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 50.

    We shouldn't be controlled by europe fullstop...

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    UKBA is Pointless, the Police are Toothless and we don't 'actively' deport people-even convicted Terrorists. We need to be OUT the EU and we need to Police OUR Borders Properly-and deport illegals within 24hrs of capture. I want to know where are my rights as a UK Citizen to say NO against all this!? We have NEVER had a choice on the EU (EEC back in '72). You cannot run forever from Democracy..

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Tyoical Govt. - more interested in playing the very vocal, but very much minority interest group, who are rabidly anti anything to do with Jonny foreigner, espcially so if it is the EU, than they are about our safety and well being......

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    20.In Gold I Trust
    Hey, it's not illegal as long as you work for HSBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Is that a reassuring hand for the various criminals across the EU and other countries to keep on coming to London to keep on stashing their earnings in property ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    14 - Roger - Totally agree.
    As always we are given very few facts, just those that might cause a stir. What are the other laws and how will they affect us? Yes, we need to keep on top of crime and the sharing of terrorist data is important, but we need to be very careful with decisions like this?

    One law we do need is the legalisation of Cannabis and prescriptions of it for medical reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    For international issues, international organisations are absolutely fine. Opting out of international crime-fighting in order to support an anti-EU rhetoric is sheer madness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    So which of these 130 laws the govt wants to opt out of are relevant to good & the great & would impede their continuing to do things which in Europe are considered illegal?
    Without any specific detail as to what laws are being opted out of it is impossible to see the arguments for/against.
    I suspect it is to do with money & will effect the haves rather than the have nots as is normally the case.

  • Comment number 42.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Labours reaction says it all really.

    A vote for Labour means full handover of sovereignty to the EU, as well as full immersion into the Euro, less democracy, and greater federalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I find it much more disturbing that a UK citizen could be easily arrested and shipped off to any EU destination to face Foreign justice than the notion that it could take a little longer to get our hands on some foreign criminal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    20.In Gold I Trust
    .... let's start with arresting a few of the EU parliament members for crimes against democracy, tax evasion and expenses fraud"

    I agree but they have not arrested the Bankers so its not going to happen. The laws are there but the rich & powerful are calling the shots so adding another enormous layer of EU Politicians reinforces their positions

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    EU is relatively no different to Liebour, Torys, LibDems, or the SNP, or UKIP, yet politicians want to have you believe it is.

    With all, you might get a few good policys, but then you also get so many despicable, attrocious & not fit for anything policys that are incompetant, costly & wasteful, destructive, unsustainable & idealistic & not realistic.

    It is POLITICIANS that are MAIN problem

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    What makes the EU great is that such an opt-out is possible in the first place. I don't trust the Tories on deciding what's right for British people though, they have a different sense of justice from the regular person.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Presumably we need to opt out of the European arrest warrant scheme to ensure we have sufficient resources to quickly dispatch anyone the US takes a fancy to prosecute - including those who have never set foot on US soil and who have broken no UK laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    @16. Ryan Mercer
    It NEVER works like that, what we do is give in and take all the rubbish while they promise to look into things and never change. Look how much the Labour party gave away in order to reform CAP - did it happen? Of course not, we just gave it all away. Thatcher did much the same thing as did Major so its not party political.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I wouldn't be so automatically defensive if the basis for this wasn't solely driven by ideological values and political point scoring. However, it is. With terrorism, globalisation, mass movement etc. on the increase we need to give security services the tools to do the job, not decide that because its got "EU" attached to it it automatically needs to go. Get a grip, ConDems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    The Tories are so anti-EU, they are even rejecting sensible proposals to cut crime.


  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I wonder who these 'peers' are?

    Europe interferre too much with our laws, and it's about time we took it back into our own hands . . . . Then maybe we could get the terrorists out and look after the people that really want to be here

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    The Eurorealist movement pointed out years ago that the EU's Corpus Juris system would destroy our Common Law, evolved over centuries. The Europan Arrest Warrant is iniquitous as it hands British citizens to third world justice without the need for proof of a crime, while applying sanctions to matters which are not crimes in the UK. Fortunately the coming crash of the EU will save us from all this


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