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Agreement will keep British citizens safe from cross-border crime – Alexander

July 9, 2013 4:21 PM
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

The Home Secretary has announced that the UK will seek to retain 35 European cross-border policing and justice measures - including the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), a vital crime-fighting tool, and our continued membership of Europol.

The announcement follows more than a year of negotiations between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives inside Government over which measures should be retained when the UK exercises the mass opt-out of European Justice and Home Affairs measures negotiated by Labour in the last Parliament.

In addition to the 35 measures, the UK has also chosen to participate in a further nine measures that replace previous provisions and retain the minimum European standards established in a further 20 measures.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, who led the negotiations in Government for the Liberal Democrats, said:

"This agreement will help keep British citizens safe from cross-border crime.

"This is a good outcome for UK law enforcement and a good outcome for the Liberal Democrats.

"We have successfully fought to maintain Britain's membership of the key cross-border policing and crime measures while shedding obsolete or redundant ones.

"Clear commitments to the EAW and Europol send the clearest possible signal that we are serious about working with our EU partners to tackle serious crime.

"This is a good deal because it does what we promised all along: that we would only exercise the mass opt-out if we preserved the key measures which are in the national interest."

    1. The Facts

  1. The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) mass opt-out is a mechanism negotiated by Labour in the Lisbon Treaty which allows the UK to choose to opt out en masse from the 136 JHA co-operation measures which pre-date the entry into force of the Treaty. Should the UK choose to exercise the mass opt-out, the Government can apply to the Commission to retain (opt back in to) some of these measures.

  2. The deal struck after more than 12 months of negotiations is a common Government position that we will exercise the JHA mass opt-out, subject to seeking to retain a package of 35 measures. During the course of the negotiations, 14 items on the original list of 136 have been repealed and replaced. The Government has chosen to participate in measures that replace nine of these items. This means that the Coalition government will continue to adhere to 44 measures from the original list of 136. In addition, we have committed to retaining the minimum European standards set by a further 20 measures, where those standards have already been incorporated into UK law and we don't need to maintain our formal membership of the EU instrument which does the same thing.

  3. We have struck a deal on the European Arrest Warrant which preserves this vital crime-fighting tool while ensuring that in future it cannot be used for trivial cases. In addition we have retained the ability to participate in a system of European bail, which will allow British people arrested abroad to be bailed back to the UK rather than awaiting trial for long periods in custody.

The Conservatives have agreed to maintain our membership of Europol, and to opt in to the new, revised Europol regulation at the end of the negotiations on the text, provided that two key conditions are met.

On the latter, the following motion will laid before Parliament: "That this House agrees the Government should opt in to the replacement of the Europol Directive post-adoption provided that Europol is not given the power to direct national law enforcement agencies to initiate investigations or share data that conflicts with national security." This addresses two problems in the draft text which we are very confident will be resolved during the course of negotiations, allowing the UK to opt in automatically when negotiations conclude (likely to be in 2015).

  1. The next stage of the process is for there to be a parliamentary vote on the package, followed by the opening of negotiations with the European Commission. A further parliamentary vote will be held on the final package following the conclusion of negotiations with the Commission.