Police warn of criminal ‘free for all’ post-Brexit without European arrest warrant


Police have warned that serious criminals will have a “free for all” if Theresa May fails to secure Britain’s continued involvement in the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) or an alternative in any Brexit deal.

Figures obtained by i show the warrant has led to more than 2,300 arrests and surrenders – nearly one a day – over the last seven years, returning terrorists, murderers and rapists to face justice in British courts.

Official figures show that EAWs issued by the UK Government have led to 121 arrests for child sex offences, 85 arrests for rape, 181 arrests for drug trafficking, 61 for murder and 4 terror-related arrests since 2009.

Bad old days

The statistics come as the Prime Minister is expected to give a major speech in Munich on Saturday on security after the UK leaves the EU.

Fears are mounting that Mrs May’s approach to Brexit negotiations will risk a return to the “bad old days of the Costa del Crime”.

Already between 12 and 20 extradition warrants sought by British police for suspects living in Ireland have stalled amid concerns that it would be unsafe to extradite them as the UK is leaving the EU.

Alex Duncan, of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “It is political debate but we do need some assurances that an equivalent alternative is put in place as it is in no-one’s interest for there not to be an alternative. We need to have mechanisms to bring people to justice otherwise criminals will have a free for all.”

The Prime Minister is expected to make a “big offer” to the EU later this week to cooperate on security after withdrawal. But it is unclear what she intends, given hardline Brexiters in her party have ruled out the continued influence of the European Court of Justice, which oversees the EAW.

As Home Secretary Mrs May warned that without the EAW British criminals would be able to “hop on to the Eurostar or fly to Spain, safe in the knowledge we wouldn’t be able to get them back to prosecute them”. The UK itself would become a “honeypot” for Europe’s criminals, she added in 2014.

Speaking on the issue in the House of Lords last week, crossbench peer Lord Hannay said losing the arrest warrant post-Brexit would lead to “long, agonising” extradition negotiations with EU members.

Costa del Crime

Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader and supporter of the pro-EU group Best for Britain, said “organised crime and criminals do not stop at the cliffs of Dover”.

“For all these supposedly ‘law and order’ Conservatives, to turn their backs on that shows how determined they are to pull up the drawbridge. They seem to want to go back to the bad old days of the Costa del Crime,” he added.

A Government spokesperson said: “Both the UK and EU have made clear our shared commitment to continued cooperation to keep Europe safe and this Government will do everything it can to keep the country secure.”

Terror tracks

Since it was established in 2002, the European Arrest Warrant has increasingly been used by EU member states to tackle crime.

Perhaps the most well-known use of the mechanism was in 2005, when Hussain Osman was traced and extradited from Italy in a week after he tried to blow up a London Underground train in Shepherd’s Bush.

As Theresa May herself pointed out during the EU referendum campaign, before the arrest warrant existed it took “10 long years” to extradite terrorist Rachid Rama from Britain to France. Mr Ramda was involved in the 1995 Paris bombings that killed eight and injured more than 100 people.

Source