Former UK Independence Party treasurer Stuart Wheeler has announced his intention to mount a legal challenge against Britain’s opt-in to the European Arrest Warrant, if Parliamentarians vote to re-join the program tomorrow.
Although the European Arrest Warrant came into force in 2004 with the UK as a participant, it was included in the full list of measures adopted before the Lisbon Treaty came into force from which the Home Office opted out of en-masse last year. The intention was to opt back into 35 of them, including the EAW.
Writing in the Telegraph today, Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May explained: “Our guiding principle was and remains that if there is no clear purpose for a European law, there shouldn’t be a European law. But where we need to co-operate with other member states to fight crime, prevent terrorism and protect the public, we will do so.
“Having declared our intention to opt out of all justice and home affairs measures, we therefore sought to opt back in to 35 measures we believe are in our national interest.”
Those measures will come before Parliament tomorrow in a day long debate. Although between 60 and 90 Tory backbenchers are expected to rebel on the vote, Parliament is predicted to opt back in to the measure. May herself has justified the opt-in on grounds of national security, claiming that, unless Britain opts back in, “we become a honey pot for Europe’s criminals.
Respected Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg refuted the idea, telling the BBC’s Andrew Neil “She’s not only wrong but it’s a particularly silly thing to say. We have our own laws to enforce against criminals in this country, and who we decide to extradite is a matter of UK law, with friendly nations. It’s a highly exaggerated point of view.
It’s perfectly possible to have efficient extradition without it being a European matter. The key thing about the EAW is that, after the 1st December, how it is implemented will not be decided by Britain, but will be decided by the Court of Justice of the European Union.”
Should the opt-in go ahead, Mr Wheeler, in conjunction with Mr Rees-Mogg is planning to challenge the decision at the High Court on Tuesday, on the basis that the decision ought to trigger the referendum lock legislated for within the European Union Act 2011. Under that Act, any agreement which cedes power to Brussels must be put to the people of Britain in a referendum.
Mr Wheeler will be funding the action himself. Commenting on the action, he has said “I am cooperating closely with Jacob on this issue but I must make clear that this is not a story about trying to get a defector, it is a story about trying to protect the liberties of the British people.”
Ukip MP Douglas Carswell is also expected to speak in the debate tomorrow, opposing the reintroduction of the EAW.