If the UK leaves the EU without a deal in four weeks’ time cross-border criminals will have much to celebrate, the Law Society of England and Wales said today.
“When it comes to criminal justice and terrorism we currently operate in a climate of co-operation with the 27 other countries that make up the EU with a clear set of rules which covers everything from data about criminals and terrorists through to shared investigations,” said Law Society of England and Wales president Christina Blacklaws.
“But if on 29 March we crash out of the EU without a deal among the only people cheering will be criminals and those who wish us harm. It will be harder to investigate cross-border crime, harder to arrest suspects and remove them to face justice, harder to get compensation for victims.
“At the moment of departure, when it comes to criminal justice, all manner of issues will be left unresolved and solicitors will have to pick their way through 27 different justice systems instead of just one – the EU’s.”
At the moment the UK has access to a raft of agreements which facilitate co-operation in fighting crime and terrorism which overnight will cease to apply if we leave without a deal:
- European Arrest Warrant (EAW) – this speeds up requests by one member state to another for the surrender of accused or convicted people
- European Investigation Order (EIO) – which facilitates the gathering of evidence in another member state of the EU
- Europol – this agency supports member states’ responses to cross-border crime
- EU Judicial co-operation unit (Eurojust) – co-ordinates investigation and prosecution of cross border crime.
“The UK participates in ‘real time’ dissemination of alerts on wanted people, vehicles or objects and a whole raft of data sharing and multi-agency co-operation. But if we leave the EU without a deal, the era of unprecedented international security and criminal justice co-operation which we’ve enjoyed as a member state will immediately cease,” added Christina Blacklaws.
“Under the EAW criminals can easily be repatriated to their home state, but if the UK exits without a deal we may end up relying on a treaty from the 1950s.
“The British people may not be forgiving if the UK becomes a safe haven for criminals from across the EU27.
“Even where the 1957 European Extradition Convention is still in place, the process is lengthy, costly and taxpayers will end up footing the bill – Switzerland still uses it so the evidence of the system’s defects are there for all to see.”
Christina Blacklaws added: “The absence of clear guidance or information about contingency planning when it comes to criminal justice is deeply troubling as there will be immediate consequences from a no deal and any new agreements can only be forged once Britain has left the EU leaving a significant gap in our ability to fight crime and terrorism.”
An orderly period of transition as part of the UK’s departure from the EU would help ensure new arrangements could be put in place including covering criminal justice co-operation.
Credit: Ben Davies | The Law Society