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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  • Comment number 170.

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

  • Comment number 169.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    We're not synchronised on Crime, Law, Industry, Benifits, Politics, Education, Retirement, Business, etc, so can someone please tell me HOW we are a Union? A union of WHAT? Oh, that's right! We're all white and live in Europe! Like that's not a Racist Premise to begin with! The fact that we're in this Policing Mess is BECAUSE of the EU, and MORE EU won't FIX IT! We need control of OUR OWN Borders!

  • Comment number 167.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    It seems to me that many Conservative MP's are looking forward and positioning themselves to be next leader of their party after they lose at the next election and Cameron resigns.

    Gove and May just look like they are picking fights on purpose and many of them make increasingly right-wing noises, are isolationist and appear deperately trying to look 'patriotic' and loyal to the party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Why would we want to opt out of a system which would apply driving bans across the whole EU? We have a massive problem enforcing driving fines etc against foreign truckers. Frankly anything proposed is better than the current none-existent system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    The measures described which the government want to abandon, seem to be about cross border checks. It makes no sense at all not to have these in place..

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Anything that can be done to bring criminals to justice in the countries concerned has to be applauded. Declaring UDI on the other member states will only slow the process of removing them, and help make a good many international human rights lawyers even wealthier than they are already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    This is a classic example of people being kept in the dark. What are the 130 measures that are being talked about? Which ones does May want to opt into? What evidence is there that the EU will let May negotiate individual opts in? Without this basic information, this is another politicians slight of hand trick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    I cannot understand why we would reject this? Finally an EU policy with the intention to protect the people so the Government consider opting out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    I say we get out of the EU altogether, it's not the common market Ted Heath had us join so he could strut the European stage like a big stupid Peacock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    To me these joint EU crime prevention measures seem sensible at a practical level as they attempt to reduce cross boarder crime within Europe. it is another example where this government just acts blindly out of ideology and not out of practicality. It's called "throwing the baby out with the bath water".

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Isn't Julian holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy? Hardly "getting away with it".

    And what's he getting away from? An exploitative Swedish justice system, bias to accusers, and unbelievably: where your police prosecutor is also your judge?!
    Yes, European justice is great!

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Does anyone actually believe that politicians & their politics make a positive & welcome difference to our lives in general? In my 65 years I find the reverse to be true. Whether it be UK, EU or even US politicians interfering in our lives they & their incessant interference all equally unwelcome in my view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    108 Bruxical

    "It would not surprise me to learn that the EU wanted to extradite some british bankers in the future, so this is a logical move for May"

    They are the only ones with the will to do it. Our government are in the hands of the bankers.

    These people have beggared many citizens of this country and the world and nothing is being done to bring them to justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    @149 - "Just look at how it dealt with your mate Julian Assange. He felt the lofty weight of the sword of European Justice, didn't he....Oh no, actually he made a mockery of it."

    ...surely you should blame the Ecuadorians for that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    If you cannot deport a suspected terrorist that was born in another country however now has a uk passport you know you have a serious issues relating to the laws of this country.

    There should be zero tollerence for foreign criminals in this country. 1 crime however petty and it should mean instant deporation and blacklisted to ever return.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Whenever a politician cites the ' national interest' as a reason to do something it really means 'it's to my party's political advantage'.
    Why would the self styled 'Party of Law and Order' want to renege on treaties concerning crime and terrorism?

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    What a daft idea, proposed just to satisfy the more rabid Daily Mail-reading wing of the Tory part. Surely even the Tories should be putting national security before party political gain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    We all know that the boy George (Osbourne) would fail even the most elementary economics exam. Seems like the boy David (Cameron) would fail any exam set before him. He is a joke if he thinks we think he has given any thought to this beyond (a) pleasing the Eurosceptics, (b) pleasing the USA.


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