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23rd Sep 2018

UK to scrap 100 EU justice laws

  • May said the UK’s international relations in policing and criminal justice are first and foremost a matter for Her Majesty’s government (Photo: Paul Vallejo)

The UK wants to retain 35 EU-wide police and justice laws out of some 130 in its wider efforts to claw back power from the EU.

“We believe the UK should opt out of the measures in question for reasons of principle, policy, and pragmatism,” UK home secretary Theresa May told ministers in London on Tuesday (9 July).

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Tory-right wingers want to repatriate all 133 laws, but May said the UK should retain its co-operation with the EU police agency, Europol, and the EU's joint judicial authority, Eurojust.

“We should opt in 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 our national security,” she noted.

The European Arrest Warrant will also figure into UK’s provisional opt-in list but with added conditions to better protect British nationals of extradition to other member states in case of minor offences.

May wants to amend the Extradition Act so that people in the UK can only be extradited under the European Arrest Warrant when the requesting state has already made a decision to charge and a decision to try.

The UK parliament is set to vote and adopt the measures next week but opposition ministers say they need more time to examine the 159-page document that details the government’s full plans.

Others accused the home secretary of double standards over the government’s stated position on EU-related justice issues.

May had previously suggested that the European Arrest Warrant was not in the UK’s interest.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said “the home secretary has been forced to admit the truth, Britain does need the European Arrest Warrant, it does need joint-investigation teams, Europol, the exchange of criminal records, and help to tackle online child abuse.”

Other proposed desired opt-in laws include the principle of mutual recognition to financial penalties, confiscation orders, and simplifying the exchange of information and intelligence between law enforcement authorities with member states.

The UK has to accept all 133 measures, made before the Lisbon Treaty was adopted in 2009, or reject them all. If it rejects them all, it can then opt back into individual laws it wants to keep.

The decision must be made by June 2014 or all the EU laws, as of December of the same year, will be subject to oversight by EU judges as well as the European Commission’s enforcement powers.

“Following our discussions in Europe, another vote will be held on the final list of measures that the UK will formally apply to rejoin,” said May.

Some senior government officials see the move as part of David Cameron’s push for an in/out referendum on its EU membership.

MPs last week unanimously backed a bill that guarantees the popular vote by the end of the 2017. The opposition Labour party, however, boycotted the vote on the bill.

The commission, for its part, says it respects the UK government's choice to opt out, and welcomes the UK intention to also opt back into certain measures.

“The commission will clearly need to take the necessary time to assess the indicative list of proposals for opting back in that the UK has outlined,” said a commission spokesperson in a statement.

The commission will formulate an official position after it receives formal notice following the December 2014 deadline.

Official negotiations between the two have yet to start.

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