PM faces EU arrest warrant revolt

Published: Monday 10th November 2014 by The News Editor

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David Cameron is facing the prospect of a large rebellion from backbench Conservatives as MPs prepare to vote on whether Britain should opt in to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

It has been suggested that as many as 100 Tories could vote against rejoining a range of European Union police and criminal justice measures including the EAW today.

Ahead of a potentially bruising encounter in the Commons, Home Secretary Theresa May has reiterated her support for the arrest warrant, warning that if Britain did not sign up to it other EU countries could refuse to extradite wanted criminals to the UK.

Supporters of the EAW argue that 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, and teacher Jeremy Forrest, who was returned from France to face trial over the alleged abduction of a 15-year-old girl.

But some Tories oppose the measure because of concerns that it is too easy for UK citizens to be extradited on relatively minor charges to countries where they may have no guarantee of a fair trial.

Mrs May has sought to reassure MPs they will be voting on the EAW alongside the 34 other measures following Labour claims that the Commons were only voting on some of the package.

In a letter to shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper yesterday, Mrs May said: “The package includes the Arrest Warrant and other tools which are vitally important to our police and law enforcement agencies.

“It helps us to tackle cross-border crimes, deport foreign criminals, track down those who seek to evade the law, and bring them to justice.

“We are proud to bring it before Parliament on Monday as a package of measures which are in the national interest, but if Parliament rejects it, we will not join them. The Government will be arguing loudly and clearly why it is so important that we do so.”

The Government opted out of more than 100 justice and home affairs measures but wants to opt back into a package of 35, including the EAW.

It is likely to pass the package through the Commons despite the prospect of a backbench Tory rebellion, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats expected to back the measures.

Meanwhile, a House of Lords committee has stressed that although the EAW is “flawed”, alternative extradition proposals face potentially “fatal” political and legal challenges.

But extradition laws committee chairman Lord Inglewood urged the Government to try and reform the arrest warrant after opting back into it.

He said: “It is obvious from the evidence we have heard this week, and in our wider inquiry, that the EAW system requires much improvement. If the UK opts back in, we would urge the Government to work with our European partners to improve the EAW as a matter of priority.

“It is unarguable that the UK must have effective extradition arrangements with other Member States; despite its flaws, the EAW provides this. The other possible ways mentioned in the evidence of achieving such extradition all face substantive, possibly fatal, political and legal uncertainties.

“If the UK leaves the EAW, it is not clear how it could be replaced and how a protection gap could be avoided. Speaking personally, I cannot see a realistic alternative to opting back in to the EAW now.”

The vote on the EU measures is expected tonight.

Published: Monday 10th November 2014 by The News Editor

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