On 16 October 2014 it was reported that Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg is in discussions with wealthy UKIP treasurer, Stuart Wheeler, regarding a potential judicial review to block the Government’s proposal to re-join the controversial European Arrest Warrant later this year.
The UK Government has activated a provision within the Lisbon Treaty to opt out of 133 EU Police and Criminal Justice measures, including the European Arrest Warrant. It intends to opt in to 35 measures it identifies as crucial to the national interest, including the European Arrest Warrant, and must do so by 1 December 2014.
The focus of the proposed challenge appears to revolve around the interplay between the European Arrest Warrant and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, which the Government does not intent to join. Several MPs have secured an advice by Jonathan Fisher QC, which opined that the UK opt-out from the European Public Prosecutor’s Office would be rendered ineffective owing to the proposed continued membership of the European Arrest Warrant scheme.
The European Arrest Warrant operates across the EU and replaced existing bilateral and treaty based extradition agreements. The system created a streamlined system of extradition, or ‘surrender’ which many critics feel has been abused to secure the return of individuals for very minor offenses and some say has caused significant injustice to UK nationals who have found themselves imprisoned abroad for many months whilst awaiting trial. It is notoriously difficult to resist extradition under a European Arrest Warrant as the system demands that all member states operate on the principle of mutual trust and comity. Latest figures suggest that over 6,200 European Arrest Warrants were issued in 2012-2013.
Eurosceptic MPs supporting the judicial review seek to trigger a referendum on EU membership. Whilst the proposed legal challenge has been described as “ridiculous” by one government figure it will be an unwelcome distraction for the Government as it seeks to persuade Parliament to re-join the measures. It is believed that at least 40 government MPs could rebel against the proposals later this year. They argue that the UK’s interests can be better safeguarded by reverting to bilateral and treaty based extradition agreements with EU countries.
The UK is widely expected to re-join the European Arrest Warrant in time for the 1 December 2014 deadline but it is clear that there is a groundswell of opposition to the measures from Eurosceptic MPs.
16 October 2014