In an exasperating Justice Select Committee this week we had the Justice Minister before us to answer our concerns about the impacts of Brexit on the justice system.
Before the scrutinising of the Minister we heard evidence from the Bar Council, QCs and others on their concerns – especially over the European Arrest Warrant.
It has become clear that the UK Government is accepting that the European Court of Justice will still have supreme judicial oversight in EU law so I wanted to know what would happen if an EU national fought UK legal action – say extradition through the European Arrest Warrant.
The Minister didn’t know. So I asked what risk analysis have they undertaken and what information are they sharing with the legal profession on issues such as this. The Minister stated that the Ministry of Justice has not undertaken such action – instead hoping that the Home Office would.
This is completely unacceptable. We leave the EU on the 29 March 2019 and the UK Government have still to figure out what the impact will be on our justice system. Loss of the European Arrest Warrant would undermine our polices ability to keep us safe. The lack of briefings to QCs and legal professionals means they will be unable to make the right decisions on law and order. All in all this Justice Committee session raised more concerns than answers.
Following the recent summit in Brussels over Brexit the Prime Minister returned to the House of Commons to deliver a statement on the stalled negotiations.
I pressed the Prime Minister yet again on the progress of securing the European Arrest Warrant. In particular, I raised my concern the if we lose access to this vital tool to tackle crime it would undermine our ability to extradite people back to the UK to hold them accountable for their crimes during the Troubles.
Sadly, I received no solid reply that progress has been made. All too often people focus on the ‘big ticket items’ surrounding Brexit but failed to notice that it also includes cooperation with our neighbours to tackle crime and bring those who wish to harm our communities to justice.
There have been two resignations from senior members of the Government’s cabinet today. The Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU have both departed because they stated they had no confidence in the proposals put before them. The Government is in a mess, the Prime Ministers authority lays in tatters and we are still none the wiser on what our future relationship with the EU will be once we leave. Remember a deal must be struck by October 2018 and voted upon by Parliament to ensure that we do not fall off a cliff edge in March 2019.
Many people pressed the Prime Minister on the political situation she finds herself in. I wanted to drill down into further detail on our future security relationship with the EU. It is shocking to see that the former Home Secretary is willing to throw the European Arrest Warrant overboard and put our safety at risk. I asked her what the Government is doing to support our police officers in catching criminals and bringing them to justice.
March 2019 is when we leave the EU. We only have 8 months left and the Government can still not provide the public with details on our security arrangements after Brexit.
EUROPOL and the European Arrest Warrant are key in protecting us. It allows our police to share intelligence with other EU nations and ensures that any criminal that has fled the UK after committing an offence can be brought back to face justice.
You would expect these two factors alone make the UK Government put our relationship with international security bodies front and centre of our negotiations. You would have thought that they would have a position by now. But no. Instead we have a government desperately fighting internal battles for supremacy on Brexit. They are not thinking with the interests of the country in mind only that of their party.
As a former policing and securities minister I can tell you how valuable our cooperation is with EU countries in tackling crime. Losing out on EUROPOL and the European Arrest Warrant will hinder the police’s ability to keep our streets safe.