Following chaotic scenes in the House of Commons when the Government failed to give MPs a promised vote on the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), it fell to the Opposition to hold a debate and vote to endorse the UK’s application to rejoin the EAW and 34 other European Justice and Home Affairs measures. This debate took place in the Commons on Wednesday 19 November and I am pleased that MPs overwhelmingly backed the motion.
I support the EAW and believe that we need it in order to help fight crime and ensure the police are able to work cooperatively across Europe to stop murderers, traffickers and sex offenders. The EAW helps us to deport foreign criminals and terrorists – more than 1,000 people were removed last year because of an arrest warrant – and helps bring to justice people who have committed heinous crimes in the UK. I also fear that without the EAW Britain risks becoming a safe haven for fugitives.
In addition to the EAW, the motion debated on Wednesday endorsed the UK’s application to rejoin 34 other EU crime and justice measures including football banning orders, confiscation orders, joint investigation teams, criminal records sharing and border information – all crucial measures that the UK needs to help prevent international crime.
It would have been better if the Government had simply allowed a vote and debate on the EAW last week but it is welcome nonetheless that MPs have now had the chance to back the UK’s application to rejoin these essential measures.
Below is my contribution to the debate:
It is a pleasure to follow the pro-European views of the right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry). I agree with everything he said and wish to reiterate one of the points he made: of the 4,000 criminals arrested in this country under the EAW, 95% were foreign nationals. We need to make that point. The EAW is a mechanism to get bad people out of our country to be put on trial and then, I hope, convicted for crimes carried out usually in other countries. By contrast, under the “reckless” position put forward yesterday, good people—Polish plumbers and their families—would be deported to other European countries, while, presumably, the criminals, after we have left the EU, would not be, because we would not be part of the EAW. That is the position of the party that claims to be speaking in the national interest; in fact, it is doing the exact opposite.
We benefit from immigration. EU migrants have made a great contribution to our country over many years. Our prosperity has been increased by the higher economic growth that resulted from nationals of the A8 accession countries coming here to work on our bus and transport systems, our health service, our shops and retail establishments, as architects and teachers and in all kinds of other occupations—even as priests. I have an excellent Catholic priest in my constituency who now runs morning services for the English-speaking community and afternoon services for the Poles and Lithuanians. We are benefiting from the migration of Europeans to our country, but at the same time we have to work with other Europeans in the interests of our country.
In my remaining time, let me say a few brief words about Operation Golf, which I mentioned in an intervention on the Home Secretary. The Europol website has a section called “Operational Successes”. Operation Golf is the first of a list of many dealing with different countries. Operation Golf was a joint investigation team operation by the Metropolitan police and the Romanian national police. It targeted Romanian organised crime; it led to the arrest of 126 individuals and the searching of 16 addresses in Ilford, most of them in my constituency; and it led to the freeing of a large number of children who were being used in organised begging gangs.
This operation went on between 2007 and 2010. In 2011, the Romanian authorities used the European arrest warrants to get the extradition of a man described as a “real life Fagin”. This man, Nelu Stoian, was extradited to Romania along with others to be prosecuted for their crimes. That would not have been possible without the external arrangements we have and the European arrest warrant. We should be proud of the fact that we are part of that, and we should recognise that it benefits our country.