COMMONS

Committee calls for Commons vote on European Arrest Warrant

31 October 2013

The Home Affairs Committee publishes its report 'Pre-Lisbon Treaty EU police and criminal justice measures: the UK's opt-in decision' on Thursday 31 October 2013 (Ninth Report, Session 2013-14, HC 615)

Findings

The Committee found that:

A separate, early vote is necessary on the European Arrest Warrant

  • The Committee found that, in its existing form, there are many problems with the EAW. It is based on a system of mutual recognition of legal systems which in reality vary significantly. Some countries may seek extradition simply to expedite their investigations, whereas others do so in pursuit of relatively minor crimes. For these reasons the UK receives disproportionately more warrants than it issues. Not only does this undermine credibility in the system, it is also costly to the taxpayer. It has also facilitated miscarriages of justice in a number of cases, irrevocably damaging the lives of those affected.
  • The Committee welcomes and supports the Government's reform package for the arrest warrant. However, there remain further ways in which the it could be improved, both within the current EAW Framework Decision, and through its renegotiation. There also remains uncertainty as to whether unilateral reforms by the UK would be acceptable to the Commission in the context of the opt-in negotiations, or whether they would in the future be struck down by the European Court of Justice.
  • The Committee recommends separate votes on the arrest warrant to the rest of the opt-in package at an early stage to provide a parliamentary mandate for the Government's negotiations.

Broad support for other police and criminal justice measures in the opt-in package

  • The Committee heard that the balance of evidence from practitioners supported the UK's continued involvement in UK membership of Europol, Eurojust, Naples II and other measures in the proposed opt-in package. If the Government proceeds with the opt-in the Committee recommends that it consider including certain other measures, such as the EU Mutual Legal Assistance Convention 2000, measures relating to Europol, and membership of the European Judicial Network, not just for the sake of coherence, but because they are valued by practitioners. The Committee sees no merit in excluding measures purely on the basis that they increase the numerical size of the opt-in package.

The opt-out, opt-in process as currently envisaged will not lead to a repatriation of powers

  • The Committee concludes that if the Government proceeds with the opt-in as proposed, it will not result in any repatriation of powers. Indeed, the increased jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice may result in a net flow of powers in the opposite direction. However, the Committee believes that the Government has succeeded in sending a message to the EU that has changed, for better or for worse, the perception of the UK's future engagement in European police and criminal justice policy.

Chair's comments

Keith Vaz, Chairman of the Committee said:

"The European Arrest Warrant, in its existing form, is fundamentally flawed and has led to a number of miscarriages of justice with devastating consequences for those concerned. We welcome the Government's proposed reforms, but are concerned that they do not go far enough.

The House should be given the opportunity to vote separately on continued UK membership of the EAW as early as possible in order to provide a parliamentary mandate for any future negotiations.

The Committee has been disappointed with the timeliness and extent of the Government's involvement of Parliament in scrutinising the proposals to opt-out and opt-in. We hope the Government will engage more constructively with Parliament for the remainder of this process."

Background

This report is the Home Affairs Committee's response to the House's invitation of 15 July 2013 to it, together with the Justice and European Scrutiny Committees, to submit a report by the end of October 2013 relevant to the exercise of the block opt-out of pre-Lisbon Treaty EU police and criminal justice measures, before the start of negotiations between the Government and the European Commission, Council and other EU member states on measures which the UK wishes to rejoin following exercise of the block opt-out.

The Government has given notification of its intention to exercise the block opt-out. Its right to do so, and the conditions attached to the exercise of that right, are contained in Article 10 of Protocol 36 annexed to the EU Treaties. The block opt-out covers 130 EU police and criminal justice measures which had been adopted prior to 1 December 2009, the date of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. The Government has declared its intention to seek to rejoin 35 of these measures. The Home Office is responsible for 26 of the 35 proposed opt-in measures, and 73 of the 95 opt-out measures.

Further information

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