DUBLIN/LONDON (Reuters) - Ireland has urged Britain not to bow to domestic pressure to ditch European Union laws that allow suspected criminals to be arrested in other member states, saying such a move could undermine bilateral efforts to tackle terrorism and crime.
The British government has said it intends to include the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in a package of EU justice and policing measures that it would continue honoring after Dec. 1, a date when it will jettison a number of other EU justice rules that it disagrees with.
However, Prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure from a powerful contingent of Eurosceptic lawmakers within his Conservative party to ditch the EAW, which allows one member state to issue a warrant requiring another member to arrest and hand over a suspected criminal.
A statement from the Irish Justice Ministry on Tuesday said minister Frances Fitzgerald had raised concerns about the risk of Britain withdrawing from the scheme on a number of occasions with the Cameron government.
“Minister Fitzgerald has emphasized the important role of the EAW, which she believes provides the most effective basis to secure cooperation between the two jurisdictions in tackling terrorism and crime,” the statement said.
Underlining the desire for close cooperation on such matters, Britain last month warned suspected Irish nationalist militants that it would still seek to prosecute them for crimes committed during three decades of violence over Britain’s rule of Northern Ireland.
The British government has said it will withdraw from a number of EU justice measure, but has put together a list of 35 others, including the EAW, that it wants to keep using.
Asked about the Irish concerns, a British Home Office (interior ministry) spokesman said Cameron had been clear on his desire to keep participating in the EAW scheme and that a vote would take place in parliament on the government’s proposals.
The vote, which has not yet been scheduled, is likely to provoke an embarrassing party rebellion against Cameron if he chooses to push through Britain’s continued participation. However, he is expected to be able to win parliamentary approval for it with the support of the opposition Labour party.
Eurosceptics regard the EAW as an unnecessary level of integration with the EU, arguing that bilateral deals would work just as well while allowing Britain to maintain legal control.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin and William James in London, editing by Mark Heinrich