May seeks support to exercise EU opt out


Home Secretary Theresa May has asked MPs to support proposals that the UK should opt out of all EU police and criminal justice measures adopted before December 2009.

Ministers want to opt out of 133 EU police and justice measures before opting back in to 35 measures they want to be part of, such as the European Arrest Warrant and Europol.

Presenting the motion to the Commons, Mrs May said MPs' support for the plans would give the government a strong negotiating hand in Europe and show that the UK is serious about the repatriation of powers from Europe.

Labour said it could not support the "half-formed strategy" without assurances from other member states or the European Commission as to whether Britain can opt back into the measures it wants to keep.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper also accused the government of "rushing" the debate , suggesting it was an attempt to "bounce" Parliament into approving the plans without proper scrutiny by MPs and select committees.

Ms Cooper said: "So this is a parliamentary charade, a promise of a massive transfer of powers that isn't real, a promise that European crime-fighting powers are safe with no guarantees, a call to endorse your strategy with no proper scrutiny and a vote that could wait until October."

A number of Eurosceptic Tory MPs intervened in Mrs May's speech to counter government claims that the opt out would repatriate powers to the UK.

They said the measures the government wants to rejoin - such as the European Arrest Warrant - will fall under the remit of the European Court of Justice, which could lead to the court interfering in British law.

Mrs May has promised "additional safeguards" to stop the European Arrest Warrant being used to extradite British nationals for relatively minor offences.

The Extradition Act will be amended to ensure that people can only be extradited if the country seeking them has made a decision to charge and try them, unless their presence is required to make that decision.

The European Commission said it "respects" the UK government's choice to opt out and "welcomes the UK intention to also opt back into certain measures".

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