Theresa May must not gamble UK's national security in Brexit talks, MPs warn

The Justice Committee praised the the European Arrest Warrant and called for the Court of Justice to retain a UK role

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 22 March 2017 01:00 GMT
The Justice Select Committee has called for security cooperation with Europe to remain strong
The Justice Select Committee has called for security cooperation with Europe to remain strong (Getty Images)

Theresa May must not gamble the UK's security away in Brexit talks, an influential group of MPs has said.

A report from the cross-party Justice Committee said security cooperation must remain as close to existing arrangements as possible or risk hamstringing law enforcement in the future.

In particular, the European Arrest Warrant and Court of Justice should retain authority in UK law, despite opposition from Brexiteers.

The committee warned Ms May not to let cooperation with Europe fall victim to “tactical bargaining” in Brexit talks and called for it to be separated from other parts of negotiations, amid fears it may fall foul of attempts to use it as leverage to secure concessions.

It comes after EU Commissioner Sir Julian King wrote exclusively for The Independent warning that Brexit risked boosting international networks of cyber-criminals if co-operation drops off.

The EAW has been heavily opposed by Brexiteers who claims it is overused by EU states, but the committee highlighted it as a key to ensuring “rapid extradition [of criminals] from one member state to another”.

Since 2009 Britain has issued some 237 EAWs every year, of which 64 per cent led to arrests and 56 per cent to successful extradition, including for drug trafficking, child sex offences, fraud, and rape. The UK made 2,102 arrests In the 2015/16 alone from warrants issued elsewhere.

The report stated: “The numbers on both sides represent substantial gains for justice.”

Meanwhile, the report’s conclusions on the European Court go against Theresa May’s desire to end the body’s authority in Britain.

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It said the court would still be needed to deal with legal procedural matters such as jurisdiction, determining the applicable law and recognition and enforcement of judgments.

The report concluded: “We believe that a role for the Court of Justice of the European Union in respect of these essentially procedural regulations is a price worth paying to maintain effective cross-border tools of justice.”

Brexit Secretary David Davis has said maintaining strong co-operation will be a priority in talks, but some have urged the Government to use respected British intelligence services as a bargaining chip.

Justice Committee chair Bob Neill said: “We welcome the Government’s signals that it intends to continue to cooperate with the EU on criminal justice.

“The seriousness of the matter and the degree of mutual interest give weight to the suggestion that this aspect of negotiations be separated firmly from others – it is too precious to be left vulnerable to tactical bargaining.”

The report set out four priorities including co-operation on criminal justice, maintaining access to the EU regulation in lucrative inter-state commercial law, enabling cross-border legal practice rights and retaining efficient mechanisms to resolve family law cases.

Sir Julian, the most senior British EU official, warned in The Independent last week of the need for strong security co-operation in Europe.

He said it was vital nations worked closely to combat international cyber-attacks, terrorists and hostile states and “be prepared for whatever the future holds”.

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