Gale's View - European Arrest Warrant
November 5th 2014
I bow to nobody in my euro-scepticism. I was warning of unbridled immigration back in 1997 when Jack Straw opened the floodgates following the election of Mr. Blair and when it was unfashionable to criticise incomers from Member States of the European Union. I have railed against costly and wasteful bureaucracy and the unaccounted for expenditure incurred by Members of the European Parliament and their senior officials and I have opposed successive increases in Brussels budgets at the expense of the British taxpayer. The latest of these demands, announced by the outgoing Commission, as “President” Barrosso leaves by the fire exit, is wholly unacceptable. Britain, with an economy that is growing while the Eurozone falters, cannot be expected to bail out the stalled finances of Germany or the wreckage that is the achievement of M. Hollande in France. I cannot envisage circumstances in which I am likely to do other than back a vote to leave the EU if we are given the only opportunity to do so under a majority Conservative Government after the 2015 General Election. I need, therefore, no lessons from a band of opportunist xenophobic populists led by a man who has just admitted a Polish holocaust-denial party (the KNP) to his group in the European parliament (The EFDD), in order to maintain his Group registration and his funds from the trough.
All that said, we should not, on a knee-jerk basis, allow ourselves to oppose every measure just because it contains the word “European” and I fear that some of my colleagues and a section of a public ill-informed by the popular press are about to do just that.
We have rescinded, under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, a significant number of criminal justice and related measures. It is vital, though, in the interests of international co-operation and our own national security, that we seek to opt back into the European Arrest Warrant, our relationship with the British-led Europol and several other instruments that we need available to us to protect the shores of this Island.
The EAW does not have an overwhelming number of friends and its cause was not helped by the crass decision of the Portsmouth Child-Protection Unit to seek a warrant for the arrest, in Spain, of the parents of a small boy, Ayesha King, seeking treatment for a potentially terminal tumour. That, though, was a UK and not a European error and it makes a strong case in support of the suggestion that I have made to the Home Secretary that each and every application for an EAW (and there are not that many of them) should be determined not by a superannuated Magistrate`s Clerk but by a High Court Judge experienced in adjudicating between the lines of our law.
Our law is of paramount importance. Measures are already in place to ensure, following modifications to the inept EAW provisions introduced by Blair, that arrest warrants are not granted in cases that are trivial, or in cases that would not constitute offences under English law, or where extradition might mean incarceration in the prison of another state where detention for long periods without trial or charge is commonplace. Those safeguards are essential if a new system is not to be brought, also, into disrepute and if the European Court of Justice is to be dissuaded from seeking to meddle in the judicial business of the United Kingdom.
What we must not do, though, under the guise of popular nationalism, is to allow ourselves the dubious luxury of lowering our defences at the very moment when the World is about as dangerous a place as it has ever been. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is not known for dewy-eyed liberalism. She has had to recognise, however, as must we, that if we are to win the battle against terrorism and international and cross-border crime then we need every shot in the locker and then some. This is a view that is endorsed not just by our constabularies but by our security services also. Now is absolutely not the moment to pander to spurious (in this context) anti-European sentiment. The suggestion that we can somehow negotiate “bi-lateral agreements” with a sufficient number of other individual States is not an option.
To her credit, the Shadow Home Secretary has indicated that, rather than seeking to exploit anti-European divisions within the coalition government she will, on a cross-party basis, ensure that the official Opposition helps to carry this legislation through the House of Commons. I believe that, whatever our personal reservations about the past performance of the EAW we have, in the interests of national security, to get behind the Front Benches on both sides of the House of Commons and to give to those charged with the duty of defending us the vital tools that they need to do the job.