The House of Lords EU committee said ministers have “failed to make a convincing case to repatriate powers.” That was their verdict after the government presented plans to opt out of 130 European Union Police and Criminal Justice measures. Their claim is that staying in would weaken the UK’s ability to fight crime – but in reality the opposite is true.
The most powerful part of the measures is the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) which came into force in 2004 and it has meant It can take as little as 14-17 days to extradite a suspect in some cases. And in cases where there are objections to an extradition it could take up to a year to resolve; now it can be sorted in approximately 48 days.
The effect of the EAW is best illustrated by the rapid extradition of those wanted in connection with the attempted London bombings in 2005 following the 7/7 bombings, a point made before on this blog.
Why then, the Government wish to out of such an important, package is to put it mildly, bewildering. They believe the UK does not need to be bound by them – but rather it can negotiate itself back into individual measures where it is in the national interest to do so.
But as the House of Lords Committee said, this is not a convincing argument and any opt out would include leaving the EAW. But other important measures will also be lost such as the speed with which DNA profiles and fingerprints are shared, along with joint work in several areas like terrorism, human trafficking and football hooliganism.
By opting out of these measures and attempting to re-join or ‘cherry pick’ those which it wishes to be part of is irresponsible, it will be an expensive exercise – to change something which is already effective, not to say an extremely complicated process.
Here is the summary of the committee, it sums it up completely:: “In light of the evidence we have received, we conclude that the government have not made a convincing case for exercising the opt-out and that opting out would have significant adverse negative repercussions for the internal security of the UK and the administration of criminal justice in the UK, as well as reducing its influence over this area of EU policy.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called this a “shameful dereliction” of Theresa May’s duty in an attempt to appease Conservative Eurosceptics.
And there was a typically weak response from Liberal Democrat cabinet minister Danny Alexander who said: “I am are clear that any final package will have to ensure the UK’s continued participation in all the key measures which are important for public safety.”