EU crime optouts 'could damage UK crime fighting'

Police under an EU flag The government will make its decision by May 2014

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Government plans to opt out of 130 European Union police and criminal justice measures could weaken the UK's ability to fight crime, peers say.

The House of Lords EU committee said ministers failed to make "a convincing case" for repatriating the powers.

Home Secretary Theresa May says some of the joint measures are defunct .

Opting out would include leaving the European Arrest Warrant, which is used to speed up the extradition of criminal suspects between member states.

Ministers must decide by the end of May 2014 whether the UK should completely accept or reject 130 joint arrangements.

Ministers say they want to opt out of the package because the UK does not need to be bound by them - but then negotiate to rejoin individual measures where it is in the national interest to do so.

The most important and powerful of the measures is the European Arrest Warrant.

Other measures that could be ditched include arrangements to speed up sharing suspects' DNA profiles and fingerprints and joint working in specific areas such as terrorism, human trafficking or football hooliganism.

The peers said that while the UK could theoretically make alternative arrangements with EU states, they would be legally more complicated, expensive and less effective, thereby weakening the hand of British police.

'Negative repercussions'

The committee said: "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."

Joint EU measures include:

  • European Arrest Warrant
  • DNA profiles and fingerprint checks
  • Joint working on specific cross-border crimes
  • Possible EU-wide driving ban arrangements
  • Measures to combat identity fraud and illegal immigration

Committee member Lord Hannay said: "Cross-border co-operation on policing and criminal justice matters is an essential element in tackling security threats such as terrorism and organised crime in the 21st Century and we need to ensure that the UK police and law enforcement agencies continue to have the tools they need to increase these increasing threats."

Mrs May told MPs last October that the government did not need to be bound by the measures because while some were useful, others were entirely defunct.

The committee said they had asked ministers for a list of the defunct measures, but so far had only been given three.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Discussions about which measures we may seek to opt back in to are ongoing but we have made it very clear that any decision will be guided by what is in our national interest.

"We have made a commitment to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before we take a final decision to opt out. That vote will take place in good time before May 2014."

But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused Theresa May of a "shameful dereliction" of her duty in an attempt to appease Conservative Eurosceptics.

Ms Cooper said: "At a time when cross-border crime is a growing problem and cross-border security threats remain significant, it is completely irresponsible for Theresa May to be making it harder for the police to co-operate with forces abroad."

Liberal Democrat cabinet minister Danny Alexander 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."

He said these included the European Arrest Warrant and Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    20.In Gold I Trust
    If we're serious about tacking crime in the EU, let's start with arresting a few of the EU parliament members for crimes against democracy, tax evasion and expenses fraud.
    Let's start cleaning up at home first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Damage our internal security?
    What security is that then, the supposed war on terror where we have open borders with all the fundamentalist hotbeds?
    Or the inability to count people in and out of our country?
    Or the inability to remove obvious threats?
    The Gov takes our security with a pinch of salt yet their own security is sacrosanct.
    Weak leaders, toothless police and UKBA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    With any change, there "could" be pros and there "could" be cons.

    To balance things up, I'm waiting for the BBC article "EU crime opt-outs 'could help UK crime fighting'.

    I fear I may be waiting some time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    The criminal law cannot be a EU competency it is nothing to do with trade at all, why does the superstate want to interfere. Even the UK does not have a common system of criminal law different systems exist in England & Wales,Scotland and N Ireland. A fully federated state the US each state has different criminal systems. The EU needs to keep out of matters that are for nation states only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    The UK needs to change its relationship with the EU, but we should always work with them to catch criminals that try to evade police all over Europe.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Why not renegotiate the bits that are not wanted while the whole thing is in place?

    Because it wouldn't cause headlines!

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Opting out the European Arrest Warrant can be positive, returning sovereignty to our Realm.

    Often, EU laws favour the state over the individual. Eg: In foreign Sweden, investigating officers can be judicial officers. The conflict of interests cannot be more stark, which Sweden exploits to arrest people on our soil.

    Let us return to our common law principles, not the principles of Brussels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    May is on the whole correct. As for the European arrest warrant, a very dangerous piece of badly thought out law. It gets rid of the system of checks and balances that our law has always had in relation to extradition. Instead we just ship people off to third world legal systems like Greece and Romania...Bin it now Mrs May

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    If this is true then can we please have a comparison table of all EU countries including the UK showing crime rates and successful prosecution rates. Taking into account any other relevant factors in some other EU countries so that we are comparing like with like.

    Presumably, this will show that we are not as good as our EU neighbours, won't it!!

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    The BBC IS the voice of the establishment, and this is a classic double-bluff.
    The toffs want to distance Great britain from the EU. The only winners are the rich and powerful. Just like it's always been here in feudal Great Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Yes, we should leave the European Union.

    But have an updated EEC-type agreement in place of it including that of crime fighting & prevention.

    The Federal European Union is bleeding us dry, is corrupt to the core and few people actually know who the career Politicians are - a perfect storm for disaster with the public forced to pay each & everytime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Get a grip, almost anything **could** damage crime fighting. There is no requirement for us to be bound by EU rules, we can cooperate when we feel like it and not when we don't. EU wide driving ban for instance requires EU wide computer networks for driving licences... what a waste of effort in reality. As a matter of principle we should say no.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Surely the whole point is that we get some of the things we want, like the European Arrest Warrant, but that other countries may not want. In return, we have to put up with some measures they want and we don't. If we only agree to bits we want to, and the other countries do the same then no one would ever agree anything. It would descend to childishness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    The EU may be hugely flawed but it seems like what's being proposed here is sensible.

    Can the government please make policy based on evidence not ideology? It just sounds like the Tories are sounding anti-Europe to impress the head-bangers on the right of their party and stop defections to UKIP. Meanwhile the British population lose out on something beneficial (for once) from Brussels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Come on BBC, if you are going to write an article make it balanced. You have listed 4 or 5 important worth keeping laws to scare all of us and be anti government. No mention of the 100+ laws that are pointless and where a democratic country like the UK does not need to be told how to run our country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    5. darlo50 - This lot are incompetent but doing their best to right the time of Blair and Co. Everything the EU proposed was accepted without question by the Labour Government. Was this in the interest of the Country or done in the interest of Blair do you think (President of the EU). Even the BBC News this morning admitted that uncontrolled immigration has now put this Country on its rear end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    "Government plans to opt out of 130 European Union police and criminal justice measures could weaken the UK's ability to fight crime, peers say."

    The article makes clear that the EU have strong methods that the UK may reject foolishly out of divisive idiocy. Too many good ideas in strong European nations are ignored here. Are we to become like Haiti? It's time EU-haters pulled their heads out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Whatever the arguments are for repatriation of powers from the EU, this seems like the most absurd.

    I wonder whether repatriation of extradition rights to the US, who have tried to exercise that power to convict a mentally ill British citizen, is on the table as well? Somehow I doubt it.

    Party-political posturing, not efficacy within public policy..


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