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European Arrest Warrant, Europol and Eurojust

Volume 802: debated on Monday 2 March 2020

Private Notice Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the impact of the UK withdrawing from participation in the European Arrest Warrant, membership of Europol and membership of Eurojust.

My Lords, the UK stands ready to discuss an agreement on law enforcement and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. An agreement in this area should support data exchange for law enforcement, operational co-operation between law enforcement authorities and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. This agreement should equip operational partners on both sides with capabilities that help protect citizens and bring criminals to justice, promoting the security of all our citizens.

My Lords, the Minister has not even attempted to answer the Question. Not being a member of Europol or Eurojust relegates the UK to observer status, rather than driving and directing pan-European law enforcement operations and intelligence sharing. The Government say that they want a similar agreement to that reached by Norway and Iceland to replace the European arrest warrant, but that agreement took 13 years to negotiate and implement and does not allow extradition of an EU member state’s own nationals. Is it not inevitable that the UK will be less safe and less secure if we withdraw from these arrangements?

The first thing to say is that the Norway-Iceland agreement might have taken 13 years but the initial agreement took very little time at all; it was the commencement that seemed to take so long. It did not take very long to get agreement on this. The agreement we are negotiating should provide for co-operation between the UK and Europol and Eurojust to facilitate multilateral law enforcement and criminal justice co-operation. The agreement with Europol should go beyond existing precedent, given the scale and nature of co-operation between the UK and Europol. For example, the UK was the highest contributor of data to Europol for strategic, thematic and operational analysis in 2018.

My Lords, will the Minister set out for the House who she believes are the beneficiaries of this decision other than criminals seeking to evade justice? How will she ensure that fugitives in Europe will not just laugh at us for failing to bring them to justice?

My Lords, the beneficiaries of this should be the people of the UK. It seeks to replicate many of the operational capabilities in the European arrest warrant, while containing safeguards.

My Lords, is it not the case that not all European arrest warrants are the same? A European arrest warrant from France or Germany, with whom we share the same respect for the rule of law, is one thing, but a European arrest warrant from one or two other countries—here I particularly mention Romania—is not the same because often political interference has taken place in the judicial system.

My noble friend makes a very good point about political interference. In fact, that is one of the safeguards within what we are seeking. He is right to make the point that not all EU states are the same.

My Lords, this seems the most bizarre decision. Perhaps the Minister can tell me whether it is that the Prime Minister’s hard-right colleagues in the Cabinet do not like anything with the word “Euro” in it.

Not that I have heard. The agreement we are negotiating should provide for co-operation. But we will have left the EU.

My noble friend talks about political interference. This, to many of us, smacks of political interference: fixing something that is not broken. Time and again in the last two or three years, Ministers on the Front Bench have indicated the value of these arrangements. Why are we walking away from them?

My Lords, there are areas in which we will attempt to have very similar arrangements to those we have now with the EU. As I said, this will be very similar operationally to the EAW, but with enhanced safeguards.

My Lords, further to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, how is it that we have come to this pass when, time and again, before our departure from the EU, we were promised from those on the Front Bench that we would work towards replicating the arrangements for the European arrest warrant, Europol and Eurojust? We now appear to be negotiating something inferior and different.

My Lords, I would not say it is inferior, but I agree that it is different. The Norway-Iceland arrangements seem to work perfectly well with those enhanced safeguards.

My Lords, back when we were discussing the European withdrawal agreement six months ago, it was frequently said that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Can the noble Baroness confirm that the same rules apply as we go forward towards the new agreement that we are now negotiating? If we do not manage to agree everything, what position will we be left in with respect to these aspects of criminal justice?

We obviously want an agreement across all areas of law enforcement co-operation—I cannot hypothecate what the noble Baroness says—because we want to keep our citizens safe.

My Lords, how will the Government extradite criminals from Germany given that, constitutionally, they are not allowed to do so unless it is within the European Union?

My Lords, arrangements will have to be in place that allow the system or the arrangements to take part in that country.

My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister remembers what the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland said about the loss of the European arrest warrant. It was one of his highest concerns about Brexit. How much was he consulted in this decision and how much has the relationship between the north of Ireland and Ireland been considered in this decision?

As the noble Baroness will know, and as I have said on several occasions, we have engaged with the devolved authorities on all things, particularly in the area of law enforcement.

My Lords, is it not the case that the European arrest warrant has one enormous advantage among many in that countries that do not normally extradite their people, do so under the EAW? What assurance have we that, in future, this will hold good? Many signals have come from European countries saying that they will not do so in the future. Does that not make us as a country weaker and more vulnerable to criminality?

I think it would mean that those states will try in their own countries—I have talked about the enhanced safeguards—but I do not think that will make this country less safe.

My Lords, is this one of the areas in which the Permanent Secretary advised the Secretary of State of the dangers of going ahead, and which the Secretary of State paid no attention to and shouted?

My Lords, one thing I cannot comment on is private conversations between Secretaries of State and their officials—

Given the continued controversy with regard to the treaty on extradition between the United Kingdom and the United States, and that the bars in each country are different—“reasonable suspicion” in Britain and “probable cause” in the United States—which of these standards will Her Majesty’s Government insist upon when they enter any new extradition treaties?

The noble Lord asks a question which I do not think I can answer in terms of the level, but I can get back to him. I would be making it up if I were to give an answer.

My Lords, one of the problems of the European arrest warrant was that, if there was a crime in the country that was trying to extradite but not in the country that the person was being demanded from, we used to have difficulty. I seem to remember there being an issue over xenophobia in one of the European countries and there was also a problem with plane spotters who took photographs of airplanes. Presumably, these issues will disappear under the new negotiations.

This will come under what we call “dual criminality”. If the issue at hand was not a crime in this country, it would not be applicable. We would add some of those more difficult cases where the crime was not a crime in our country.