Leaving the European Arrest Warrant is a huge mistake and will have significant operation consequences for law enforcement

Labour Party

The UK will be kicked out of the European Arrest Warrant if the government’s Brexit strategy goes ahead, the EU chief negotiator has warned.

Incredibly the Government wants to remain part of the system but has not yet grasped that to remain part of it, it cannot leave the European Court of Justice or the free movement scheme.

It’s astonishing that while on the one hand the Government recognises the importance of staying within it meanwhile it is doing everything it possibly can to sabotage our ability to remain part of it.

The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is a hugely important mechanism whereby EU member states can request the detention of criminals and is able to do so without having to apply for extradition which s a lengthy and bureaucratic process.

Instead of the UK being part of the EAW Barnier has suggested that the UK and the EU may be able to establish a streamlined extradition process. But this is reliant on several factors including agreement from all 27 EU member states, and it won’t be nearly as effective as remaining part of the EAW which is an efficient and effective system.

This is an incredibly serious situation which inevitably will have operational consequences for UK law enforcement. The UK will only have very limited access to analysis and to data produced by Europol relating to live criminal investigations. However, it would not be able to shape the direction of the enforcement agency or have any further input.

The BBC reported: “Successive UK governments have remained strong supporters of the European Arrest Warrant – which came into force in 2004 – despite calls from some Tory MPs for it to be renegotiated or reformed.

“According to the National Crime Agency, other EU members requested the arrest of 14,279 UK-based suspects in 2015-6, up from 1,865 in 2004. The UK made 241 such requests in 2015-6, leading to 150 arrests.”

Being forced to leave the European Arrest Warrant will only serve to make the UK increasingly vulnerable.

 

Human Trafficking figures rise sharply

Labour Party

The National Crime Agency (NCA) published its report last week into human trafficking and exploitation. It revealed the UK has seen a rise in the number of people trafficked for slavery or other forms of exploitation.

The figures published by the NCA show a significant increase of 22% between 2012-2013 in the number of trafficked victims.

Some of the increase can be attributed to better reporting and the NCA says that this is particularly the case with cases relating to children. High profile cases such as the abuse of girls in Rotherham have helped to create a surge in the reporting of exploited children, but the NCA admits that the 2,744 known victims (of which 602 are children) is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Investigators said that trafficking didn’t just mean where people were taken from one country to another but their figures also include victims who may have not been trafficked into another country. For example the NCA also found cases of adults forced into prostitution, labour exploitation, domestic servitude, or those who were forced to commit crimes such as making false benefit claims.

One of the other incredibly disturbing and shocking revelations from the NCA’s report is evidence to suggest some victims are marked with tattoos, the symbols of which are not clear, but the report claims symbols are possibly used to indicate country of origin or age of the victim (if the victim is over 18 or not). The report says: “Various sources indicate that tattoos are used globally to mark victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation by traffickers and pimps, but the extent to which this is used in the UK is not known.”

This is an absolutely appalling crime and we must act swiftly to prevent further crimes of this nature. Labour is ready to tackle the issue of these very underground sexual crimes and has promised to create a “specific offence of serious exploitation”. The Labour Party has also said it will make prosecutions easier.

We must also focus on the support we offer victims. These terrible crimes will affect them for the rest of their lives.

The issue of Modern Slavery exposes Conservative policy at its most flawed

Labour Party

John Major’s attack on Euro-sceptics as living in “fantasy land” hits on an uneasy fault line. There is a fissure within the Conservative Party, between an aspiration to again be ‘the natural party of government’, and a temptation to fall back on knee-jerk, Tea Party style approaches which win quick votes. At its core this remains a 1980s distinction, between high-handed ‘wets’ and the visceral politics of Thatcherism. This is perhaps why Major’s experiences remain so relevant 16 years on – nothing really has changed. The Conservatives are still torn between rhyme and reason.

This schism is brought into sharp relief by today’s European parliament vote on trafficking and organised crime. MEPs from across the member states have overwhelmingly endorsed recommendations by the Organised Crime committee, following a new report on trafficking networks. The report advocates tougher sanctions and renewed emphasis on improving labour conditions. It also asks for a pan-European public prosecutor’s office, and has drawn calls from trafficking NGOs for a more proactive Europol.

How the Conservatives respond to this will be fascinating. On the one hand Theresa May has made a clear and commendable pledge to end Modern Slavery; on the other she has persistently sought to repatriate judicial and policing powers from Europe and talk tough on immigration. These two approaches are wholly contradictory. They are two dogs, lashed together, which will simply never run in the same direction.

According to the committee’s report there are currently 880,000 enslaved people in Europe – 270,000 of whom work in the sex industry. I know from my own efforts to address sex trafficking that acting unilaterally just isn’t an option when faced with the fluid challenges posed by globalised crime. As the National Crime Agency’s Keith Bristow says, organised crime now operates “in an interconnected world where international borders are much less significant.”

On top of this – as the 2004 Morecambe Bay disaster showed – the groups most vulnerable to trafficking are refugees and migrant workers. These individuals need more help from the UK government. Instead, as Walk Free’s Global Trafficking Index reports, the UK’s vulnerability to trafficking is exacerbated by the “incredibly precarious living situation” our asylum system creates for people going through it.

The Conservatives’ hostility to the European Arrest Warrant, Europol, Eurojust, and the European Bill of Human Rights – not to mention their aggressive stance on asylum seekers – therefore fly in the face of all serious attempts to tackle trafficking. Moreover they undermine the party’s self-styled toughness on crime, and make a mockery of any designs their MPs have on becoming ‘the natural party of government’.

In July of this year the Conservatives grudgingly agreed to ‘opt back into’ 35 of the 130 EU Law and Order measures which they had previously withdrawn from, meaning Britain will now, thankfully, retain our involvement in Europol and the European Arrest Warrant.

But we need to go much further. As Anti-Slavery International’s Klara Skrivankova puts it, “The tools are there, but we don’t use them enough. Europol is still seen as a supplementary force – it should be more proactive.” To genuinely take on the scourge of trafficking we must not just pay lip service to Europe, but throw our full weight behind the solutions it can provide. On the issue of trafficking – if on nothing else – we really do need an ‘ever closer union’.

I would therefore urge Theresa May, if she wants to show she is genuine about tackling modern slavery, to set aside her party’s gut impulses for a moment and focus on the real problems the modern world faces. The alternative for the Tories is to succumb to incoherence and allow the brawnier, stupider of the two animals lashed together to lead Britain down an isolationist course which ultimately makes us more vulnerable.