Leaving the European Arrest Warrant is essential


The outrageously accented and highly unlikable Michael Barnier has declared that the UK can’t stay in the European Arrest Warrant when we finally conclude the tortuous, mind-numbing process of leaving the EU.

As far as defeats for the Government go, this one is great.

The European Arrest Warrant gets a wonderful press at the hands of the great and the good. Unsurprisingly, Theresa May, has defended its use robustly, saying in 2014 that it is “vitally important to our police and law enforcement agencies” because “it helps us to tackle cross-border crimes, deport foreign criminals, track down those who seek to evade the law, and bring them to justice.”

If she’ll be disappointed by this latest development, the breed of anti-Brexiteer who seems to believe that everything that exists across the channel is a beacon of academic, rights-based enlightenment, will be foaming at the mouth. Good.

The European Arrest Warrant bounces British citizens, some of whom are perfectly innocent, into confrontations with legal systems that are not independent, where trials are very often political and unfair and where human rights are simply not observed.

But apparently all of this is good for Britain. And, for a former Home Secretary renowned for an obsession with raw numbers, it would be. Between 2010 and 2015 we brought 796 wanted persons back from Europe and managed to deport 6514 others.

But when it comes to huge lies told by statistics, the European Arrest Warrant fallacy is one of the biggest. Migration within the EU, over the past ten years has mostly been from east to west – a fact anyone with their eyes open would have noticed – so the number of criminals extradited only really reflects the number coming here in the first place. The effect is that British courts are clogged up with extradition cases, delaying justice for the victims of crimes that happened here, in favour of crimes people are apparently suspected of on mainland Europe.

This aside, staying in the European Arrest Warrant would be catastrophic for more than just its effects on our courts. Continued membership ensures that we compromise important legal traditions and become party to political show trials.

The practical application of the European Warrant underlines what many thoughtful commentators went to great pains to highlight during the Referendum – that the European legal tradition is fundamentally different from the British one. Our system operates on the basis that unless something is specifically outlawed, then it’s fine. We enjoy the common law tradition, where the law is based on what has actually happened – unlike almost every other European country, where the law is based on things as they ought to be. And crucially, we enjoy the presumption of innocence.

The dangerous assumption of the European Arrest Warrant is that all of its signatories practice a similar enough legal code for it not matter where you are tried. Supposedly all states would apply their law in the same way, and offer up the same protections. To make this supposition is to ignore all evidence to the contrary. Indeed, it is wishful thinking. It is easily dismissed and has been consistently dismissed on these pages.

The British people voted to take back control. Taking back control of our justice system needs to be part of that. And like the EU, the European Arrest Warrant has proven to be irreformable. We must leave it as well.