The European Arrest Warrant

The UK has rightly opted out of all the criminal justice measures of the EU. Conservative opposition to centralising treaties in the last decade did at least persuade Labour to give the UK the option to keep out of the EU’s growing role in criminal justice. I suspect Labour had no intention of using the opt out, and thought by now the public would have forgotten or not mind if we transferred more and more of our power over the criminal  law to Brussels. Instead the coalition has sensibly opted out of all the measures, to restore the position to that prevailing under previous Conservative governments who always kept criminal justice out of  EU control and outside the Treaties.

Now there is a debate about whether the UK should opt back in to some of these measures. The biggest opt in proposed is to the European Arrest Warrant. Many Conservative MPs are against this idea. Labour and the Lib Dems are enthusiastic to opt in, along with some Conservative Ministers.

Those of us who oppose the measure have put forward three important worries about the operation of the Arrest Warrant. The first  is its use for less important offences, when we were assured by Labour that this was primarily for tackling terrorism, murder and other very serious crimes. The second is the absence of good standards over detention and trial in some other EU countries who can use the European Arrest Warrant against UK citizens. The third is the ability of another  country to use a Warrant to extradite a UK citizen for an alleged crime, where their conduct is not a crime under UK law.

The government has agreed with our three detailed complaints, and has said it has now taken action in UK law to prevent these abuses of the Warrant. UK courts are now directed by UK law not to allow a Warrant for minor offences, and not to permit one if the matter is not a crime in the UK. They think the position on rights elsewhere has been improved.  So, say some Ministers, we should now be willing to vote for this measure. They claim it helps the UK deal with violent and serious criminals who exit the UK for an EU country.

Some of us still have doubts about this device. Whilst UK law and courts may currently be able to limit the use of the Arrest Warrant, they will not be able to limit its use affecting UK citizens outside the UK. Once you go back under the EU controls, the ECJ could always settle a case against the UK which could then limit or prevent the UK law applying in the way Ministers intend. We supported the Conservative policy of not allowing criminal justice authority to pass from Westminster to Brussels for good reasons. Controlling your own criminal justice system and being able to change the criminal law is an important part of an independent democratic country.

Labour and Lib Dems respond by saying we need this warrant to keep us safe, as it is the way to bring back nasty criminals who have escaped our country so they can stand trial and be imprisoned if guilty. We have arrangements with most other countries in the world to let this happen through Extradition treaties. These treaties do not place our criminal justice system under foreign control but allow co-operation to bring suspects back for trial. We have long had good co-operative policing arrangements with EU and non EU countries when seeking to track down criminals.  That is what we would prefer for our dealings with the EU as we do for Switzerland or the USA.



  1. Douglas Carter
    November 3, 2014

    One of the main reasons for our generous tax contributions to the State is that the Courts are supposed to be protecting us against an over-mighty executive. We can now no longer count on those same Courts to be able to protect us against an inappropriately-wielded, or agenda-driven process initiated abroad. Daniel Hannan’s recent examples highlighted elsewhere being a good starting point.

    There’s also a fairly inconsistent approach here to the delivery of ‘undesirables’ abroad. It seems that under an EAW document, an individual will be whisked off to a signatory nation even if that nation is possessed of a poor record of judicial competence. Yet, where it comes to a UK-originated deportation process, the courts in the UK – under many circumstances – refuse to recognise many European Nations (for example France) as safe destination countries for those purposes of deportation. (Doubtless unwise ECHR considerations are partially laced throughout these determinations in some cases – but there have been recent, and not-so-recent appeal cases where the Court findings refused to deport individuals to Greece, France and Portugal). In the case of the individuals refused deportation to Greece and France, in each case the conclusion added the sentiment that (I paraphrase) ‘just because these nations are signatories to the ECHR, it cannot be taken to imply by presumption that they apply the obligations under those treaties properly’.

    Perhaps there’s some mileage here to add to the Parliamentary debate – if a nation is not regarded as a ‘safe destination’ by the Courts in deportations, then naturally by association, it’s not a safe destination to which an individual can be delivered via EAW?

    What’s good for the Goose, as they say…

    1. Timaction
      November 3, 2014

      Some basic fundamentals here.
      If the EAW is to voted on surely this is a passing of a power to the EU? Why hasn’t this triggered the “useless” referendum lock provision? Because it was another lie by the legacy parties.
      Our basic rights have been protected by Magna Carter and Habeas Corpus for Centuries but will be superseded by this backward EAW? We will be potentially subjected to the lowest common denominators in the European Union. Many jurisdictions consider guilt until proven innocent. Another breach of our rights.
      In fact I consider this beyond the power of Parliament to impose this on us without referendum and I for one would not comply with any of its provisions.
      More proof that the legacy parties are agents of the EU and against us not for the people here.

      1. Denis Cooper
        November 3, 2014

        “Why hasn’t this triggered the “useless” referendum lock provision?”

        Because when Hague was drafting that law he took care that it would not trigger any referendum which the government did not want to hold.

        1. Hope
          November 3, 2014

          There is absolutely no reason why the UK should opt in to an EAW. There are no benefits whatsoever. The specious claims about terrorism etc are complete nonsense. How does Clegg and the other conmen think other countries manage? Does it prevent convicted murders from the EU entering our country to commit further crimes, as we saw recently? How exactly does this keep us safe? Utter rubbish. This about harmonizing the UK further to be a region of the EU. Cameron could veto this like Clegg does to his proposals. Cameron, once more, is your problem. No changes make the EAW acceptable to the people of this country.

    2. LBS
      November 3, 2014

      What’s good for the Goose, as they say…
      But they don’t – it’s sauce, to eat it with.

  2. Mark B
    November 3, 2014

    Good morning.

    Why can we not just have individual extradition treaties with other EU member states ? That way, we can better monitor and enforce both better standards of justice and detention. We would also, not subject our citizens to a system of justice that they might not be familiar with.

  3. Lifelogic
    November 3, 2014

    I agree, but alas you have “Heart and Soul”, “let’s throw another election”, as leader. He clearly likes “ever closer union” and for our courts to be under the power of ECJ. Perhaps he thinks Mr Reckless needs a little more help from Cameron in Rochester.

    The BBC still huffing and puffing about the proven science of man made global warming following the “Fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100” report by the IPCC. How can a whole organisation be so absurdly biased and unscientific?

    The EU’s demand for an extra £1.7 billion is as nothing compared to the costs of a 40 per cent slashing of CO2 emissions by 2030. These might cost £1.3 trillion. In fact rather more, as unlike the global warming the high cost of energy will have positive (rather than negative) feedbacks – thus destroying jobs and whole industries and tax revenues, which will destroy yet more jobs.

  4. Peter van Leeuwen
    November 3, 2014

    Unlike no more “strangers on the shore” (capping immigration) the EAW is no big issue in terms of EU membership. It is an example however, that genuine reform of an EU regulation has been possible to address unwanted effects and misuse by certain countries.
    Another red line would be intending to leave the European Convention, which affects the human rights defence for 800 million people. The reformed EAW is now just a matter of UK judgement to opt in or out.

    1. Ken Adams
      November 3, 2014

      Peter, I thought being able to opt out was an example of an agreement made during treaty change.

      Having opted out, any changes now are an example of conditions demanded before participating in it after 2014.

      That is different to reforming an already existing EU Regulation. In fact had we not originally demanded the safeguard of opting out we would not now be in a position to reform anything.

      1. Peter van Leeuwen
        November 3, 2014

        @Ken Adams: I could have formulated it better: The reformed EAW is now just a matter of UK judgement to opt back in, or remain opting out.

        The reform of the EAW didn’t require any treaty change and should allay any UK fears. The UK had an important input by MEP Sarah Ludford and the European Parliament voted for the EAW’s overhaul early this year.

        1. Ken Adams
          November 3, 2014

          Sorry Peter you said “It is an example however, that genuine reform of an EU regulation has been possible to address unwanted effects and misuse by certain countries.” it isn`t it has no bearing on the issue, as it was a reserved treaty matter.

          1. Peter van Leeuwen
            November 3, 2014

            @Ken Adams: I’m afraid I still don’t get you Ken. If your issue is not to risk any EU control over this matter or if you think that the EAW reform is not enough, then simply don’t opt back into the EAW. Your police force will be very unhappy, but that’s not my business. My point was that the EAW is not such a big thing for other EU members, not a Brexit issue.

          2. Ken Adams
            November 5, 2014

            Sorry you do not understand, I am not referring to the EAW but your comment that changes to how it applies in this country is is evidence “that genuine reform of an EU regulation has been possible” it is not evidence of that at all.

  5. Richard1
    November 3, 2014

    Mrs May would answer that an extradition treaty, in the absence of the EAW, would mean it takes much longer, perhaps years, to make sure a serious criminal faces justice and secondly that if we don’t have the EAW the UK will become a magnet for the EU’s serious criminals. What would you say to that?

    Reply I do not agree. Are we a magnet for serious n on EU criminals because we do not have a EAW with the rest of the world? Inter governmental agreements can be more flexible.

    1. Hope
      November 3, 2014

      May could not quickly Deport Abu Qatafa or any other suspected terrorist whether the UK had the EAW or not. It is specious rubbish. It is of no use whatsoever.

  6. Mondeo Man
    November 3, 2014

    “Labour and Lib Dems respond by saying we need this warrant to keep us safe, as it is the way to bring back nasty criminals”

    Of course, these are the people who would say it is better for ten criminals to go free than one innocent do be jailed.

    The problem comes when nations with less impressive records on criminal justice want to arrest our people.

    This is NOT what people voted for when they said they wanted to join a common market.

    No one was told that the Romanian government would eventually be able to issue arrest warrants against English people.

    Would anyone have voted to stay in the Common Market if they had been told that this was coming ?

    Our people were lied to.

    They are still being lied to.

  7. Michael Kellett
    November 3, 2014

    If ministers think that conditions of detention and rights available to prisoners have improved in the EU states of most concern then they should read the reports of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, a Council of Europe body, to be disabused of the idea. I especially recommend a look at reports concerning Greece and some of the other Balkan member states –

  8. alan jutson
    November 3, 2014

    So long as the judgements of our Courts takes precedent over any EU request then I have no problem.
    But that seems to be the problem, a request as I understand it, does not go through our Court system first, to see if any request is reasonable before we send our people abroad.

    1. stred
      November 3, 2014

      Where alleged terrorists have been able to delay extradition to foreign countries, their human rights lawyers have been able to use the Human Rights laws as interpreted by the European Court. Where British citizens have been arrested wrongfully abroad, they have no chance of using British law. The lob sided agreement with the US is even worse, leading to imprisonment in their appalling prisons after extradition with no opportunity to examine the charges or lack of evidence in a British court.

      This seems to be yet another case of our politicians lining up with the executive and waving through changes which ignore the costs and inconvenience of the people who elect and pay them. The Chief Constables want this, so wave it through. The Highways Agency want to close main roads all over the place and install invisible speed cameras and incessant speed limit changes, making for long delays on night time journeys and undeserved fines, no questions. The HMRC will find it more convenient to raid bank accounts. Done.

  9. Brian Tomkinson
    November 3, 2014

    Regrettably, you will lose this vote and your senior party colleagues will continue with their pro -EU agenda with the help of Labour and Lib Dems. You will however continue to tell us that your party is Eurosceptic and Mr Cameron is to be trusted on the EU. Surely you must see by now that such talk casts a cloud over your own integrity?

  10. Bert Young
    November 3, 2014

    I am 100% behind your post this morning . We propose and make our laws and have done so through centuries of honing and pruning . This system was adjusted to the national and international affairs we faced ; it was never perfect but it moved with the times and was able to react swiftly and effectively when the occasion demanded .
    We – the deciders of our laws , have a mechanism in place to force change whenever it is necessary ; we have no need for outside interference – above all the EU telling us how to go about our affairs – legal or otherwise . Our country would be a lot safer and secure if we were able to get rid of the many individuals who have no right to be here , who have committed horrendous crimes , who are costly to maintain and make no contribution whatsoever to our society . Time and time again the European Court has prevented the implementation of our own legal system . Enough is enough .

    1. Mike Wilson
      November 3, 2014

      “…We propose and make our laws and have done so through centuries of honing and pruning . …”

      That made me smile. The idea of ‘pruning’ our laws. Cameron said before 2010 something like ‘for every law we make, we’ll repeal two’ – acknowledging that the number and complexity of our laws had got completely out of hand. Like the ‘tax code’. This was to be simplified too. I recall our host being grilled by Andrew Neill on the subject of the Tax Code a little while ago. Neill pointed out that it had gone from 13,000 pages to 18,000 pages in the first couple of years of the coalition government.

      Still, we have plenty of rules and regulations to keep us honest eh?

      1. alan jutson
        November 3, 2014


        “that made me smile.

        Why is it that we have to keep all financial records for 6 years so that the Taxman can double check them, but MP’s expenses are being shredded after only three and a half years.

        Perhaps it is really one law for them, and another for us.

        Would perhaps explain why we need so many laws.

        1. Denis Cooper
          November 4, 2014

          It is almost unbelievable and totally disgusting that those records have been destroyed, apparently with the consent of the Speaker if not at his instigation, and IPSA has now protested against it having been done saying that they should have been kept for at least seven years:

          One question which arises in my mind is whether or not that action is covered by Parliamentary privilege, or those responsible could be exposed to charges such as obstructing the police or attempting to pervert the course of justice.

          That is what could potentially happen outside Parliament if it was known that somebody had deliberately destroyed evidence which might have been relevant to criminal proceedings, and indeed it did happen in this case:

          even though in the end the charges did not stick.

  11. Mike Wilson
    November 3, 2014

    I thought we were guaranteed a referendum next time there is a ‘significant transfer of powers’ to the EU.

    I can’t think of anything more significant than allowing foreign police forces to remotely arrest you and have you carted off to be tried under their legal system.

    The treatment of the parents of the sick child who was taken to Spain was appalling. But I am puzzled. I thought we were opted out at the time – yet they were arrested in pretty short order. There was something on the box a while ago about a lad who was arrested and sent to face trial in a country in Eastern Europe and his treatment there was simply appalling. Refused access to a lawyer for months, refused contact from home and, of course, stuck in a legal system where he couldn’t speak the language. Habeas Corpus anyone?

  12. Denis Cooper
    November 3, 2014

    Even if they were not eventually ruled contrary to EU law by the ECJ, as might happen given that it would be that court which had the final say, would Mrs May’s changes to the way we deal with EU Arrest Warrants pass what could be called the “Symeou Test”?

    In other words, would they have spared Andrew Symeou his four year ordeal?

    I don’t think so.

    The alleged offence was not trivial and it would have been a crime under UK law, so that’s those two elements out of the way; and is there any reason why we should have more confidence in the Greek authorities now than in 2007 or 2009 or 2011?

  13. Colin
    November 3, 2014

    “That is what we would prefer for our dealings with the EU as we do for Switzerland or the USA.”

    Well, not the USA, as we have a hideously lop-sided arrangement with them whereby our citizens can be packed off to a Supermax prison for 150 years with no evidence required, while we have to prove a prima facie case, with probable cause, if we want to extradite anyone from the US.

    1. Denis Cooper
      November 4, 2014

      Correct, it’s just as bad if not worse.

  14. Denis Cooper
    November 3, 2014

    Last Monday Cameron boasted that just exercising the UK’s existing EU treaty right to opt out of certain EU Justice and Home Affairs measures represented a return of power from the EU to the UK, indeed he said the “biggest” transfer of power from Brussels back to Britain almost as if there have been others in the past but they were smaller …

    At Column 28 here:

    “… it is very important to recognise that we have already achieved the biggest transfer of power from Brussels back to Britain by opting out of 100 different pieces of legislation.”

    In which case it is surely also very important to recognise that opting back into some of them would represent a transfer of power from Britain to Brussels; so why did Hague not anticipate that this contingency might arise and make sure that it was covered by his “referendum lock” law, rather than being completely ignored?

  15. Lindsay McDougall
    November 3, 2014

    The best argument for opting back in to this revised European Arrest Warrant is that the alternative is 27 separate extradition treaties with the individual EU Member States. I don’t know how much effort would be needed.

    Reply Or 1 with the rest of the EU

    1. Denis Cooper
      November 4, 2014

      Not much effort insofar as mostly they could follow the same template just with a different country named as the counterparty to the treaty, but with variations in some cases to take account of significant differences from the norm.

  16. Africahand
    November 3, 2014

    What is the point of a country that does not safeguard its people from foreign states? It is a fundamental duty of a country to do this. It is also right to be prepared to extradite people for offences committed abroad. It is not right to have the final say as to whether a British subject should or should not be extradited decided in a foreign court. Opting into the EAW is as clear a transfer of sovereignty as there could be.

    1. William Gruff
      November 3, 2014

      There is no point, which is precisely the point. The EAW is simply another step on the long march to one European state in which the nations as we kow them no longer exist.

  17. William Gruff
    November 3, 2014

    ‘ … UK courts are now directed by UK law not to allow a Warrant for minor offences, and not to permit one if the matter is not a crime in the UK … ‘

    They can be directed to allow such warrants just as easily.

  18. Alexis
    November 4, 2014

    “Controlling your own criminal justice system and being able to change the criminal law is an important part of an independent democratic country.”

    Yes. It is.

    Please do stand firm on this. Don’t let it be yet another thing this ‘can’t be bothered’ leadership lets through with a shrug, and a so-what.

    ‘We need this to keep us safe’ is also an incredibly lazy way to justify such infringements on our liberties in the UK.

    Why is it better than what’s already there?

    How many more terrorists would we expect to catch than we currently do? What happens when we’ve got them? Would the ECHR stymie us more often than not?

    And what if, heaven forbid, the measure is misused on innocent citizens such as two misguided parents, rather than terrorists. What could, or would, anyone really do about it?

  19. William Gruff
    November 4, 2014

    The abuse of acts such as PACE and RIPA should suggest to all but the most naive that the EAW will be abused and we will see people being extradited for non offences such as ‘holocaust denial’.

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