2. What assessment the Government have made of the potential effect on the use of the European arrest warrant as a prosecutorial tool of the UK leaving the EU. (904462)
The European arrest warrant makes it easier to extradite foreign suspects to where they are wanted for crimes and to bring suspects back to the UK to face justice for crimes committed here. It is the quickest and most economical way to do these things, and other member states would not be bound to co-operate with us in the same way if we left the EU.
The first piece of European legislation that I sat on in a delegated legislation Committee was a regulation that enabled us to track paedophiles more easily across different European countries. Why anybody would wish to end that kind of co-operation between European countries is beyond me. Does the Attorney General agree that the Brexit campaign is soft on crime and soft on the causes of crime?
I have great respect for those who argue for a British exit from the European Union, but I am afraid that I believe they are wrong on this. For the reasons the hon. Gentleman has given, there is considerable advantage to Britain and to British citizens in being part of the European arrest warrant.
Just to be clear, does the Attorney General think that if we were no longer part of the European arrest warrant, criminals from the continent would see Britain as a safe haven because of the extradition arrangements and the concern that they would not be taken back quickly?
There is no doubt that the quickest and easiest way of deporting criminals who face prosecutions in other European nations is, as I said, to use the European arrest warrant. Of course, those who argue for exit from the European Union would have to explain what alternative measures they would put in place to achieve the same objective. I am in no doubt that, as I say, the quickest and easiest way to do that is through the European arrest warrant, and any delay in that process will have very serious consequences.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend’s position take account of the European Court of Justice ruling on 5 April, which effectively drives a coach and horses through the whole of the arrest warrant procedure because it makes it clear that the European Court of Justice is in charge of whether or not a European arrest warrant can be applied for?
I do not think that it is quite as bad as my hon. Friend suggests. In fact, what the European Court of Justice said in that case is broadly consistent with what our own Extradition Act 2003 says. He will know, of course, that in respect of the countries mentioned in that judgment, we already succeed in extraditing people to them. One of them is Romania, and my hon. Friend might like to know that 268 people have been extradited to Romania since 2010.
In the Witney Gazette, the Prime Minister was quoted as saying about the European arrest warrant:
“Some other countries in Europe do not have our rights and safeguards. People can languish in jail for weeks without even being charged. I am not sure that the British people realise what is being done in their name. Are we really happy that with one telephone call from the Greek, Spanish or German authorities alleging that we did something wrong on holiday, we can be swept off to a continental prison? Rights and safeguards that we have enjoyed for centuries are being stripped away.”
Does the Attorney General agree with the Prime Minister?
I do not know when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wrote that. As my hon. Friend may recall, the Prime Minister and other members of the Government successfully negotiated changes to the European arrest warrant precisely to deal with the problems that my hon. Friend has just outlined. Now, UK citizens cannot be extradited unless the case is trial ready, and not unless the conduct in question would be a crime here and not unless it is proportionate to do so.