Cameron wants a ‘veto moment’ – but is an opt-out really a good thing for the UK?
Posted: Monday 15 Oct 2012
In his strategy to neutralise the threat of UKIP before the next election David Cameron will plan ‘veto moments’ in the coming months – ‘standing up to Europe’ to satisfy his backbenchers. This morning’s announcement by the Home Secretary on whether the UK will exercise its option (negotiated under the Lisbon Treaty) to opt out of most EU crime and policing policy (including the European Arrest Warrant (EAW)), is an issue of real substance which deeply affects our security, the protection of UK citizens’ and arguably our wider influence in the EU.
It was ironic that on the same day earlier this month that Jeremy Forrest – the maths teacher who had evaded the British police for days – was apprehended in France thanks to a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), David Cameron also announced that the UK would exercise its right to the block opt out.
The juxtaposition went without much comment – the British public in most surveys are aware that Justice and Home Affairs cooperation in the EU is a good thing. But they are also aware of the need for reform of the EAW. The reality however is that the overwhelming success of JHA cooperation for the UK is an untold story.
The partly ideological opposition of the Tories to the ECJ’s jurisdiction in JHA matters has ignored a hugely successful JHA cooperation story which has seen the UK in the lead in the EU with UK citizens benefiting, perhaps more than most of our EU neighbours.
It has become increasingly obvious that the huge step to drop around 130 crime and justice measures has become less about the merits of how this will affect the security and safety of UK citizens and more a major staging post for Eurosceptics who view the block opt out as a rare opportunity to repatriate powers back to Westminster from Brussels.
David Cameron has until 1 June 2014 to inform the European Commission on the UK’s decision. By moving now, he creates an early ‘veto moment’ but also gives himself time to opt back into JHA measures which, if controversial, will not conflict with the 2014 or 2015 elections.
For the Tories, who like to see themselves as ‘the party of law and order’ my hope is that they will truly assess the crime and security implications of the block opt-out. The Liberal Democrats are already expressing their opposition to the opt-out and have, it seems at time of writing, forced Theresa May to be ‘minded’ to exercise the opt-out while leaving the door open for a later ‘opt-in’ particularly for the EAW, provided for by the deal.
But thus far too little has been said on the critical question of whether the opt out really is in the UK interest. It is here that the positive case is rarely made to the British people.
As the single market and free movement has become a reality, so too has the need to tackle cross border crime. The mechanisms we had before the removal of borders have simply not been adequate to tackle trafficking, cyber crime, drug trafficking and other cross border crimes.
Posted by: Admin on Monday 15 Oct 2012
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