The news that the European Arrest Warrant was going to be debated on Monday sent many Tory backbenchers, Ukip and others into a tailspin. We’ve heard days of argument that opting back into this will mean the loss of UK power to faceless Eurocrats.
The reality of course is somewhat different.
Quite simply The debate on the European Arrest Warrant is about crime, and about criminals being brought to justice. It’s about victims seeing their tormentors jailed – and it’s about security and keeping Britain safe.
It’s about allowing the UK to request people to be brought back to the UK or sent from it to face charges. Quite simply it’s about the UK government doing the right thing.
But so scared are the government that their backbenchers will kick up a fuss, that the government have put forward a motion for debate on Monday that allows for discussion of some of the EU crime and justice measures we can opt in, but not the European Arrest Warrant. Despite the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary promising we will have a vote on the warrant, they are now frantically backtracking.
They have been put off by those who argue the European Arrest Warrant is an extension of euro-power on home affairs, that it’s subjugating UK courts to euro justice, that it’s a loss of UK sovereignty and that foreign justice is not British justice.
They are trying to placate those who say we should just sign up to more than 20 individual treaties to avoid such euro friendly “sell outs”.
But it’s not for me to trumpet those arguments which are groundless and based in a deep ideological suspicion of anything with ‘Europe’ in the title.
Labour has said we need reform in Europe, but we shouldn’t be walking away from those measures that are delivering positive results for Britain.
Since 2009, 743 people were arrested in fellow EU nations and brought back to the UK to face justice thanks to warrants issued under the EAW.
They included 54 people charged with murder. 51 with rape, 86 with child-sex offences, 99 with fraud, 28 with armed robbery and two with terrorist offences.
Moreover, the UK has arrested and sent back to Europe 6,844 people for similar crimes over the same period, helping keep our communities safe.
Fugitives from justice who thought they could run, hide or enjoy the fruits of their crime are now in British jails because of the arrest warrant. Hopefully they have plenty of time to think about why the arrest warrant is an effective tool.
Some 40 of the most senior judges in the UK, including the former president of the Supreme Court, Lord Phillips, have warned that Britain will become a “safe haven” for foreign criminals and fugitives if it opts out of the European Arrest Warrant.
Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers has said that not signing European arrest warrant would be ‘catastrophic’.
Last week Michael Howard, the former Conservative Leader, now Lord Howard of Lympne, said it is “a vital tool to help our law enforcement agencies fight cross-border crime, protect the public, and bring criminals to justice.”
Damian Green, the former Conservative Police Minister, said that if Britain left the European Arrest Warrant, it would become a country “where all Europe’s criminals and terrorists would be inclined to come to.”
So, on Monday the Labour Party will be pushing the government to make a firm commitment to staying in the European arrest warrant and to cement this with a vote in parliament as they promised.
We must have no equivocation on this because fundamentally it’s about crime.
In 2005 Hussain Osman tried to repeat the 7/7 bomb attacks in London with a failed attack in Shepherd’s Bush. He fled to Italy to try and escape justice, but thanks to the European Arrest Warrant he was brought back to Britain for trial in just 56 days. He is now serving a minimum of 40 years in jail.
So, tomorrow, I hope the government will have this at the forefront of their minds and deliver their promise to hold a vote to retain the European arrest warrant.
David Hanson is the Shadow Immigration Minister