unclear and are b) only talk).
Plus put emphasis on the fact that Conservatives are best solution (first try reneg) plus realistic policy (no pie in the sky) and a realistic chance on a referendum (and not another pie in the sky).

Most of these things simply looks to be unclear with substantial parts of the potential voterbase.
Seen eg a lot of recent polls. Looks as badly managed as the communication on Euro/Pound and EU membership with Scotland.
Things are relatively complicated for the average voter now already a year or more has largely been lost in this respect.

Placing this issue in the equation.
Difficult to explain why you sign up to new things when of the already existing mess (at least in the eyes of many) is hardly anything solved.

Rollo said...

British law makes us innocent until proved guilty. Napoleonic law means that a prosecutor, before hearing any evidence for the defence, can imprison anyone for as long as it takes to find the to prove the prosecutor right.
If we opt into the EAW, it is the beginning of the end of habeas corpus and british law.

christhai said...

The EAW is not the answer to the problem.

The EAW is designed to submerge the UK even more in the EU morass. It is designed - indeed its only important role - is to subjugate British Law and Justice to one of the most political Courts in the World - The ECJ.

80% ALL British MPs who vote FOR the EAW will lose their seats to UKIP.

UKIP is the ordinary British citizen's only defence against Himmlerian laws like the EAW and the general diktats of the EU.