By Rory McKeown
Southern Daily Echo Online – 11 November 2014
Conservative MP Julian Lewis has attacked plans for Britain to sign up to the European Arrest Warrant - but the planned vote descended into shambles. The New Forest East MP said the move was another attempt by Brussels to move the country "along the path of European unification". And he raised the alarm over miscarriages of justice, warning British citizens could be sent to EU states with "different legal frameworks and standards to our own".
However, the controversy descended into farce after a furious Speaker accused the Government of dodging a vote – despite an explicit promise by David Cameron to let MPs have their say. MPs later voted on 11 other EU justice and security measures, but Home Secretary Theresa May said there would be no separate vote on the arrest warrant.
In a rowdy Commons, Speaker Bercow said:
"This has been a rather sorry saga....a commitment made is a commitment that should be honoured."
Ministers had argued that Britain risked becoming a "safe haven" for criminals unless the police retained the power to extradite suspects quickly between EU states. Supporters point to cases such as the successful arrest of Briton Jeremy Forrest in France - a teacher who was subsequently jailed for abducting a schoolgirl he ran away with. Before the vote, Ms May said the warrant
"helps us to tackle cross-border crimes, deport foreign criminals, track down those who seek to evade the law, and bring them to justice."
But Mr Lewis said:
"We shouldn't have to be members of the European Union in order to have safe and satisfactory extradition measures in place. This is yet another example of the EU trying to use individual legal arrangements to draw the United Kingdom along the path of European unification. And that is not a path I am prepared to endorse."
On miscarriages, he added:
"One of the problems is that it could mean sending our citizens to other legal jurisdictions that may have different legal frameworks and standards to our own. It's typical of what happens when you have a blanket approach and try to devise policies for widely-differing countries across the EU."
The Government opted out of all 133 EU police and criminal justice measures in 2013, a decision that will take effect on December 1. Ministers want to rejoin 35 of the measures before that deadline. They include the European Arrest Warrant – but a separate vote is not required.