EAW Opt-Out Plan

A proposal from the government has revealed that it intends to opt out around 130 EU measures for criminal justice, one of which includes the European arrest warrant (EAW). As a result, legal professions from across the entire UK have united and have asked for public consultation regarding the government’s proposal.

It was reported that during his trade visit in Brazil last week, Prime Minister David Cameron had mentioned that the government intentions regarding the criminal justice measures and said that the opt-out powers will be exercised by the end of this year.

Law societies across the UK have expressed concerns that the new proposal will make impossible the fight against cross-border crime. According to the Law societies in England and Wales, Scotland, North Ireland and the Bar council, the new reform will also threaten the law and order in the United Kingdom. The deadline for the government to make a decision about the proposal is end of May 2014. By this date, the government must inform the European Commission whether or not it will opt out the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht EU criminal justice measures.

Scott-Moncrieff, president of Law Society of England and Wales, commented on the government decision to remove EU criminal measures from the UK and expressed a concern that this may have even greater implications. The EU measures for criminal justice are mostly procedural and are enforced so that there is an established co-operation between different members of state, which all aim to fight cross-border crime. According to Law society president, the government must seek views from experienced practitioners and engage in a consultation process that is transparent to the public as well.

According to Bar chief Michael Todd QC, the government expects to save money by outing out from the EU criminal measures. However, he also stated that the government opt-out only relates to those measures which were established before the Treaty of Lisbon (2009). He stated that this may lead to even greater confusion and higher costs. Bar chief Todd supports the statement that of the government decides to put this plan into action, the law and order in the UK will be directly threatened. According to Todd, there is enough time for the government to consult with the public on this issue. It is through transparent consultation that the government could properly assess what impact the changes will have.  Todd also mentioned that if the government decides to go for the opt out plan, it might soon seek to opt back into the EU criminal justice measures in order to fight against cross-border crime. The president of the Law Society of Scotland, Austin Lafferty supported the words by Todd and also claimed that the government’s plan will cause confusion and lead to greater costs should it opt back in to some of the criminal measures. Law Society of Northern Ireland president Imelda McMillan also added that if the government does not consult with the public on this important issue, this will raise further concern in the legal profession not only in the UK, but across Europe as well.

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