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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fighting to stay in the European Arrest Warrant Club

For once the Home Secretary, Theresa May makes a valid point when she warns her cabinet colleagues and Tory backbenchers that we need to stay signed up to the European Arrest warrant if we are to retain Britain’s right to keep foreigners accused of terrorism, murder, rape and paedophilia behind bars.

The Times reports that the home secretary has warned that a failure to back Britain’s membership of the European arrest warrant (EAW) system raises a risk that the country would have to release more than 500 people from jail and the prospect that EU partners such as Ireland would refuse to hand over suspected republican terrorists or Islamist jihadists for trial in Britain:

May said ditching the arrest warrant would also lead to Britain becoming “a honeypot for all of Europe’s criminals on the run from justice”.

Britain has opted out of 130 EU police and justice directives but plans to rejoin 35, including the warrant, which makes it easier to extradite suspects within the EU The plan is, however, the subject of a cabinet row. Senior ministers say Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, and Michael Gove, the chief whip, have urged David Cameron to consider ditching the arrest warrant because he faces a rebellion of 100 Tory MPs if he forces a vote on it.

The rebels think the warrant makes it too easy for British citizens to be sent abroad on trumped-up charges.

George Osborne, the chancellor, also considers the situation a potential political disaster because a decision has to be made by December 1, just 11 days after the Rochester by-election, which the Tories are expected to lose to Ukip. Cameron summoned May and Gove to No 10 on Tuesday and told them to devise a way of persuading MPs to back the plans.

May will this week launch a PR offensive, warning of a “high” risk that the 524 people remanded in custody in the UK on European warrants will launch “successful litigation” allowing them to be released if Britain withdraws.

They include people accused of involvement in 12 murders, 18 rapes, 14 armed robberies and 14 incidents of grievous bodily harm. Suspects in a terrorism case and in seven child sex offences are also remanded on such warrants.

The Home Office has warned, in a briefing note for MPs, that other countries “would have to discharge suspects held on EAWs issued by the UK”.

Let us hope that they listen.
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