Opinion: Tories soft on crime, Lib Dems tough on Tories

If ever there was a fault line in the Coalition, it has been over the two parties’ attitudes to Europe. The possibility for a mass opt-out by Britain from a raft of EU measures in justice and home affairs opened up a rift between the Tories and Lib Dems which has rumbled on for more than a year.

Liberal Democrats insisted that the government heed the overwhelming advice of the police and security services to maintain effective crime-fighting measures which help keep Britain safe. Time after time, law enforcers lined up to ask the government not to jettison the EU tools they use daily to catch criminals, along with allies such as Ireland and Germany.

Meanwhile the Conservative Party – a prisoner of its own anti-Europeans – mistakenly treated the decision as a dry-run for ‘renegotiating powers’ with the EU – putting at risk the safety of Britons at home and abroad in the process.

Ironically, the whole opt-out clause had been negotiated – in an obscure protocol to the Lisbon Treaty – by Tony Blair, Britain’s most pro-European Prime Minister since the 1970s.

Today’s announcement by Home Secretary Theresa May that Britain will seek to maintain all key EU crime-fighting measures is a victory for common sense and for Liberal Democrats in government. As a result, Britain will still exercise its overall opt-out – but crucially, will opt back into the most important measures.

These include the European Arrest Warrant – used just this week to capture one of Britain’s most wanted fugitives at his luxury villa in Spain; Europol – which has recently helped British police catch international gangs of people smugglers and credit card fraudsters; and joint investigation teams – such as the one set up by Surrey police to investigate the 2012 murders in the French Alps.

Once again Liberal Democrats have successfully injected pragmatism and common sense into a key Coalition decision, being tough on Tory ideologues while simultaneously exposing them as soft on crime.

* Giles Goodall is a Lib Dem European Parliamentary Candidate for South East England.

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  • Another example that when it comes to European policy the Tories will cut off their nose to spite their face. Goodness only knows what perfectly good EU policies they will jettison just for the sake of being able to say they have “renegotiated” our membership. By feeding the anti-European beast in their ranks it will only ever grow stronger and more demanding; appeasement will not work.

  • There is no point in opting out of a minimum EU standard the UK already exceeds UNLESS that is the intention is to lower the UK standard to BELOW that of the minimum EU standard.

    Do Lib Dems want to support that?

    I doubt it unless the intention is to be the Regressive Democrats…

  • Giles Goodall 11th Jul '13 - 3:52pm

    @Joe: there’s a full list in the command paper issued this week: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm86/8671/8671.pdf

    @Paul R: I agree that there’s absolutely no harm in keeping minimum standards we exceed, in fact this is the case with lots of EU measures: they ‘cost’ us nothing as we already fulfil the requirements – but they do raise standards in lots of other countries. Take the example of victims’ rights: the EU directive means Brits will have the same minimum level of protection anywhere they travel in the EU, as will everyone else living there of course!

    @Jedi: I agree that certainly not everything was equally important, and some were pretty redundant. Which is why the 35 key measures is a pretty good compromise. But as Paul says, we’re only talking pre-Lisbon measures here, for the rest the UK will continue to apply all those it’s opted in to – such as the victims’ directive, which was largely based on British standards.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Jul '13 - 9:09am

    Sarah Ludford MEP is working on a proposal to reform the EAW
    This is noteworthy in that the Lib Dem MEPs are aware of the need to reform the system, but also in that this does not seem to have been reported at all outside the linked article. Why are we not making more of this?

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