Liberal Democrat MEP and European spokeswoman on justice and home affairs Sarah Ludford has welcomed the news that Conservative plans to opt out of key EU crime-fighting measures have been blocked by Liberal Democrats in coalition government.
Earlier today, following prolonged negotiations within the coalition, Theresa May announced that the government will be opting back in to 35 of the 136 pre-2009 EU police and judicial cooperation measures, including all those deemed vital by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Sarah Ludford commented:
“The Tories are now so blinded by their anti-EU ideology that they have become soft on crime. They were proposing to abandon key European crime-fighting measures which leading law enforcement figures have repeatedly warned are vital for Britain’s national security. 21st century criminal gangs do not stop at our borders. Neither should our efforts to pursue them and bring them to justice.”
“Liberal Democrats are determined not to let ideology trump the safety of the British people, and we have worked hard to ensure that reason prevails. The UK will remain part of crucial measures such as the European Arrest Warrant, which has led to the capture of thousands of gangsters, murderers, paedophiles and terrorists such as attempted London bomber Hussein Osman.
“One of Britain’s most wanted men, drug trafficker Mark Lilley, was captured just this week at his luxury villa in Malaga in a joint operation by Spanish and British police. Our police must continue to have the tools necessary to keep us safe and tackle cross-border crimes such as drug-trafficking, people-smuggling and terrorism effectively.”
“Ideally, Liberal Democrat MEPs would have preferred that the ‘block opt-out’ was not exercised at all, as recommended by the House of Lords EU Committee. We will now work to ensure that arrangements negotiated between the UK government and Brussels preserve effective UK participation in practical pan-EU police cooperation.”
Notes to Editors
- The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) mass opt-out is a mechanism negotiated by Labour in the Lisbon Treaty which allows the UK to choose to opt out en masse from 133 JHA cooperation measures which pre-date the coming into force of the Treaty in 2009. The UK is then allowed to apply to the Commission to retain some of these measures. Liberal Democrats have forcefully argued that if the opt out is exercised the Government should opt back in to all measures which are crucial for the UK’s security.
- The deal struck after more than 12 months of negotiations is to retain a package of 35 measures, including all those on a list of measures identified as vital by the Association of Chief Police Officers. In addition, during the course of the negotiations 14 items on the original list of 136 have been repealed and replaced. The government has chosen to participate in measures that replace 9 of these items, which means that the Coalition government will continue to adhere to 44 of the original list of 136.
- Since 2009, 4005 criminal suspects have been deported from the UK using the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) to other EU countries, including 57 for child sex offences, 414 for drug trafficking, 86 for rape and 105 for murder.105 for murder
- Since 2009, 384 suspects were extradited back to the UK to face charges using the EAW including 63 for child sex offences, 105 for drug trafficking, 27 for rape and 44 for murder.
- Osman Hussain, one of the failed July London bombers, was arrested in Rome in July 2005 and extradited back to the UK from Italy in less than eight weeks following the issuance of an EAW. He is now serving a life sentence.
- Mark Lilley, one of Britain’s most wanted men, was captured on 8th July at his villa in Spain. He is the 50th fugitive to have been arrested out of the 65 identified under Operation Captura, an initiative launched by the Serious Organised Crime Agency in 2006 which works with Spanish law enforcement to capture UK suspects thought to be hiding in Spain. Lilley was sentenced to 23 years in prison in his absence.
- The House of Lords EU Committee published a report in April 2013 which concluded that the Government has not made “a convincing case for exercising the opt-out” and that “Cross-border cooperation on policing and criminal justice matters between the United Kingdom and the other Member States is an essential element in tackling security threats such as terrorism and organised crime.