Friday

19th Oct 2018

Opinion

Britain's harmful step

  • Organised crime and international terrorism do not stop at the British Channel (Photo: Andy Cunningham)

This week's announcement by UK Home Secretary Theresa May of a block opt-out of the United Kingdom from key EU cooperation projects in justice and home Aafairs has not been well thought through.

The British government is well under way to destroying the great amount of work that has been done over the last years in this field. Ironically it is also (ab)using an article on transitional provisions of the Lisbon Treaty to withdraw from a centre piece of the treaty, namely the highly fruitful cooperation in the transnational fight against crime which the same treaty originally intended to facilitate.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

It is a testament to the uncooperative behaviour of the British government that it simply sprung this move on its unsuspecting EU partners.

The increasingly eurosceptic government of Prime Minister David Cameron is not considering the consequences of this remarkable step for the EU and the UK itself.

In a time of increased transnational organised crime and international terrorism, Europe needs more and not less cooperation in the fields of police and justice.

London ought to acknowledge that organised crime and international terrorism do not stop at the British Channel. The op-out would concern no less than 130 criminal justice measures defining enhanced cooperation.

From the perspective of the other 26 EU members, it is simply not acceptable that British authorities might continue to receive information for the fight against crime from the Continent, for example, through the Schengen Information System (SIS), whilst not respecting open borders in the general Schengen framework themselves.

This is a form of cherry-picking that will have divisive effects on Europe. It could also serve as a dangerous example for other member states.

The almost stubborn intention of the British Government to "repatriate British powers from Brussels" is all the more disappointing as Home Secretary May herself was among the frontrunners of one of the most prominent recent EU home affairs projects, the Passenger Name Record (PNR) agreement with the US.

The UK ought to re-consider its self-centred withdrawal plans drawn up for the mere sake of an increase in British sovereignty, and return to the European spirit of collaboration.

Above all, the UK's own security interests are at stake. The country would considerably undermine its capacity to police cross-border crimes and international terrorism by withdrawing from projects such as the Europol and Eurojust agencies or the SIS.

Moreover, why withdraw from one of the most important achievements in European police cooperation and information-sharing, the European Arrest Warrant?

London often says its police authorities are overloaded because of the exaggerated use of the instrument by other member states. But this could easily be fixed by setting an EU-level threshold on the seriousness of the crimes concerned.

EU justice and home affairs law has become a necessity for every member state and should not be watered down by one single government's backward thinking.

It is likely that once it has become aware of the consequences of its move, the British government will have to "opt back into" some of the measures it had withdrawn from in the first place.

This far-reaching British decision needs to be discussed by EU justice ministers. At the same time, it is up to the UK to decide now whether it would like to solve the "big" future home affairs questions in cooperation with its European partners or to slip into political isolation.

In any case, it should not be possible that individual members of the union continue to create their "Europe à la carte". This approach must not and will not lead anywhere. The UK is now at a crossroads.

The writer is member of the European Parliament and Vice-Chair of the Group of the European People's Party (EPP)

MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia

On Thursday and Friday, heads of state of 51 Asian and European countries will be in Brussels for a summit with the EU. As MEPs, we denounce the fact that many countries around the table are major human rights violators.

Daily reality in Western Sahara - and how EU can protect it

If my region in the Sahara were excluded, it would strongly undermine our development, with a risk of opening the door to radicalisation and undermining the stability of the whole Mediterranean region, especially with respect to security and migration.

News in Brief

  1. Rutte: summit was 'not the moment' for higher climate ambition
  2. Legal text for Brexit relocation EU agencies agreed
  3. Greek foreign minister resigns over Macedonia deal
  4. No Brexit backstop means no approval, says EU parliament
  5. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  6. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  7. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  8. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  2. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa
  3. EU leaders worried about Italy's budget
  4. Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action
  5. Kaczynski: No question of Polish EU exit
  6. EU summit to accept urgency of climate action – but no measures planned
  7. MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia
  8. EU migration solutions are on the table - let's adopt them

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us