Britain STILL neeeds the European Arrest Warrant

Wednesday’s (5/09/2018) emergency statement by Mrs May to the House of Commons highlighted the danger of Russian meddling in British affairs, but crucially, Britain’s reliance on EU policing networks.  

In her statement, the PM stated that two Russian agents from the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, the GRU, are alleged to have used the Novichok nerve agent on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and for the botched disposal of the agent found in a public bin, which is connected to the poisoning of Charlie Rowley, and the death of Dawn Sturgess. Altogether the two men, alleged to be working under aliases, are wanted for 4 offences. 

The UK’s only realistic chance of bringing these men to justice is if they were to return to an EU member state. To apprehend these two men, Mrs May confirmed that the UK authorities have obtained an European Arrest Warrant, which will be enacted if they again set foot on EU soil.  

The Russians are not going to extradite Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Article 61 of Russia’s constitution expressly forbids the extradition of its citizens to foreign countries for trial. Also Russia will not co-operate with a country with which there has been a long history of legal estrangement.  

Since 2003, when the UK refused to action Moscow’s extradition request for Boris Berezovsky on the grounds that he was unlikely to get a fair trial due to his political views, the UK and Russia have refused to co-operate with each other’s requests for extradition. In the Alexander Litvinenko case, instead of extraditing the suspected poisoner of Litvinenko, Andrei Lugovoi, Putin awarded a medal to Lugovoi for “services to the motherland”. 

In the context of these legal and political obstacles, the importance of the European Arrest Warrant cannot be underscored enough. 

The European Arrest Warrant allows for quick extradition of criminals from one EU country to another, through the removal of red tape seen in typical extradition procedures. Sounds a good thing, right? Even arch-Brexiteer David Davis thinks so, stating it is a ‘crucial part of security co-operation’ with the EU. 

But this mechanism only works through the application of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, the concept of EU citizenship, free movement, and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Mrs May’s proposed Brexit, with all the ramifications of the EU Withdrawal Bill, will take the UK out of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Leaving the EU will also usher the end of the free movement of people, which is needed for the European Arrest Warrant to work. 

The effectiveness of the European Arrest Warrant will be curtailed even during the Brexit transition period. Article 168 of the draft withdrawal agreement states that during the transition period, EU countries may not surrender their national citizens to the UK in accordance with the surrender provisions contained in the European Arrest Warrant.
And with some countries in the EU, like Germany, having similar provisions as Russia in their constitution - specifying that they will not surrender their own citizens to non-EU countries - the UK could encounter some problems. 

Put simply, if we’re out of the EU under the terms currently on offer, people like Petrov and Boshirov will never be brought to trial and could get off scot-free. Offenders in the UK will be able to run to the continent and avoid procescution. A backward step to the Costa-del-Crime.

Is this really what we voted for?