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Theresa May is wrong to remain wedded to the European Arrest Warrant

During a far-reaching speech delivered at a security conference in Germany over the weekend, the Prime Minister restated her belief that the UK should remain part of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) after leaving the EU.

In doing so, the EAW could be included as part of a trade deal with the EU. If this happens, Rory Broomfield argues that it would be a bad deal. 

Over the weekend, Theresa May restated her belief that the UK's membership to the European Arrest Warrant was "in the national interest". During her speech at the Munich security conference, she told the various Ministers, civil servants and lobby interests that "our practical co-operation, including our expedited extradition and mutual legal assistance relationship, means wanted or convicted serious criminals - and the evidence to support their convictions - move seamlessly between the UK and EU Member States." Unfortunately, she did not mention the costs.

These costs, of course, go beyond the economic. Despite the EAW costing the UK roughly £27million a year, the real issue is the loss of liberty and freedom within our judicial system that comes with it.  

The Prime Minister obviously believes that the security of the UK is best served by closely cooperating with EU partners. After all, Theresa May mentioned in her speech that she made the case for the UK to opt back into a number of EU security arrangments (including the EAW) when she was Home Secretary. 

Then, as now, she makes the case that the arrangement is "more convenient" for law enforcement - disregarding the fact that the EAW remains incompatible with the principles of judicial freedom and liberty within this country.

In his recent article for BrexitCentral, Steven Woolfe MEP quotes Jago Russell, Chief Executive of the human rights charity, Fair Trials, who wrote that through the EAW "the EU has emphasised speed and efficiency over human rights", adding that "it has been the cause of serious injustice." It should also be noted that the current Brexit Secretary, David Davis, also voiced similar thoughts in the Sunday Times when he was outside government. 

It is though, of course, a strategic ploy. The EAW is a well used criminal and judicial instrument and police forces across the EU like to use it. Within her speech on the weekend, the Prime Minister admitted that for every person arrested on a European Arrest Warrant issued by the UK, the UK arrests eight on European Arrest Warrants issued by other Member States. Translation: we arrest more of their suspected criminals than they do ours.

In an attempt to horsetrade within the Article 50 Brexit negotiations, the Prime Minister is using the EAW and other 'assets' that the UK has to leverage a better deal. It is, in pure negotiating tactical terms, understandable to use a strength to counteract a weakness and / or gain an advantage over the other party during negotiations.  

However, it should be noted that the UK does, of course, cooperate in a range of security measures with many states across the world without tying ourselves to a system that does not recognise such basic concepts as Habaeus Corpus. As Theresa May mentioned in her speech, the UK is within the Five Eyes Alliance, NATO and has increased its cooperation with countries across the Middle East and Asia. These have not, so far, come at the sacrifice of such basic freedoms.

Including the EAW into the terms of the final deal with the EU would be a disaster. Part of the Brexit referendum was to do with control over our laws. The EAW, if included within a trade deal, would make that deal toxic as it would mean losing control over our judicial borders and a basic element of our legal system.

The fear is including the UK's membership to the EAW as part of the trade agreement would mean that if the UK were to wish to opt-out at a future date the agreement would require renegotiation all over again.

Ultimately, including the EAW into a trade deal with the EU would be a betrayal of the Brexit vote. It would mean, in effect, that the UK courts would be tied to the system for many years to come. As such, it should not be included and our courts, parliament and people should regain the freedom that has been given up. 

All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.

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