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Ministers defend decision to quit European Arrest Warrant after Brexit

3 min read

Ministers have defended the decision to ditch an EU-wide agreement on the speedy extradition of criminals after Brexit.

The Government's plans for the upcoming trade talks with the EU make clear it no longer wants to be part of the European Arrest Warrant.

Instead, the UK wants to enter into a relationship with the bloc similar to that enjoyed by the likes of Norway and Iceland.

Under the EAW, European criminals can be arrested anywhere in the EU and quickly sent back to their home countries.

But the 30-page negotiating mandate published by the Government on Thursday makes clear that the UK wants to quit the scheme.

The Lib Dems said the move could lead to 6,000 criminals avoiding prosecution.

Christine Jardine, the party's home affairs spokesperson, said: "Boris Johnson’s reckless Brexit plans threaten to cut the UK off from vital crime-fighting tools that the police use every day to keep us safe.

"Thousands of dangerous criminals could escape justice and the UK’s ability to tackle terrorism and organised crime would be seriously undermined.

"The only way to ensure vital police cooperation with Europe is kept is by stopping Brexit and staying in the EU.

"Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to stop Brexit, build a brighter future and keep our communities safe."

But a spokesman for the Prime Minister insisted leaving the EAW could end up making it easier for British police to bring home suspected criminals overseas.

He said: "Norway and Iceland sets a precedent for the EU agreeing fast-track extradition arrangements which aren’t specifically the EAW.

"In negotiating our own new fast track extradition model, we would seek to negotiate extra safeguards as compared to what’s currently in the EAW.

."The negotiation gives an opportunity to do things better, including for witnesses and victims.

"Making improvements to extradition arrangements could be to the benefit of both UK and EU citizens."

In 2017, then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd said keeping the UK in the EAW after Brexit was a "priority" for the Government.

She said: "I certainly agree with the principle that the European Arrest Warrant is an effective tool and is absolutely essential to delivering effective judgment to the murderers, rapists and paedophiles that we have managed to seek judgment on.

"It is a priority to ensure that we do remain part of it and I can also reassure Honourable colleagues throughout the House that this is something European partners want to achieve as well."

Trade talks betweek the UK and EU are set to kick off on Monday.

But the Government has already made clear that unless the broad outline of a deal is not in place by June, it is ready to walk away from the negotiations.

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