In the debate I held with Nigel Farage last night, he made a series of false claims about the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which is the agreement that allows us to fast-track the extradition of suspects between the countries of the EU. He said he would prefer to rely on historical extradition treaties stretching all the way back to the year 1174. And he implied that Interpol could do the job for us. That is simply not correct – Interpol allows police forces in different countries to exchange information on suspects and fugitives. It is not an extradition tool.
That is why I described Nigel Farage’s position as “complete fantasy”, and set out why international co-operation is essential in the modern world if we are going to bring serious criminals to justice.
It is appalling Nigel Farage is now trying to claim that my use of the word “fantasy” was referring to the miscarriage of justice experienced by Andrew Symeou, who was extradited to Greece in 2009 under a European Arrest Warrant. It would simply never cross my mind to do such a thing. I have met the Symeou family and heard about their traumatic experiences at first hand.
Let me be absolutely clear what I think about this case. No-one should ever have to go through what Andrew and the Symeou family went through. It was a travesty that they were made to suffer so much for so long. His case showed that there were real problems with the way the EAW was operating and that things needed to change as a result. That is why we have taken action to fix them, both in Brussels and in Westminster.
We’ve changed the rules so that no-one will be extradited unless there is a clear intention on the part of the receiving country to bring the case to trial. That will mean people in Andrew’s situation won’t have to sit in jail for months waiting while their case is still being investigated. We have also legislated for a proportionality test, which will mean that our courts are able to consider whether extradition would have a disproportionate impact on the fundamental rights of the person who is being requested for extradition. And we will allow for video-conferencing to be used so that people can be questioned from abroad without leaving the UK.
But I also could not believe more strongly in keeping the EAW, which Nigel Farage thinks is “completely unnecessary”. It needed to be reformed but it remains a vital crime-fighting tool – cutting delays in extradition and allowing the police to take effective action to disrupt terrorist networks and cross-border crime gangs, while also ensuring that victims get to see justice done far more quickly.
Nigel Farage and I disagree on most things but we should at least agree to not using the horrendous experience of the Symeou family to score a political point.
Nick Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats