Bar Council welcomes House of Lords report on EU Opt-out

23 April 2013

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has welcomed the finding of the House of Lords EU Committee that the Government has not made a convincing case to opt-out of about 130 EU police and criminal justice measures and that to do so would have significant negative repercussions for the UK's internal security.  

The report is published as the Chairman of the Bar, Maura McGowan QC, leads a Bar delegation to Brussels to meet with senior EU officials to explain the impact of the proposed opt-out, as well as addressing a European Parliament hearing on reforming the Court of Justice.

The Bar Council is emphatically against an EU opt-out on the basis that it is contrary to the effective administration of justice, and will leave the UK isolated from the beneficial international agreements it currently receives. It is believed that an opt-out will reduce the protection of British citizens at home and abroad, will result in less efficient court processes, will have a negative effect on policing and judicial co-operation, is contrary to the promotion of the Rule of Law and the protection of human rights, and could result in a loss of influence on the European legal stage. 

Maura McGowan QC,Chairman of the Bar,said:

"We welcome the finding of the House of Lords EU Committee that the Government has not made its case on the opt-out and not engaged sufficiently with stakeholders. We will continue to press that view in Brussels and Westminster.

"The opt-out will affect dozens of measures which are widely recognised as fundamental, which the UK would need to opt straight back in to. Some of these measures are critical to the UK's role in the international fight against terrorism and organised crime, the sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking, and the rapid extradition of criminals from our shores to face trial in other EU Member States, to name but a few.

"It is unclear how, and indeed if, it will be possible to opt-back-in to all of the essential measures. What is clear however is that significant costs will be incurred as a result, and the route to justice will be severely affected.

"Opting out of pre-existing EU Criminal justice measures will act to undo much of the good work which was undertaken to set up the system as it is today, which works in the public interest, both domestically and internationally." 

ENDS 

Notes to editors:

1. For further information, please contact the  Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 or Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

2. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.