In the Media

May to announce opt out of EU justice measures

PUBLISHED October 15, 2012

Monday 15 October 2012 by Michael Cross

The home secretary Theresa May will confirm today that government plans to exercise its right to opt out of 130 EU cross-border measures on law and order.

She is expected to tell MPs that under an opt-out agreed by the last government when negotiating the Lisbon Treaty, the UK will drop out of the European Arrest Warrant, membership of bodies such as Europol and Eurojust, as well as arrangements to share databases.

Under the Lisbon Treaty, which came in to force in 2009, European-wide policing and crime prevention measures will become mandatory and enforceable through the European Court of Justice in November 2014 unless the UK opts out of the entire package by June that year.

The government could opt back in to individual measures - as long as the rest of the EU agrees.

The decision to exercise the opt-out was revealed by the prime minister earlier this month. It was condemned by legal professional bodies. Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said the that a decision to remove the UK from so many criminal justice measures, most of which are procedural and promote practical co-operation between member states, 'could have far-reaching implications'. She urged the government to engage with practitioners to seek their views in an open and transparent consultation process.

Bar chief Michael Todd QC echoed the concern: 'Those who advocate an opt out of EU criminal justice measures assume that it will remove the UK from the scope of EU criminal justice, and that it may save money.' But he said the UK's opt-out can relate only to measures established before the Treaty of Lisbon came into force in 2009, which would be a 'recipe for confusion and greater costs'.

Todd said that the practical considerations involved in the fight against cross-border crime would mean that the UK would almost certainly need to seek to opt back into them.