Bloomberg News

Cameron EU Justice Opt-Out Risks Security, Lawmakers Say

April 22, 2013

Prime Minister David Cameron hasn’t made a “convincing case” for opting out of 133 European Union police and criminal-justice measures, a panel of lawmakers said, warning of “negative repercussions” for the U.K.’s security.

The cross-party House of Lords EU Committee used a report today to criticize Cameron’s Conservatives for seeking an opt- out from the 27-nation bloc’s rules to prevent European courts overturning British judges’ decisions, part of the Tories’ move to distance themselves from Europe.

Under the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, the U.K. has until the middle of 2014 to exercise an opt-out from the measures, which include a Europe-wide arrest warrant. Ministers have suggested the government would repatriate the powers and then negotiate fresh deals or opt-ins on measures they favor. That strategy has split the coalition, with the junior Liberal Democrat party pledging to block some opt-outs.

“The opt-out decision is one of great significance, with far-reaching implications not only for the U.K. but also for the other member states and the EU as a whole,” David Hannay, an upper-house lawmaker with no party affiliation, said in an e- mailed statement. “Cross-border cooperation on policing and criminal-justice matters is an essential element in tackling security threats such as terrorism and organized crime in the 21st century.”

The Liberal Democrat leader, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, has made it clear he disagrees with Cameron’s plans, saying on Nov. 1 he would not ask the domestic intelligence agency, MI5, and the police to “protect the British people with one hand tied behind their back.”

‘Public Safety’

“Discussions about the exercise of the mass opt-out are ongoing within government,” Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, a Liberal Democrat, said in an e-mailed statement. “However, I am clear that any final package will have to ensure the U.K.’s continued participation in all the key measures which are important for public safety, including the European arrest warrant and Europol,” the EU’s law-enforcement agency.

“There is a process of consideration ongoing” about which common measures the U.K. might opt back into, Jean-Christophe Gray, Cameron’s spokesman, told reporters in London yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net


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