‘Unacceptable risk’ to the UK if European Arrest Warrant not replaced, House of Lords warns
Brexit threatens UK access to European Arrest Warrant, finds House of Lords Home Affairs Sub-Committee
House of Lords - Image credit: PA Images
There will be an “unacceptable risk” to the UK if the European Arrest Warrant is not replaced, the House of Lords has warned.
The Lords Home Affairs Sub-Committee has published a report today highlighting the risks if there is any gap between the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) ceasing to apply after Brexit and a replacement being put in place.
The UK Government intends to withdraw Britain from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, which performs oversight of the European Arrest Warrant.
According to evidence given to the committee, it is unclear how the UK could remain part of EAW arrangements if it is outside the European Union, with no jurisdiction from the European court.
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The committee suggests that the most promising option could be to follow the precedent set by Norway and Iceland and seek a bilateral extradition agreement with the EU with similar provisions to the EAW's.
However, this agreement has taken years to negotiate and still has not come into effect and a transitional arrangement might be difficult to secure if the UK has left the EU and withdrawn from other EU agreements such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights, EU data protection laws, and laws on EU citizenship.
The committee heard evidence that a "phased process of implementation", which the UK Government favours, is likely to mean accepting some jurisdiction by the European Court of Justice.
If the UK fails to secure new extradition arrangements with the EU, the default outcome would be to revert to the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition as the legal basis for extradition.
But this is likely to be ineffective, given that it has since been superseded by the European Arrest Warrant and may no longer be recognised by all EU countries.
A gap could mean it would be impossible to bring back criminals who flee abroad to face justice for crimes committed in the UK.
Committee chair Lord Jay said: “Since its introduction, the UK has used the European Arrest Warrant to achieve the extradition of 1,000 individuals back to this country, including several high-profile criminals like Hussain Osman, who attempted to carry out a terror attack on the London Underground in 2005.
“Less than three years ago, Theresa May, in her role as Home Secretary, opted to maintain the UK’s involvement in the European Arrest Warrant, thereby accepting the European Court of Justice’s role in overseeing the EAW.
“She stated that it was in the national interest to retain cooperation with other EU countries in order to keep the British public safe.
“Now as then, the safety of the people of the UK should be the Government's overriding consideration.
“In March 2017, the Home Secretary, Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, said that it was a priority for the Government to ensure that we remain part of the EAW arrangement.
“This is welcome, but it was not clear to the committee how this objective will be compatible with the Government's plans to remove the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice, let alone other aspects of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.”
In Scotland, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has already expressed concern about the UK being taken out of the European Arrest Warrant, predicting that without it the country would be taken back to the 1950s in terms of its ability to extradite criminals.
He told Holyrood: “The challenge we’ve now got is that, for example, I understand countries like Ireland no longer recognise the treaty, because we have European arrest warrants.
“We’ve had them for almost two decades now, so there’s no need for them [the extradition treaties] and because they no longer recognise them.
"If we’re no longer able to use European arrest warrants, it’s not just a case of going back 20 years, it will be like going right back to when the treaties for extradition were originally negotiated.”
The EU has listed sanctions that could be made against the UK if it breaks rules during the transition period
UK Cabinet Office minister David Lidington was in Edinburgh for talks with the Scottish Government
The call follows the UK Government’s publication of the repeal bill earlier this week
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights will not be transferred into UK law after Brexit