MP’s Column - Britain’s fine legal system

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Readers are well aware of my stance on matters European: the European Union must be reformed, and if it can’t be reformed, then we have to leave it.

The overwhelming majority of Britons today are not comfortable with the current level of European integration, and returning power from Brussels to this country is an absolute necessity.

This is why I have voted against the European Arrest Warrant.

We have one of the finest legal systems in the world here in England: our miscarriages of justice are few, and when they do occur we do our utmost to have them overturned.

Unfortunately the English standard of law and justice is not upheld across the European continent, nor even amongst all members of the European Union.

Our participation in the European Arrest Warrant would compel British police to arrest, detain, and extradite British citizens to foreign countries, even without a hearing to determine whether the warrant in the country of origin had any evidence to support it, and even when the judicial system in the country of origin is open to political manipulation.

It may also involve British citizens in unnecessarily costly procedures for comparatively minor offences.

A May 2011 report by the campaign group Fair Trials International said European Arrest Warrants “are being issued for minor offences and without proper consideration of whether extradition is proportionate.”

Even the European Commission conceded that the use of EAWs for minor offences had undermined confidence in the system.

We are also very hopeful for action in bringing back British control of Britain’s borders. As I pointed out in the Commons the other day, it’s all very well for Germany to lecture us on the importance of the free movement of workers within the EU. Germany has a contributory welfare system: one cannot arrive there and instantly claim benefits. We should make it impossible for newcomers to claim benefits unless they have been here for three years.

Already, progress is being made. Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Welfare and Pensions, assured me in the House that action is being taken. Loopholes have been closed and things generally tightened up.

As of just last week, no one will be able to claim out-of-work benefit for more than three months, after which they will have to leave the country.

“They will not get housing benefit, they will have to speak English, and they have to show that they are resident here,” the Welfare Secretary assured me. “And that is only the beginning.”

Looking forward to the General Election, Britain is faced with two clear options: Ed Miliband as Prime Minister, or David Cameron. Only one party capable of forming the government has pledged to offer voters their say with a referendum on our membership in the European Union.

That’s because only one party, the Conservatives, trusts voters to make our own choices and to decide the future of the country. We will continue our work to secure and defend the United Kingdom.

Sir Edward Leigh

MP for Gainsborough