Brexit means Brexit but what about the European Arrest Warrant?

14 November 2016

In a time of great uncertainty compounded by reluctance on the part of the Government to “show their hand” in respect of Brexit negotiations, the DPP Alison Saunders has laid out her position in respect of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) to the House of Lords EU Home Affairs sub-committee.

The EU Home Affairs sub-committee has launched an inquiry into police and security co-operation between the UK and EU following UK exit from the EU. On 2 November 2016, Alison Saunders gave evidence to the committee that up to 150 extraditions to the UK in recent years would not have been possible without the EAW system. She added that: “It's three times faster to use an EAW and it is four times less expensive for us to be able to do that as well”. She focused on the increasingly global nature of cases and said that if the UK is to engage in an EU-wide agreement, it would probably still need to follow EU standards as set by the European Court of Justice.

Whilst certainly a discrete issue in the grand scheme of a post-Brexit world, the EAW has been an invaluable tool within the European project. Indeed, during the run up to the Referendum the Prime Minister herself warned that a vote to leave the European Union could mean the UK would lose the power to issue EAWs. Sir John Sawers, former Director-General of MI6 warned that losing abilities such as the European Arrest Warrant would make the UK “less safe”.

In January 2004, the EAW came into force intended to replace the existing complicated extradition system with a “streamlined” method of ensuring that European Member States could surrender individuals accused or convicted of crimes in another Member State without delay. As a member of the EU, the UK has access to the European Criminal Records Information System and agencies such as Eurojust. Whilst the scheme in practice is by no means perfect, it is widely accepted as an important method of cooperation for European justice and security.

In the months following the referendum result the High Court in Dublin agreed to delay extradition proceedings for 3 months in response to arguments that any trial might take place after the UK was outside the EU. The High Court subsequently ordered the surrender of the requested person but the challenge is interesting; not least because if a clear Brexit strategy is identified, there may be similar arguments raised and proceedings delayed.

As with everything to do with Brexit, it is unclear what will happen next but the Government would be wise to listen to the DPP and try to negotiate as close a deal to the current EAW system as it can.

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