I want to address the question of whether and how the Bill could be used after the end of the Brexit transition period. For 16 years, the European arrest warrant has been Britain’s best crime-fighting tool. It is significantly faster and cheaper than its predecessor arrangements, and it may well be faster and cheaper than what might replace it. The Minister was at pains to highlight the limited scope of the Bill, but the Government themselves have suggested that the Bill could be used to extend extradition arrangements to other countries, including EU countries after transition ends and our membership of the European arrest warrant ceases. The Bill focuses only on extraditing criminals from the UK, but it is clear that this could be used as a basis for striking bilateral deals in the future.
The Government will know that Germany, Slovenia and Austria do not extradite their own citizens to other countries, with the sole exception of its being done under the European arrest warrant. What kind of arrangements do the UK Government hope to operate in those cases? If EU countries do not want to sign bilateral extradition deals, the UK could become a haven for criminals. The former Prime Minister, Mrs May, herself warned in 2014 that leaving the European arrest warrant made the UK potentially a “honeypot” for all of Europe’s criminals on the run from justice. Similar concerns were raised in the House of Lords just last week in the context of this Bill.
The Government have said that they are committed to the European convention on human rights, yet they are refusing to formalise that commitment, even though that jeopardises our chances of agreeing a deal on extradition and other security issues. If the Government are genuinely committed to keeping the European convention on human rights, why not put us in a stronger negotiating position by making that commitment clear? We are four years on from the Brexit vote, with no agreed plans on what will replace our best crime-fighting tool, which we are due to lose in less than six months.
When the UK was a member of the EU, we participated in about 40 free trade agreements with more than 70 countries. We are now about to embark on renegotiating some of those from scratch. If the UK seeks to do valuable trade deals with a country that has a poor human rights record, to what extent will the Government be prepared to soften their extradition arrangements in favour of that country in order to secure that deal? What mechanisms will the UK put in place to ensure that that does not happen, so that we do not make ourselves vulnerable to the possibility of having to extradite people to countries with poor human rights records, where we do not have confidence in their justice system? I agree with the shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, who said that the amendments passed in the House of Lords were the most effective way to uphold our commitment to human rights, and the Liberal Democrats support them.