Opting out of EU crime-fighting measures could cause ‘reputational damage’ to the UK, peers have warned in a report published today.
Following an enquiry by two sub-committees on the UK’s planned opt-out of 130 European crime and policing measures, the House of Lords EU committee has concluded that the government should seek to rejoin measures additional to the 35 where the home secretary has identified membership as being in the national interest.
Measures that the government has already indicated it will seek to rejoin include the European arrest warrant, and membership of Europol and Eurojust.
The Lords' committee recommended that the government rejoin the framework decision on combating racist and zenophobic hate crimes; the European judicial network; the European probation order and the convention of driving disqualifications.
Lord Hannay, the former diplomat who chairs of the home affairs, health and education EU sub-committee, said: ‘The committees are in agreement with the government and this House that it is in the UK’s national interest to seek to rejoin the 35 measures the government has identified.
‘However, we consider that the UK should also seek to rejoin a small number of additional measures because of possible substantive and reputational damage that definitively opting out of them could bring.’
Hannay said opting out of the framework decision on tackling racist and zenophobic hate crimes risks damaging the standing that the UK has built up in being at the forefront of combating such crimes.
In addition, he said the government has not given enough consideration to the negative impact the opt-out decision may have on Anglo-Irish cooperation in policing and criminal justice matters, which he suggested the the UK currently benefits from.
Chairman of the justice, institutions and consumer protection EU sub-committee Baroness Corston called on the government to work flexibly with the European Commission in order to avoid any gaps in the application of the measures the UK will seek to rejoin.
For example, she said the UK must ensure that rejoining the European arrest warrant is ‘water-tight’ well in advance of the opt-out taking effect, to prevent problems for our criminal justice system.
Corston asked the government to provide regular reports to parliament on the progress of the negotiations to rejoin the identified measures and conduct a review of the impact of the opt-out decision three years after it has taken effect.
Negotiations between the government and the European Commission are expected to begin formally next month, ahead of the opt-out taking effect on 1 December 2014.