Yvette Cooper was in a stern mood this afternoon when she responded to the Home Secretary’s announcement about plans to opt-out of 130 European law and order measures and then re-adopt those which it fancies. Her main gripe was that she hadn’t been sent Theresa May’s statement about the plans until 45 minutes before it was delivered in the Commons, but she was also peeved about the content.
The Shadow Home Secretary argued that ministers ‘haven’t actually told us anything today at all’, arguing that the different limbs of the coalition were doing entirely different things on this matter. While David Cameron had spoken about an opt-out, Nick Clegg had said the government was ‘minded’ to opt out, and May had only given the ‘current thinking, Cooper complained. She added:
‘It’s like the government is playing a giant game of hokey-cokey and yet the fight against crime is at stake.’
If the government is playing the hokey-cokey and sticking its legs in and out of the law and order debate, May focused more on talking about hands. The Home Secretary said that ‘on the one hand’ there was an example from Ben Gummer about the European Arrest Warrant’s benefits, and ‘on the other hand’ there was an example from Nick de Bois about the effects of its flaws on one of his constituents. From the Lib Dem side, Stephen Lloyd also offered an example for May to put on one hand and consider: the case of Megan Stammers, which I mentioned this morning. So the government wants to put its right hand in, and then its left hand in, and shake them all about until some sort of balance between the flaws and the benefits is found. ’It is that balance which we will certainly be looking at,’ May told the Commons. The plan is to renegotiate the warrant before opting back into it.
For those hoping this might be an opportunity to use the existing legislation which provides for a referendum on the European Union, May made very clear that they should be disappointed. She said:
‘The powers that we are talking about here and the arrangements for the opt-out are not subject to the powers that are being taken in the act in relation to European referenda.’
Because of the lack of detail currently available, this debate wasn’t split down party lines in the way you might expect: as well as hearing the pros and cons from the benches behind her, May also won the support of Labour’s Keith Vaz, who told MPs that the warrant had ‘chaotic and unfair consequences’. The real split in the coalition will come if ministers cannot achieve the sort of reforms to the warrant they are looking for, at which point pressure from the Conservative side of the government will grow for Britain to opt out of the warrant altogether. The Lib Dems, meanwhile, want to ‘maximise UK participation in key EU measures‘ while reforming parts of the EAW.Tags: European Union, Theresa May, UK politics, Yvette Cooper