European Arrest Warrant shambles rumbles on as Labour secures Commons vote

Ukip announces plans to lodge judicial review to prevent the opt-in coming into force

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Indy Politics

A legal bid to block Government moves to opt back into the European Arrest Warrant has been launched after the Commons descended into chaos and acrimony over the issue.

Supporters of the challenge said the parliamentary disarray – during which MPs were denied a vote specifically on the warrant – strengthened their case for a judicial review.

David Cameron urged the political parties to “move on” following the farcical scenes, but Labour announced an attempt to prolong the Government’s agony by staging a fresh vote on the warrant.

The episode also intensified tensions between Tory cabinet rivals Home Secretary Theresa May and Chief Whip Michael Gove over who was to blame for Monday night’s fiasco.

Mr Cameron and Ms May faced widespread condemnation after MPs learned from the Commons Speaker John Bercow that they were being asked to vote on just 11 of 35 European Union justice and policing measures which the Government wanted to readopt.

Missing from the list was the arrest warrant, which is strongly opposed by Tory Eurosceptics on the grounds that it erodes the authority of British courts.

Following prolonged procedural wrangling – and the Government averting defeat by just nine votes in one division – the Commons voted to readopt the EU measures.

But opponents, led by Ukip’s former treasurer Stuart Wheeler and the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, argued that the failure to hold an explicit vote on the warrant heightened doubts over the legality of readopting the measure.

Mr Wheeler lodged papers with the High Court seeking an injunction to stop the Government notifying the EU it is opting in until a judicial review has been held.

He told the Independent he believed the Commons turmoil strengthened his case. He said: “Although the Government seems to think the vote gives them the authority to go ahead with the arrest warrant, it was specifically not voted upon.”

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “The failure of the Government to give the vote it promised makes it easier for the courts to judge against [the warrant’s] legality because there was no clear endorsement by Parliament. Courts in general don’t like to go against what Parliament has voted on.”

Both Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, and Damian Green, a Conservative former Home Office minister, have also argued that the absence of a vote on the warrant could leave ministers open to legal challenge.

The Government could face a fresh Tory rebellion when Labour forces a vote on the warrant next Wednesday. It will take place the day before the Rochester and Strood by-election at which Ukip is expected to defeat the Conservatives and gain its second MP. Labour said a vote explicitly on the warrant was essential to give it legal certainty.

Visiting a school in the Kent constituency yesterday, Mr Cameron attempted to draw a line under the controversy.

He said: “There was a vote on whether you want to be in some of these measures like the European arrest warrant that will help to keep us safe or whether you want to be out of them. The Government won the vote and I am satisfied by that, and now we can move on.”

Downing Street turned its fire on Mr Bercow, who attacked ministers for trying to “slip things through”, over his ruling that the vote did not cover the warrant.

Asked if the Government had behaved “contemptuously”, as the Speaker suggested, Mr Cameron's official spokesman said: “That is not a premise the Prime Minister would share.

He added: “What the Government did yesterday was bring forward exactly what it said it would do. We were very clear. There was an opportunity for MPs if they did not support the package of 35 measures, then the UK would have come out of all of them.”