Should EU laws on policing and crime adopted before the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in December 2009 continue to apply in the UK after they became subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in December 2014? This is the question at the heart of the House of Lords EU Committee’s new inquiry, launched today, into the use of the UK opt-out from EU police and criminal justice measures and its potential implications for the United Kingdom. The inquiry will be conducted jointly by the Justice, Institutions and Consumer Protection EU Sub-Committee, chaired by Lord Bowness, and the Home Affairs, Health and Education EU Sub-Committee, chaired by Lord Hannay of Chiswick.
The EU Treaties enable the Government to decide whether or not the UK should continue to be bound by around 130 police and criminal justice measures, enacted before the Lisbon Treaty came into force. It is a decision that must be made by 31 May 2014. If the Government opts out, that will take the UK out of all the measures, though the UK may then apply to opt back in to individual measures, subject to the views of the Commission and the other Member States.
The opt-out covers a range of measures, including the European Arrest Warrant. It will also affect:
- UK participation in EU-wide agencies, such as Europol, Eurojust and the European Police College (CEPOL);
- cooperation between police and law enforcement authorities, including the exchange of information on cross-border crime;
- mutual recognition of court judgments, including pre-trial supervision orders, probation, custody and the recovery of fines; and
- the definition of offences and penalties for cross-border crimes, including terrorism and human trafficking.
In a statement to Parliament on 15 October 2012, the Home Secretary said that “the Government are clear that we do not need to remain bound by all the pre-Lisbon measures” and that the Government’s “current thinking” is that the UK should exercise the opt-out but negotiate to opt back in to individual measures that it considers would be in the national interest to rejoin. The Government has undertaken to hold a debate and vote in each House before a decision is made.
The purpose of the Committee’s inquiry will be to conduct an objective analysis of all the ramifications of the opt-out – practical, financial and of wider strategic significance to the UK’s membership of the EU. The Committee expects to publish its report before the end of the current parliamentary session in May 2013, in good time before the House of Lords holds its debate and votes on the matter.