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Barnier: UK red lines mean no European Arrest Warrant

PUBLISHED: 10:58 19 June 2018 | UPDATED: 15:40 19 June 2018

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier

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The UK will not be able to take part in the European Arrest Warrant after Brexit, Michel Barnier said today as he hit out at British politicians who sought to blame Brussels for the consequences of the Leave vote.

The European Union's chief negotiator said Theresa May's "red lines" meant it was impossible to remain part of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which has helped bring criminals including failed 21/7 London tube bomber Hussain Osman to justice.

Mr Barnier also stressed the need for the UK's future relationship with the EU to be based on a "common commitment to human rights".

That would mean Britain remaining signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights - a Council of Europe rather than EU document - something which the prime minister has previously threatened to pull out of.

Figures show that, since 2009, Britain has made 2,014 requests under the EAW, leading to 1,250 arrests and 1,079 surrenders.

In a speech in Vienna, Mr Barnier stressed that "facts have consequences" and the government's approach to Brexit meant that the benefits of EU membership on security and legal co-operation could not remain exactly the same.

He said the EU wanted a deal with the UK based on four pillars:

  • Effective exchange of information: This would include sharing passenger name records (PNR) data with the UK authorities. But this would not allow access to EU-only or Schengen-only databases.
  • Operational co-operation: The UK would be able to participate in Europol analysis projects dealing with live investigations, but would not be able to shape the strategic direction of EU agencies.
  • Judicial co-operation in criminal matters: The EU is ready to "facilitate co-operation" on mutual legal assistance, but the UK cannot remain part of the EAW.
  • Countering money-laundering and terrorist finance: This would involve transparency on identifying the true owners of firms and trusts.

Explaining his position on the EAW, Mr Barnier said the prime minister's red lines meant the UK would not accept free movement of people, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice or the application of the charter of fundamental rights.

"This means that the UK cannot take part in the European Arrest Warrant," he said, but stressed that a "streamlined" extradition process with time limits could be introduced in its place.

He said Brussels' position was a "fair offer" but acknowledged that some in the UK would like to go further, pointing out that the government's paper on security, law enforcement and criminal justice "expresses a desire to keep the benefits of EU membership".

Mr Barnier said: "They want to maintain all the benefits of the current relationship, while leaving the EU regulatory, supervision, and application framework. And they try to blame us for the consequences of their choice.

"Once again, we will not be drawn into this blame game. It would mean wasting time we don't have."

Mr Barnier said the future relationship would need to be based on "strong safeguards on fundamental rights, data protection and dispute settlement".

He added: "The UK has been a party to the European Convention of Human Rights since 1953 and we expect this commitment to be maintained."

Before the referendum, Mrs May - then home secretary - had suggested abandoning the ECHR and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.

The 2017 Tory manifesto committed to remaining a signatory to the ECHR for the duration of the Parliament.

On data protection, the UK's standards would have to "remain in line" with those set by Brussels.

Mrs May's official spokesman said: "If you look at the co-operation between the EU27 and the UK in relation to the arrest and removal of foreign nationals, it's a relationship which has been greatly beneficial to the European Union."

The spokesman noted that Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently said he did not believe any EU27 interior minister wanted to weaken the current security relationship with the UK.

A Dexeu spokesman said: "Keeping citizens in the UK and EU safe is an absolute priority. We have set out our commitment to this and how we can continue to work together and maintain current operational capability.

"We are proposing an Internal Security Treaty to deliver this. We recognise we will be a third country, but we start from a unique position of complete alignment.

"Any drop in the breadth and quality of co-operation would have a direct impact on public safety and on our collective ability to deliver justice across Europe.

"Clearly this remains a matter for negotiation."

Labour MP Virendra Sharma, a champion for the anti-Brexit Best for Britain campaign group, said that "organised crime and criminals do not stop at the cliffs of Dover".

He said: "We need to have mechanisms to bring people to justice otherwise criminals will have a free-for-all.

“For all these supposedly law-and-order Conservatives to turn their backs on crucial systems like the European Arrest Warrant shows how determined they are to pull up the drawbridge. They seem to want to go back to the bad old days of the Costa del Crime.

"Official figures released to Best for Britain show that European Arrest Warrants issued by the UK Government have led to 121 arrests for child sex offences, 85 arrests for rape, 181 arrests for drug trafficking, 61 for murder and 4 terror-related arrests since 2009."

Meanwhile, Brexit talks are continuing in Brussels today and tomorrow, with officials discussing the Irish border and the future relationship.

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