Britain ‘needs Euro arrest powers’

Published: Sunday 26th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Opting into the controversial European arrest warrant (EAW) will prevent Britain becoming a “honeypot” for European fugitives, the Home Secretary has said.

Theresa May added that British criminals would find it easier to escape court action in the UK and terrorists would be more difficult to trace if the Government did not sign back up to the EU measure.

Opponents of the EAW cite concerns it is too easy for UK citizens to be extradited and some Conservative backbenchers have hinted at a revolt when the proposal comes to a vote in the Commons.

But speaking to the Sunday Times, Mrs May warned: “If we don’t have these measures in place, it will be harder to keep tabs on terrorists returning from Syria and travelling around Europe and we would have more foreign criminals in our prisons.

“British criminals would be able to hop on to the Eurostar or fly to Spain, safe in the knowledge we wouldn’t be able to get them back to prosecute them.

“However we change our relationship with Europe, we will still need to have in place measures that allow us to share information about criminal records, extradite people in and out of the country to face justice and transfer prisoners back to their home countries. That would be true even if we left the EU altogether.”

She added opting out would see the UK become “a honeypot for all of Europe’s criminals on the run from justice”.

The EAW is one of 35 measures the Government is seeking to opt back into after having opted out of a raft of more than 100 EU policies relating to justice and home affairs.

Supporters argue it has played a vital role in securing the return to the UK of suspects in significant crimes, including 21/7 bomber Osman Hussein, who fled to Italy, or teacher Jeremy Forrest, who was returned from France to face trial over the alleged abduction of a 15-year-old girl.

But opponents also claim UK citizens could be extradited on relatively minor charges to countries where they may have no guarantee of a fair trial.

Earlier this month Graham Brady, the chairman of the influential Conservative backbench 1922 Committee – seen as the voice of rank-and-file Tory MPs – became the most senior figure in the party to speak out and urge the Prime Minister to think again.

“I feel very strongly we ought to be bringing powers back to the United Kingdom, back to British democratic control,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be ceding powers to the European institutions. I think it sends a message which is really very unhelpful.”

Published: Sunday 26th October 2014 by The News Editor

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