Under the Lisbon Treaty, the UK government must decide in one year’s time, by 31 May 2014, whether Britain will remain part of approximately 130 existing EU police and judicial cooperation measures, including the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) – which speeds up the arrest and extradition of suspects from one EU member state to another – and Europol, the organisation that co-ordinates the fight against organised crime and terrorism in Europe. According to the terms of the treaty, the UK would have to exercise a bulk opt-out from all police and criminal justice cooperation, and then would likely opt back in to those measures it liked (a process that might be complicated by rising frustration towards Britain’s EU policy in some European capitals).

The issue is one of many that are currently straining relations between the two parties in the governing coalition, with the more pro-European Liberal Democrats arguing they will not support the bulk opt-out unless Britain immediately opts back in to Europol and the European Arrest Warrent (an instrument seen by some in the more eurosceptic Conservative party as allowing British citizens to be extradited to foreign jails for trivial reasons).

In total, five EU member states (the UK, Denmark, Ireland, Poland and Sweden) have opt-outs from various pieces of EU legislation. We had a comment sent in from Christos on the topic of opt-outs, saying:

No more cherry-picking is my attitude. How can we build a functioning union if every state picks only what suits them and opts out from what doesn’t? There will be no ‘union’ if this happens!

To get a response, we took Christos’ comment to Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs (who also happens to be from Sweden, a country with a de facto opt-out from joining the euro). With the UK now deciding whether or not to opt-out from so many police and judicial cooperation laws, could she understand why Christos thought this was unfair?

We also put the same question to Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish MEP with the centre-left  Social Democrats group, former Spanish Minister of Justice and current Chair of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee in the European Parliament. How would he respond to Christos?

79 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think? Should the UK government use its opt-out from all police and judicial cooperation, including leaving Europol and the European Arrest Warrent? How would this affect the fight against crime and terrorism? And is it unfair that some countries have these opt-outs, whilst others don't? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we'll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

    • avatar
      Christo lewis

      The european warrent is fine if the crime is serious but to extradite a uk subject for a crime committed 7 years ago lets say from uk to ireland is a waste of money they should be abel to serve there sentence in uk if guilty

  1. avatar
    Umberto Banchieri

    Yes. Or out or in. Too easy to want to just have the advantages of something and did not want to support the costs

    • avatar

      There are no advantages for us, only costs. If we are out, we can throw EU migrants out that are now stealing our jobs, undercutting our workers.

  2. avatar
    Alex Merkin

    Of course it should not the UK needs a leader that will commit to full membership including the Euro.

  3. avatar
    Alex Merkin

    Of course it should not. The UK needs a leader that will commit to full membership including the Euro.

  4. avatar
    Tony Westfallen

    It the case of equality…I am glad to hear that other Europeans think it is right that the British people are also allowed a referendum on their EU membership…hey if you want equality, lets have it everywhere!

  5. avatar
    Tony Westfallen

    two points…dont confuse the wishes of British politicians with the wishes of the british people, and secondly, anyone who wants equality doesnt understand that when it comes to human beings we are all different – respect the difference, instead of demanding equality!

  6. avatar

    Seems fair to me. Why force a nation to adopt a set of rules that it doesn’t believe are in its best interests (whether they make sense to you or not?). UK also seems able to opt in to parts which are relevant to its requirements and those that are important to its partners! Instead of complaining about the UK can’t the EU just meet it halfway, and take on a few British initiatives (Always seems publicised as one way traffic either locally or abroad!)?

  7. avatar
    Alex Merkin

    As a pro-Eu Brit I must say how the majority of British people were conned out of full membership of the EU by the right-wing press and politicians is disgraceful to say the least. These laws are created by elected Meps and commission for the benefit of people and I do admit lesser membership works in favor of some countries like Scandinavian countries but not the UK.

    As regarde to the referendum it is all for the wrong reasons as a way to get votes and is unlikely to happen.

  8. avatar
    Angel Desahucio Quintana

    What is not fair is having a police corp that will beat unarmed peaceful citizens. But hey! It’s our model, right? what we should be proud of…. well, I am not, and everyday I see more and more people that will not take this scam BS anymore. So now, you government people have to decide, are you gonna keep this way or start working for the people paying the taxes that pay your salaries? (that is the voters, not the corrupted corporations)

  9. avatar
    Erika Young

    No, no country should have op-outs… either you’re in a marriage or you’re not… it’s not ‘I’ll take what I like and leave what I don’t’

  10. avatar
    Massimo Santambrogio

    A so great and important project should have been ratified by an opt-in referendum in all countries to build a real and strong union.
    Which is the best, an half Union of 28 or a full Union of 10?

  11. avatar
    Urban Schrott

    As if anyone is forcing the UK to stay in… If they want a referendum and leave, they should be given the option. We reintroduce customs duties and tariffs on all British export goods and services and they get to keep all they’re paying into the EU budget and everyone’s happy. It works for Norway and Iceland, why wouldn’t it for UK? The worst marriages are forced ones…

  12. avatar
    Ian Young

    Theresa May is merely showboating to the Tory backbench Swivalent Tendency.

    National police forces in several countries do not bother with frivolous EU arrest warrant requests and I also believe that a nation that departs from the democratic norms of EU membership like Hungary should not benefit from the privileges of the EU arrest warrant.

    The EU arrest warrant is a much more flexible arrangement than the ghastly treaty Blair signed with the US which for example has seen the extradition of Baba Ahmed on serious terrorist charges on the flimsiest of pretexts (and by not being white enough to have a Daily Mail campaign, he was not granted the same reprieve as Gary MacKinnon).

  13. avatar
    Dot Bekker

    I agree with you Urban, the British can then also have new non-EU passports and may require visas for entry. British citizens living abroad will have to have their automatic rights to residence reviewed and may no longer benefit from tax agreements and certainly not from EU health services. Let’s also not forget that EU countries will also be more inclined to support EU trade and taxes and duties could make British goods non-competitive. I’m all for it … it’s like that boyfriend you’ve been with for years who wants all the benefits but won’t make the commitment!

    • avatar
      Paul X

      The thing is Dot…..
      There are more EU people living in the UK than UK people living in Europe
      The UK health service is one of the best in Europe as the many non UK nationals who benefit from it will testify
      The UK imports more from Europe than it exports
      So any “penalties” placed on the UK by the EU could be reciprocated and the EU would be the net loser
      …..and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the UK is a net contributor to the budget…
      …not so much a non-committed boyfriend, more a generous sugar daddy

  14. avatar
    Chris Morrison

    Should they opt out of all eu police co operation? Of course not!! That would be a plainly stupid thing to do. Organised crime and terror groups would be able to exploit that lacuna readily and easily and THEY SURELY WOULD. Where I do think we should draw the line is at the investigation thresholds and offence definitions. It seems wrong to me that an individual in any country can be lifted in the strength of a warrant where it would not happen if the matter had arisen domestically either because the conduct alleged did not amount to an offence in the country being asked to arrest him, or because no power of arrest or suspicion threshold test applied in the country requesting it. This would clearly amount to a potential injustice, and for that reason I would make sure that additional tests would require the courts to consider each of these applied before they would sanction this type of cross border activity. It would of course have the effect of raising investigative standards to the highest rather than lowest common denominator and prevent extradition for dodgy political reasons and spurious ‘political’ charges.

  15. avatar
    Will W

    It’s the 1 June 2014, not 1 July.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Sorry, well spotted! We have corrected the date of the deadline (the UK parliament gives it as 31 May 2014).

  16. avatar
    David Fuzzey

    I do not want an eu passport only a British one . We but more from you than you buy from us . eu ciitizens will also loose free movement and leave to stay rights . good on the Health services as most `eu` citizens coming hear pay nothing at all even if they should. It`s like that girlfriend , you go out for a day as friends then she thinks your married.

  17. avatar
    Ray Winter

    An arrest warrant in Britain is issued after very serious analysis of the crime and a clear picture of the likely perpetrator is identified whereas it seems that many EU countries simply issue an arrest warrant on a pure suspicion and only undertake a real investigation after they have a person in jail and this is where the problem lies. All EU countries should be required to prepare a detailed analysis of their suspicions, so that the judges of the country in which a potential perpetrator resides can make an assessment of the quality of the case against the person and if they agree there is a case to answer, they can allow the warrant to be enacted. With a use of this process, opt-outs are unnecessary as safeguards are then in place.

  18. avatar

    Can we get a referendum in Netherlands too? Our politicians might be surprised to learn that here too it is the political class that is for it (for the tax-exempt unelected jobs and the ability to bypass democratic parliaments) and the people are either lukewarm or opposed.

    Don’t pretend the British people are the only ones opposed. This is the case all over. The unelected Brussels crowd just doesn’t want to admit it.

    All we needed was some level of economic cooperation (EEC). We do not need political integration (and not just because its undemocratic), we certainly do not need the Euro (a disaster for all but the rich and corporations).

    No fiscal transfers. No fiscal union. Ever. Thou shalt not get our pension funds.

  19. avatar

    Britain should do what’s best for Britain, which is to opt out of everything. Britain is better off without the EU, but the EU is worse off without Britain. After all, who are they gonna get to cover the loss of Britain’s net contribution? France? Don’t make me laugh.

  20. avatar
    Matt dovey

    UK should opt out of what ever it wants.Dot Bekker very happy with what you have described, I’m looking forward to it.
    So do we not have cross boarder cooperation with counties outside the eu on organised crime and terrorism? If we do cooperate with none eu countries does this not mean you don’t have to be part of a union for such a thing to take place. Therefore there is no real benefit to being part of the eu as far as law and order is concerned. No real benefit to being part of the eu full stop as far as I can see

  21. avatar

    Speaking of police/justice cooperation. Arrest all those who run the ESM! Oh wait, we cannot, they’re immune, despite that they can steal our money and give it to other countries.

  22. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    I totally agree with Mr. Juan Fernando López Aguilar.. Thanx for the reply and I am with you in those that you mentioned..

  23. avatar
    Antonio Jose Pecurto Pecurto

    Se na Europa temos livre de circulao de pessoas e bns porque ser que os estados da UE tem barreias sobre os passaportes se hoje a Europa esta a transformar no estado unico de politicas de federalismo europeu e porque no criarem um carto unico dentro do espao da UE na minha opinio os cidados da UE estavam mais tranquilos com o carto unico

  24. avatar
    Mark Calvert-Foster

    @alex merkin. I am also a pro-euro Brit, but I want a referendum. I believe we can win it and it might help shut-up the ‘drawbridge’ right wing.

  25. avatar

    @Dot Bekker
    You forget that the undemocratic EU is also unpopular in Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Finland etc…

    Only the politicians are in favor.

    If Britain moves out, they should call it liberation day.

  26. avatar
    Paul Galbally

    I think the UK should definetely stay cooperating with the other EU police forces, think of all that excellent covert intellegence they get on all the other EU countries from the US, its invaluable. ;-)

  27. avatar
    Konstantin Kozlov

    Opt-outs are perfectly ok. There is a difference between law unification, and executive structures unification. The former should be done, to make cross-border interactions easier. The latter – better leave it national in many cases, since the unified structure will no longer be accountable to the elected national government. And UK has nice enough law enforcement

  28. avatar

    The EAW is an affront to the civil liberties of all Europeans. Little or no evidence need to be produced as to any guilt before arrest ,extradition and imprisonment
    It is the duty of the state to protect its citizens ,to ensure civil rights and a fair trial and to uphold liberties enshrined in the magna carta and habeas corpus. (UK legal provision that prevents unlawfull detention).
    The old extradition treaties and co-operation between police forces in dealing with serious crimes worked , Different countries have different takes on what is and what is not a crime the EAW puts us all under the laws of all states . That is unacceptable to freedoms , liberties and democracy.
    All states should take another look at this but for now and to answer the question , co-operation is great the EAW is not.

  29. avatar
    Alberto Buttini

    If UK doesn’t want the cooperation and the integration between the EU members or the Eurozone member States, must say and must decide if to exit from the EU. United Kingdom stop all accords and it is not possibile much more.

  30. avatar
    George Yiannitsiotis

    Opt-out from a West European Usurers Corporation does not signal the end of the World; should a real European Union have existed, then my compatriot Christos would have been right!

  31. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    The Latin nations have inferior police forces, inferior legal systems and inferior justice systems. When the Latin nations raise their game to the levels of the UK or Denmark etc then maybe we should coalesce our Police forces. Until then NO!!

  32. avatar
    Limbidis Adrian

    You don’t get to ‘pick and choose, the EU isn’t an open menu” as some politician in the EU already threw this in the face of smug british PM David Cameron.
    You either take the package or you can get out altogether, no one likes a spoiled brat.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      You don’t get to ‘pick and choose, the EU isn’t an open menu”

      Those that are picking up the bill can choose what they want from the menu, those who are having it paid for them should be grateful for what they get….

    • avatar
      Limbidis Adrian

      NO Paul, everyone is ‘picking up the bill” not just Britain.
      Nobodycares that you pay more or you pay less. If we’re going to rub in the faces of others that “hey we PAY more” then we might as well not join any union altogether.
      Selfishness and smug arrogance has no place here.

    • avatar

      And they’d be better off for leaving.

      Let the Eurosoviet Union wither and die like it deserves to. Like with that success story of theirs, the Euro. Succesfully plunged millions into unemployment and poverty whilst the Barroso’s and Rompuy’s are champaigning it up and pay no taxes.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      The UK is the third highest of the 11 net contributors to the EU budget, 16 countries benefit from our contributions. Explain to hard working UK taxpayers why their money should be going to these countries when we have plenty of problems in our own country?
      Why should we pay for the privilidge of having rules and regulations forced upon us which destroy our industries and ways of life? If the countries that benefit from the EU budget disagree so strongly with UK opt – out then they should leave the EU in protest, but I bet their objections aren’t that strong………

  33. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    The UK holds the ‘balance of power’ when it comes to deciding the 21st century hegemony to compete with the Chinese.

    WITH the UK, the EU can compete with the USA for said position. If the USA & UK unite the EU will be just a bit player – if you then add the UK colonies of Canada, Australia & NZ then the EU will be a backwater.

    If the UK leaves the EU then the EU will ultimately become a Latin state – something the Germans will STOP at all costs.

    The Germans NEED the UK to counterbalance negative Latin propensities – without the UK, German power will ultimately be over-ruled by club-Med.

    At the end of the day ‘some nations are more equal than others’ – this is why the French have Follywood tax breaks (i.e. those used to support the laughable French film industry) – the UK WILL pick its cherries ELSE the EU will slowly but surely become marginalised.

  34. avatar

    Exactly. The UK holds the balance of power and has all the aces.

    ANd you’re not even mentioning the net contribution that would be lost and someone would have to cover for that…

  35. avatar

    Britian should co-operate with certain eu police matters that do not infringe on our sovereignty

  36. avatar

    Urban, the UK buys more from our EU cousins than we sell , it is us who will dictate terms on trade .

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      Well said Streetwalker!! The Germans know how powerful the UK’s position is – if the UK opts out Germany will in the long run be overrun by debts as well as silly laws and protocols advanced by the lazy members of Club Med. BTW, here are some of the ‘cherries’ that the UK should pick:

      If France wants a cultural [costly] exception for ‘culture’ then EVERY nation should have same too.

      Euronews, created as a counter to the Anglo-Saxon view (how on Earth can it be called a ‘news’ channel with such a prejudicial remit?) should be moved to the UK or Germany.

      The UK should have all its fishing grounds & rights restored – the current deal favouring Spain and Portugal costs the UK £3billion per annum and has lost the UK 100,000 jobs!!

      Close down the Strasbourg parliament and create a new one in the UK or Germany.

      Make English the only official language of the EU – thereby saving billions per annum and helping to civilize Club Med with the largest most expressive. most incisive and most multi-cultural language in the world!!

    • avatar

      Does a drunk dictate to the landlord the terms on which the beer is sold?

  37. avatar

    Whether the UK opts out, withdraws or stays in will not make much of a difference. The UK is already an outsider in the EU.

    The only decision which would make a difference is the UK asking to join the euro. This would certainly change others’ opinion about the UK. However, the UK joining the euro is a political impossibility.

    My bet is that we’ll see the UK and the EU drifting further apart in the years to come, until UK membership has become worthless (if you’re UKIP) and meaningless (if you’re a eurofanatic).

  38. avatar
    Alex Merkin

    Theresa Mays is power hungry she threatened to take the UK out of the Echr .Diffintley the Uk should stay in the EAW and everything else British Gouverment opt-out of including Schengen and the Euro.

  39. avatar
    Eduardo Barroso

    Not at all!!! If you are there for good things and take profit from them you should be there for the worst too…its like marriage!

  40. avatar
    Alex Merkin

    Theresa Mays is power hungry she threatened to take the UK out of the Echr . Definitely the UK should stay in the EAW and everything else British Gouverment opt-out of including Schengen and the Euro.

  41. avatar
    Alex Merkin

    Theresa Mays is power hungry she threatened to take the UK out of the Echr . Definitely the UK should stay in the EAW and everything else British Gouverment opt-out of including Schengen and the Euro.

  42. avatar

    As we are coming out of the EU there is no point in “opting in” to any of these measures. In any event, these matters would have to be put before the people in a Referendum of course, because they touch on the people’s own Long standing Common Law Constitution.

  43. avatar

    David Fuzzey. We are indeed better off out. Perhaps you should get this message out to all your members? As we have been denied a REFERENDUM before the 2015 General Election (Plus, it is very unlikely the LIBDENCONS will get in POWER again for a long time, we are going to use the General Election as the REFERENDUM we have been denied since 1972/3 and going to vote only for those Political Parties or Organisations that want OUT of the EU ASAP. There is absolutely no point in voting for any of the major three we have so foolishly voted for in the past, for they ALL WANT TO REMAIN IN THE EU-FOREVER. Yet they would still like to be paid as if they are indeed governing this Country. The only TRUE and lawful way to Govern this Country is by its 600 year old Common law Constitution that so many gave their lives for in the 1939 to 1945 World WAR.

  44. avatar

    As “opting in” to Policing and Justice and Home Affairs touches very strongly on our Constitution, it may well be a matter of treason to “opt in”. All, including our elected Government and all Members of Parliament also so swear solemn Oaths of Allegiance to the British Crown before they may take up their seats in Parliament, even though some people have freely voted for them. To propose to ‘opt into’ those matters (particularly if those “opt in” were permanent, would not, I suggest, be in keeping with those solemn Oaths to the Crown, and through the Crown likewise to all UK Citizens.

  45. avatar
    Vicente Silva Tavares

    Every country should have the freedom of leaving an association that do not believe it works for the common good. What’s wrong with UK is, first they do not just leave, second they want all the benefits and do not share any of the expenses.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      “second they want all the benefits and do not share any of the expenses”

      Excuse me but I believe the UK being the third highest net contributor means we are paying more than our fair share of the expense

      ……and I’m still waiting for someone to write a list of “all the benefits” I’m getting for my hard earned taxes?

    • avatar

      Dear Vicente Silva Tavares, the people that pay their taxes “TODAY” have not had one say on whether they want TO BE IN or REMAIN in the European Union. They allegedly freely elect and contribute financially to the pay and vast expenses of those that sit on those GREEN Benches in our House of Commons yet none of them can Govern our Country through its Common Law Constitution-which is the only way it should be Governed. TO OPT IN TO POLICING AND JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS IS BORDERING ON TREASON IF NOT ACTUAL TREASON. This is only the very beginning of what may happen before these 2014 OPT OUTs are opted back in to, for the people cannot keep voting and paying for those three major Political Parties that want foreigners to govern this Country. If the people in all the other countries in the EU want to continue to do so-they will never get out of the finacially troubles they are already in. The people of the UK have been paying for two Governments and Three Parliaments for 41 years. Sorry but we cannot continue to do that any more. It depends whether this Government OPTs in to anything rather than remain with the OPT OUTS. The 2015 General Election will decide whether we are in our out of the EU, for we are using it as the REFERENDUM on the EU we have been denied.

  46. avatar

    I think that UK should be fully involved in all EU policies. I have a feeling that there is a diversion being created – EU on one side and UK on the other. It is all the same. There is no two European Unions, there is only one. That’s why if there is something agreed by all the member states, it should apply to all countries. I would even vote for UK to adopt the euro currency.

    The debate about UK quitting the European Union doesn’t make any sense. Thinking that one county can do well in the modern word is a nonsense. The other question is what would remain of UK next year, after Scottish referendum. Who knows, maybe after Scotland it is gonna be Northern Irleand?

    UK must stay inside the EU. Europe must be united to tackle the difficulties of modern world.

  47. avatar

    Even if this Government opt’s OUT of Justice and Home Affairs and Policing in 2014, please remember that if any of the THREE MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES GET INTO Government in the 2015 General election-THEY CAN STILL OPT IN TO Justice and Home Affairs and Policing. Who you vote for in 2015 is the most important GENERAL ELECTION you will ever have, because if you vote for those that want to remain in the EU-forever-THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU WILL GET.

  48. avatar
    Dana Voicu

    Let’s get real.. UK need EU more then EU need UK… all these.. opt-out ideas are nothing more then electoral propaganda looking to exploit the nostalgia of some voters after the former glory of the Victorian British Empire…
    Take a break and… just imagine the life in an UK outside of EU.. in the view of the promoters of such solution..
    – no immigrants from other EU states – therefore.. plenty of jobs and all for English only.. and they will ask for bigger salaries.. (after-all this is what they complain about) .. good for them.. they will get the money… for how long? because the prices of the British products on international market will grow significantly.. if we add to this the fact that by leaving EU, the custom taxes will be added to the export prices… then.. UKIP shall answer to the following question:
    How long the British economy will resist without EU common market?

  49. avatar

    Strangely the UK has survived for many hundreds of years without the EU, for we have the wonderful free Commonwealth with us, not dominating us or making laws we have to obey and if we do not, be fined very heavily. We do not have to pay billions and billions of pounds to be in it either. They stand by us no matter what and they do not scorn us when we make a decision. Even if we get it wrong at times, like remain in the EU.

  50. avatar

    The British Police swear allegiance to the Crown and I suggest that if any foreign Police person arrested a British Citizen here in the UK

  51. avatar
    Dave Cushnan

    One rule doesn’t apply to all. As you can see EVERY COUNTRY in the world is trying to get a better deal for its citizens, (in the case of the dictatorships , well that’s another matter), but can we honestly believe that we would like someone to come and tell us how to integrate with our own families and if someone wanted to take one of our family members away without a proper reason would we allow/accept this. Should pay our salaries to to whatever /whoever asks or requests it without condition, NO WE WOULD NOT , so for all you people saying that the Eu is great and good and stay in this corrupt small minded club, you need to look at the misery that it has caused and discontent since the wall came down. The Uk will get along just fine without the EU, as it is in there nature to survive. People need to remember 60% of the world (Common Wealth) was not controlled by a little island because they had their head up the back sides it was because the people had the will and courage to go it alone. Leave the EU leave the EAW and lets see how needs how, all this bickering with argument, let the British people act and then see if the GREAT cannot be restored into ‘GREAT BRITAIN’

  52. avatar

    There is absolutely no point in having a National Government if it cannot GOVERN its own Country in ALL matters, especially such as this.

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