UK government ‘panders to Eurosceptics’ on police and justice

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  By a Newsnet reporter

Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May has announced to MPs on that the UK government is to opt out of 130 European police and justice measures, in a move aimed at pleasing the influential Eurosceptic wing of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

The measures from which the Conservatives intend to withdraw include the European Arrest Warrant which was recently used to apprehend fugitive maths teacher Jeremy Forrest in Bordeaux.  Mr Forrest was arrested on a charge of child abduction after fleeing to France with a 15 year old pupil, with whom he was alleged to be in a sexual relationship.

Other measures from which the UK will opt out include the sharing of criminal records and DNA samples between member states, as well as information about money-laundering and passport fraud.

Addressing the Commons, Ms May said that since the UK cannot select which measures it remains signed up to, the government would opt out of all the laws and then “negotiate with the Commission and other member states to opt back into those individual measures which it is in our national interest to rejoin”.

The UK now faces a multimillion pound bill for the administrative costs of pulling out of EU co-operation in police and justice and then rejoining parts of it.  

There is also likely to be a political cost.  The UK may only rejoin parts of the police and justice legislation after negotiating an agreement with all other 26 EU members.  Some member states are likely to seek concessions from the UK as the price of agreeing to British demands.  Bulgaria and Romania are both understood to be keen for the UK to loosen the restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens working in the UK.

A European Commission spokesman said: “The Commission will now assess the consequences of the cessation of the UK’s participation in those areas.”

However the government’s attempt to placate Conservative Eurosceptics have created tensions with the Coalition’s Lib Dem partners.  Speaking to the Independent newspaper, a senior Lib Dem said:

“It seems a bit odd to opt out of something when you know you will opt back into key parts of it such as the European arrest warrant.  It’s just pandering to the Eurosceptics.”

Responding to the statement in the House of Commons today by Home Secretary Theresa May, SNP MEP Alyn Smith condemned the actions of the UK Government for dragging us “into the gutter across the EU”.

Mr Smith said:

“It is becoming clearer and clearer that the UK Government’s pandering to its Tory backbenchers is increasingly leading other European states to look askance at the stance of the UK in any European negotiation and wonder whether there is any point in entering into discussions at all.

“Far from serving us well, the Cameron/Clegg Government is dragging us all into the gutter across the EU.  Their actions smack far too often of petulance and lack any semblance of statesmanship; flouncing out of meetings and threatening to flounce out of the EU as well is hardly helping to create a constructive working relationship.

“The most recent chaos on European Justice matters, including the European Arrest Warrant (EWA), show just how much the red mist over Tory backbench eyes blinds them to the obvious benefits.  They’ve missed the point that police cooperation across Europe cuts crime and they either failed to notice, or conveniently forgot, the most recent very high profile case in which the teacher who took a pupil to France was arrested under a European Arrest Warrant and the young girl protected thanks to the very police cooperation they criticise.

“Ask a police officer in any country whether they’d rather have criminals hunted down even if they’re in another country or have to stop chasing them at the border and I’m sure you’ll get one answer; the one about bringing them to book.”