On Tuesday night in the Commons there was rare and peaceful unity on matters European. The government proposed that the UK should not accept the EU draft for a European Public Prosecutor. Conservative Eurosceptics agreed strongly. The Labour party seemed to agree, and said they would not be voting against the government’s motion. The EPP would mean EU influence and control over our criminal justice system.
The unity went further. There was also a proposal to beef up Eurojust, the system which currently allows cross border collaboration between the differing criminal justice systems of the member states when crimes and criminals cross borders within the EU. The proposals would allow the European body to intervene directly in the criminal justice affairs of a given member state on the grounds that something should happen to satisfy another state or to deal with cross border issues. They wish to have a European right to bring a case. This too was a step too far for all three main Westminster parties.
The UK Parliament has lodged a reasoned opinion that the EU is seeking to go beyond the powers granted it under The Treaties, as have other member states.
The debate was an important prelude to the bigger debate we will have in due course when the UK exercises its opt out from all Criminal Justice measures, as we are entitled to do. The three parties have different views of which of the many criminal justice measures the EU has already established the UK should opt back into, to ensure smooth extradition and cross border arrangements. Indeed, Labour and the Lib Dems do not want to opt out in the first place. Conservative Eurosceptics are keen to press on with the comprehensive opt out. We will take some persuading about opt ins, given the way the EU swallows powers and absorbs jurisdiction, constantly pressing for more.
Luanching the European Public Prosecutor and the enhanced Eurojust around the time of the opt out decision was provocative. At least on this occasion the UK Parliament has risen to the task of defending UK powers, jurisdiction and independence in the criminal justice field. May it continue to do so.