European Arrest Warrant Above Sovereignty*
The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) allows for foreign police to summon Britons, and detectives in Britain to extradite suspects from the Continent. Conservative critics say it gives other countries’ legal systems unacceptable power. Whether Conservative rebellion is just a noisy stint in PR or not, it raises what is a very serious issue.
By James Kirkup
Senior Conservatives are threatening a major rebellion over Europe.
Scores of MPs plan to defy the Government over the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).
Conservative whips have warned Downing St that up to 60 back-bench MPs are prepared to vote against the decision to remain part of the EAW scheme and more than 30 other European Union justice rules.
The rebellion could erupt before the European Parliament elections in May, exposing Conservative tensions just as they face a serious threat from the UK Independence Party.
Supporters, who include British police chiefs, say it is a vital tool for bringing serious criminals to justice. In one miscarriage of justice case highlighted by critics, Andrew Symeou, a British citizen, was extradited to Greece on homicide charges under the system and spent 11 months in jail before being cleared.
In another case, two men from Derby accused of attacking a police officer in Latvia were extradited to Riga and spent two months in an “appalling” prison before being acquitted.
One was later fined at a retrial for resisting arrest.
The system also puts a huge strain on British courts, critics say. In 2011 Britain received 6,760 warrants from other countries and handed over 999 people, at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £20,000 per case.
The prospect of a fresh European row over the issue has forced ministers to consider a move to delay a vote until later in the year. The dispute centres on a complex parliamentary process.
The last Labour government agreed that Britain could opt out of the EAW among 133 EU home affairs rules. Last July, ministers risked Conservative back-bench anger after saying that Britain should continue to apply 35 of those rules, including those around the warrant.
The EU agreement means that Britain must formally opt out of all 133 measures, then opt back into the 35 chosen by ministers.
A formal decision on the opt-ins is required by May 31, raising the prospect of a vote in the Commons before the European elections on May 22.
The Liberal Democrats are supporters of the EAW, adding to Conservative back-bench opposition.
Ministers said last year that they would seek modifications to stop citizens being extradited for minor crimes. However, this has not been enough to placate back-bench Conservatives.
Party sources have told The Daily Telegraph that between 50 and 60 of the 303 Conservative MPs are prepared to defy ministers when the opt-ins come to Parliament.
Whitehall sources said ministers are considering a legal manoeuvre to delay a Commons vote on the opt-ins until after the European elections.
–The right of European Union migrants to move among member states is the “greatest progress in human civilisation”, Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, said on Friday.
It is a right that allowed for Celts, Huns, Slavs, and other European tribes to travel, invade and occupy the European countries that have since been constituted…