EU extradition agreement is effectively scuppered by exit
Close co-operation between police forces in Britain and Northern Ireland and the Garda will be seriously hampered in the future unless the UK can successfully negotiate similar arrangements to those that existed before Brexit.
The UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU effectively scuppers the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which has been the cornerstone of extradition agreements between the two jurisdictions for more than a decade.
The EAW replaced cumbersome extradition arrangements, which regularly ran into legal difficulties in the courts.
It has been used effectively to extradite suspects facing charges for criminal and terrorist offences between Ireland and other EU countries, including the UK, since 2004, and has speeded up the process by removing political and administrative obstacles and making it a system run entirely by the judiciary.
But Brexit means that the EAW will no longer apply to the UK if a deal cannot be struck in the negotiations.
It also spells an end to the UK’s involvement in Eurodac, the fingerprint database for identifying asylum seekers and irregular border crossers.
At the moment, all EU member states take part in Eurodac, which has been in operation since 2013, as well as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
But the UK’s future involvement will again be determined by the negotiations over the next two years.
The Republic’s Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed that, in the meantime, there will be no change to the current arrangements and said she was ready to work with the UK authorities and EU partners to sort out the issues arising from the Leave vote.
She was confident, she said, that effective arrangements between Ireland and the UK in relation to criminal justice and security co-operation, immigration and the common travel area would remain in place.
Senior gardai say, however, they could do without the uncertainty that will now exist until the political talks conclude in a minimum of two years.
It comes at a time when both parts of the island continue to face threats from dissident republican groups determined to increase their profile by stepping up a campaign of violence, as well as the dangers posed by international terror groups such as Islamic State.