25 JAN 2012

EU Criminal Policy

Today's debate was about the EU commission's push for Euro crimes

I questioned the Justice Minister about the implications this would have

To make it absolutely clear, will the Minister confirm that the EU criminal policy outlined in the document would not apply to the UK in any way, shape or form unless or until the UK chose to opt in?

Crispin Blunt:

Yes, I am happy to reassure my hon. Friend that that is the position.

In my speech I used the Minister's reassurance to argue that if this is the case, the Government should be looking to opt out on these measures, for the reasons explained below.

My concern is about this kind of extension of the whole European project. We see it creeping on further, out of taxation and all the other measures with which we are familiar, into the criminal sphere. I find this policy document highly objectionable in many areas. First, I find objectionable the statement that "EU Criminal Policy should have as overall goal to foster citizens' confidence in the fact that they live in a Europe of freedom, security and justice". That is not the point of European criminal policy. Rather, it should be the criminal policy of each individual member state. The EU, by trying to say that its policy is somehow about these principles and that citizens look to it for the execution of those principles, is overstretching and overselling. It is also misreading the situation, given that it is so far removed from people and has done so little to instil confidence.

It is not for the European Union to start defining crimes; it is for individual nation states to do so. There are areas where we should consider opting in. For example, I intervened on the Minister and talked about the issue of drugs. Let us look at the measures in the list provided by the Home Secretary. On one side, it talks about co-operation between customs authorities and business organisations on combating drug trafficking. Good. That is what we should have—cross-border co-operation. As the representative of Dover, I know that that is really important and makes a difference. Another 1996 justice and home affairs measure that was proposed, concerns "the exchange of information on the chemical profiling of drugs to facilitate improved cooperation between Member States in combating illicit drug trafficking." Good. Yes, we should do that.

However, the dividing line for me is the 1996 JHA measure No. 750, which concerns "the approximation of the laws and practices of the Member States of the European Union to combat drug addiction and to prevent and combat illegal drug trafficking." When one considers the approximation of laws and the issue of codification and requiring member states to treat everything the same way, one is rapidly moving into the area of a common criminal law—Eurojust, the European arrest warrant, the Euro-investigator, Europol and Euro-crimes. If we are to take that route, my point is simply that we should engage the country as a whole and have a proper, open discussion about what is going on, not try to spin it.

There are some cases where a common criminal law may be appropriate, particularly in the cross-border context; in others, we might conclude that it is not the right way to proceed. But to draw up a cynical list of everything that everyone would agree are the most heinous crimes known to mankind, in order to get the principle and then to extend it later, is something that we have seen with the European Union time and again. It is the fundamentally wrong thing to do, and it would be the wrong thing for us to do in terms of the opt-in or opt-out debate. I believe that when we have that opt-in/opt-out debate over the next two years, we should ensure that we include the country as a whole and have a proper, national discussion.

Following this, I organised a letter to the Telegraph to underline the concern so many of us have about the whole EU criminal justice agenda. See the letter here.


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Charlie Elphicke

It has been an honour and privilege to serve as Member of Parliament for Dover & Deal. I hope to be re-elected to serve our community for another term. 

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