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Britain 'should quit EU crime laws'

Britain should opt out of all EU policing and crime laws to avoid ceding democratic control to the European Commission and European Court of Justice, a report has argued.

Home Secretary Theresa May has indicated that the Government plans to exercise its opt-out on the 135 measures in 2014, before negotiating to opt back in to those which are deemed to be in the national interest.

But the report by Conservative MP Dominic Raab found that, while 60 of the 135 laws have "some practical law enforcement value", there is not a single one whose advantages merit giving up democratic control to supranational EU institutions.

In each case, the same benefits could be obtained by multilateral or bilateral co-operation agreements or by treaties which are not subject to enforcement and interpretation by the Commission or the ECJ, said the report for thinktank Open Europe.

All options should be explored before opting back into any of the EU measures, said the report. By doing so, the UK can avoid becoming subject to the extended jurisdiction of the European Commission and the ECJ from December 2014.

The report rejected claims that opting out of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) would leave the UK unable to secure the return of suspects like 21/7 bomber Osman Hussein, who fled to Italy, or teacher Jeremy Forrest, who was returned from France to face trial over the alleged abduction of a 15-year-old schoolgirl.

In both cases, the suspects could have been extradited through bilateral co-operation, said the report. It was "perverse" to suggest Britain cannot co-operate on counter-terrorism or serious crime without sacrificing basic principles of justice, it argued, adding: "Not one of our EU partners has said this, and any suggestion to that effect would amount to blackmail - which is hardly a sound basis for confidence-building or co-operation."

Mr Raab said: "Britain wants to be an active European partner in law enforcement co-operation. But, with our closest allies around the world, we have never been forced to sacrifice our democratic authority in order to fight crime and terrorism.

"Exercising the block opt-out is an opportunity to re-cast our EU law enforcement relationship, so that it is focused on enhancing operational co-operation not ceding democratic control."

Under the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, the Government must decide by May 2014 whether it wants to exercise the opt-out on justice and home affairs matters negotiated by the previous Labour government. The terms of the treaty mean that it cannot opt out of individual agreements, but must drop the package in its entirety and then apply to re-enter those elements which it wishes to retain.

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