Cameron criticised for EU Arrest Warrant opt-out plan
by Daniel Mason
Plans by the United Kingdom's government to pull out of European Union police cooperation have been slammed by the opposition Labour party because it would prevent the future use of European Arrest Warrants.
Speaking at the party's annual conference in Manchester yesterday, senior Labour member of the European Parliament Glenis Willmott pointed out that an EAW had been used last week to arrest Jeremy Forrest, the teacher who was on the run in France with 15-year-old schoolgirl Megan Stammers.
Thirty-year-old Forrest is now in jail in Bordeaux and has said he will return to the UK voluntarily. But Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron earlier told the BBC that a decision on whether to withdraw from 140 EU justice and policing powers, including the EAW, had to be made before the end of the year and the government would be "exercising that opt-out".
In response Willmott said: "If we opt out of EU police and judicial cooperation, it would be an insecure prime minister putting Tory party unity before the interests of the British people." Cameron has been under pressure from many of his backbench party members to recast the UK's relationship with the EU.
"The EAW has been widely used for awful crimes committed in Britain, for example Italian police used it to arrest a suspect from the failed 2005 London bombings," Willmott said. "Right across the EU, police support this cooperation, and that includes the British police. It makes their jobs a lot easier."
The Conservatives' coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, also support the use of the EAW. In comments reported by the Guardian, Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said the arrest of Forrest had demonstrated the value of EU police cooperation.
"Any opt out in this area is still under review and discussion. Our decision must follow the interests of national security, public safety and Britain's international reputation for leadership on cross-border security matters."
It comes amid a renewed debate about whether the UK should hold a referendum on its EU membership. During a visit to Brazil last week Cameron said it was time for a "new settlement between Britain and Europe, and I think that new settlement will require fresh consent".
Cameron said he did not favour Britain's withdrawal from the EU but added: "In the next parliament, I think there will be opportunities for a fresh settlement and for new consent to that settlement."
Meanwhile a senior Labour party figure has also hinted at a possible referendum. Jon Cruddas, who is policy director for party leader Ed Miliband, told the Daily Telegraph that the idea would be considered "in depth" before publication of a manifesto for the next election.
"At some stage there is going to have to be some resolution of what our relationship is here and what format that takes. It could be a referendum," he said. But he said now was not the right time "given the economics ricocheting around the eurozone. Obviously our position needs to be developed over the next period."
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