UK Politics

Commons vote on EU Warrant 'before Rochester by-election'

The Chamber of the House of Commons Image copyright PA
Image caption MPs will get to vote on the government's decision before 20 November

David Cameron has said a vote on the future of the European Arrest Warrant will be held before the Rochester and Strood by-election on 20 November.

The prime minister is facing a rebellion by Conservative MPs who do not want the UK to continue to be party to the EU-wide agreement.

The PM says the arrest warrant has been substantially reformed and that it is in the UK's interest to sign up again.

Labour has pressed Mr Cameron to hold a vote within the next week.

The UK has to decide by 1 December whether to continue to adhere to a host of EU criminal justice and law enforcement measures, including the European Arrest Warrant, under the terms of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty.

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Media captionEd Miliband accused the prime minister of delaying a European Arrest Warrant vote

Conservative backbenchers have long called for a specific Commons vote on the European Arrest Warrant, which allows the quick extradition of suspects around the EU.

Pressure has grown in recent weeks for the vote to be held before the Rochester by-election, in which UKIP, which wants to leave the EU entirely, hopes to snatch the seat from the Conservatives.

'No delay'

The Home Office, the police and the security services say the EU Warrant is a vital tool to protect the UK but some Conservative MPs argue that it has been abused and has become a threat to the liberties of Britons, and the sovereignty of the UK.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has offered Mr Cameron his party's support in a vote over the European Arrest Warrant, meaning that the measure - which is also backed by the Liberal Democrats - is likely to be passed by the Commons.

But the BBC's chief political correspondent Vicky Young said up to 100 Conservative MPs could rebel.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons, Mr Cameron rejected Labour claims that he was putting off a vote on the issue until after the Rochester by-election because he was running scared of UKIP.

He said a vote could not be held until negotiations elsewhere in Europe had concluded and the threat of a block by Spain had been lifted.

"I'm not delaying having a vote on it, there will be a vote on it," he said. "We are going to have a vote and we are going to have it before the Rochester by-election."

'Keeping safe'

The prime minister said the UK had already agreed to opt out of 100 other EU justice provisions, which he said amounted to the biggest single transfer of powers back from Brussels to the UK.

But he added: "It is important we take action to keep Britain safe, particularly from serious criminals and terrorists, and the European arrest warrant offers the best way of doing that.

"I would stress to those who are concerned about this, the European Arrest Warrant is very different from the arrest warrant first introduced under the last Labour government.

"You cannot now be extradited for something that isn't a crime in Britain, judges are able to reject European Arrest Warrants and they have done so in many, many cases.

"And you can't be extradited if there is going to be a long period of detention. These are all important considerations."

Conservative MP John Redwood said he was "disappointed" at Mr Cameron's continued support for the EAW and said it would result in a "happier party and a happier country" if the UK negotiated a separate set of arrangements with other EU countries to maintain its "legal independence".

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