Brexit: Theresa May warned European Arrest Warrant targeting Salisbury suspects set to be lost

EU on course to reject prime minister’s call for unique security deal – making extradition requests 'slower and more bureaucratic'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 06 September 2018 00:10
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What is still needed to complete a deal with the EU?

Theresa May has been warned today that the measure she hopes will bring to justice the Russian spies blamed for the Salisbury poisonings is set to be lost after Brexit.

The European Union is on course to reject the prime minister’s call for a unique deal to preserve existing security cooperation, including through the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), a study concludes.

The alarm is raised the day after Ms May announced an arrest warrant had been obtained to seize the Moscow intelligence officers suspected of being behind the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

The UK extradites more than 150 suspects a year from other EU countries and sends back around 1,100 – compared with less than 60 before the EAW was introduced.

Now the report, by the Institute for Government (IfG) think tank, has warned the EU is offering only a “slightly” better security deal than with other non-EU countries – far short of Ms May’s dream of a “deep and special partnership”.

“A deal based on precedent would be better than no deal at all, but it would still be damaging,” its report said.

“The countries with the closest security cooperation with the EU, including Norway and Switzerland, do not have access to all EU databases, cannot participate fully in the operations of Europol, the EU’s police agency, and have more complicated extradition arrangements with the EU.”

Without the EAW, the extradition of foreign criminals would be “slower and more bureaucratic”, with suspects enjoying more “procedural rights”, the IfG said.

Police chiefs in Northern Ireland, who “treasured” the EAW, feared a return to the “almost toxic relationship” with Dublin during the Troubles, which meant extraditions “could take years”.

The gloomy conclusions come after Amber Rudd, the former home secretary, warned Ms May, in the Commons, that any loss of security cooperation would be “completely unacceptable to the people of the UK”.

And they come despite the prime minister effectively abandoning her refusal to accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Brexit, one major obstacle to a security deal.

The white paper that followed the Chequers deal “accepted the sole competence of the ECJ in interpreting EU rules”, the IfG noted – prompting Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, to speak more warmly of a security deal.

However, weak data protection rules remained a huge stumbling block, with the ECJ having twice struck down the UK’s “handling of personal data”.

This year’s Data Protection Act “could also cause problems”, the report said, partly because it removed data protection rights for any investigations relating to immigration probes.

Tim Durrant, the IfG’s senior researcher, warned: “Both sides will have to move to avoid a serious reduction in cooperation which would only benefit criminals.”

Naming the Salisbury suspects on Wednesday, the prime minister told MPs: “We have obtained a European Arrest Warrant and will shortly issue an Interpol red notice.”

“Should either of these individuals ever again travel outside Russia, we will take every possible step to detain them, to extradite them and to bring them to face justice here in the United Kingdom.”

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman, said: “The UK’s access to the European Arrest Warrant will be critical in bringing these men to justice. But the arrest warrant is now in jeopardy as a result of Brexit.”

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