March 21, 2012
The problems with the EAW are well documented and mostly flow from the flawed assumption that all European justice systems are broadly of the same quality and tradition – the reality is that they differ – as well as an absence of civil liberties checks and a proportionality principle, some hand down better justice than others.
- As a backbench MP, David Cameron described the EAW “highly objectionable”:
“I find the European arrest warrant highly objectionable because of the problem of dual criminality… let us be clear about what it means. One of our constituents goes to Spain on holiday, commits an alleged offence, and returns home. All that is necessary for him or her to return is that the warrant is correctly filled out… and that a district judge in the UK sees the warrant and judges that the offence falls into one of the 32 categories. At no time is it asked whether the offence is a crime in this country.”
- 102 Conservative MPs backed the conclusions of Open Europe’s recent report which argued for the block repatriation of EU powers on crime and policing, with the option of opting back in to selected measures.
- Conservative MPs and MEPs have long campaigned for reform of the EAW. Conservative MPs, including David Cameron, voted against the EAW in the House of Commons and made EAW-reform a part of their last European Parliament Election Campaign saying “Conservative MEPs will uphold civil rights, and will work to avoid a repeat of the lack of safeguards in the European Arrest Warrant.”
- Nick Clegg recently defended the EAW as “indispensable” though also admitting that it needed reform.
- Liberal Democrat MEPs helped to shape the EAW in the European Parliament; Sir Graham Watson MEP was the Parliament’s rapporteur (Nich Clegg and Chris Huhne were both MEPs at the time)
- Ed Davey, now a Business Minister (then Lid Dem Europe’s spokesman) was keen on the EAW at the time of the Lisbon Treaty debates, arguing the Conservatives wished to create a “Costa del Crime”.
- Curiously Nick Clegg has also championed reform of other extradition arrangements, such as the US/UK extradition treaty calling it “lopsided and unfair“.
- In fairness, Lib Dems have also called for reform of the EAW, with MEP Baroness Ludford highlightingd the EAW’s problems (she is also a patron of Fair Trials International).
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have long held opposing views on the EAW that will be difficult to climb down from and make the collective decision very tough. In the end it is likely the loudest voice will prevail – and this could well turn into a loud and noise debate.
But perhaps there is another way forwards. There is a growing consensus that the EAW and extradition laws generally need to be reformed, something the Liberal Democrats recognise with regards to the UK/US extradition treaty when the wider issue of Europe is not at stake. It should therefore be possible to find a middle ground. This would be for the Coalition to opt out of ECJ jurisdiction over the unreformed EAW and argue for reform in order to make it possible to rejoin it later. For this to happen it would be best to make the decision now in order that the substantive negotiation is completed in time for 2014.