Dearlove ignores EU cooperation against crime

by David Hannay | 30.03.2016

Former head of MI6 Richard Dearlove drew attention when he argued, in the April edition of Prospect magazine, that “Brexit would not damage UK security“. His article was wide of the mark in a number of ways.

Dearlove is right to draw attention to the complexities of sharing operational intelligence. However, he overlooks or misrepresents other aspects of cooperation against international crime, which it would be damaging for us to lose.

Dearlove begins by asserting that leaving the EU would enable us to “dump” the European Convention on Human Rights. Leaving to one side whether it would be in Britain’s interest to pull out of an agreement we helped draft, the Convention is part of the Council of Europe, not the EU. Leaving the EU is thus neither here nor there in the debate over the Convention.

He goes on to belittle the European arrest warrant as “exclusively criminal”. But terrorism, human trafficking, cyber crime, drugs and child pornography are also all exclusively criminal – and increasingly international. The European arrest warrant helps us combat all of them – as do other pieces of EU cooperation and legislation such as Europol and Eurojust. When Dearlove says “few would notice” the passing of the European arrest warrant, that would come as news to the 675 people extradited to the UK using the mechanism between 2010 and 2014, or the 5,365 shipped out to other EU countries.

Dearlove would have done well to have glanced at the two reports prepared by the House of Lords EU Select Committee in 2013/14, on which I sat. On that occasion, Britain had the chance to withdraw from all EU Justice and Home Affairs legislation but decided to opt back into the 35 most important instruments. That decision was made by the government in the national interest and was endorsed by large majorities in both Houses. The evidence submitted by the Home Office, police and Crown Prosecution Service, as well as by all branches of the legal profession in all three of the UK’s jurisdictions, emphasised the importance for our internal security of doing so.

David Hannay is a former UK ambassador to the EU and UN. He was involved in Britain’s accession negotiations to the European Economic Community and was Britain’s Permanent Representative in Brussels when the UK helped to draft the Single European Act, which provided the foundation for the Single Market.

Edited by Geert Linnebank

One Response to “Dearlove ignores EU cooperation against crime”

  • Presumably Dearlove means that no EU Member State could remain in the EU if it left the CoE Human Rights Convention (ECHR). If we left the EU, we would be free to abandon ECHR but how would that affect our standing elsewhere?

    Could we still remain members of the UN? Would we also abandon its constraint that we should subscribe to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? How does the ECHR differ from the UNDHR? Not by much as far as I can see.

    Perhaps we could also remain members of NATO and declare war on a state party without regard to the Geneva Convention if we left the EU?

    The fact that the Government opted back into the 35 JHA measures including EAW shows the value of taking the EU as a contiguous territory within which we can move suspects between the justice systems of member states with minimal formalities. If the EAW exposes British suspects to alternative justice systems in the EU which are not to our taste, the remedy is to enhance the Charter of Fundamental Rights to include the presumption of innocence, legal representation and habeas corpus in all EU states – not to leave and then find we cannot bring “foreign criminals” to trial.