The UK Government has confirmed that, following the conclusion of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, the UK will no longer be part of the European Arrest Warrant scheme. The Government has reportedly expressed a preference for a ‘surrender agreement’ mirroring that which Norway and Iceland have in place with the European Union. That surrender agreement, in large, mirrors the provisions of the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision. The difficulty with this proposal is that the agreement in place with Norway and Iceland was agreed in 2006, but only came into force in 2019, as it needed to be ratified by all EU Member States. There is also a condition within that agreement that the contracting states must comply with obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, which Boris Johnson’s Government has indicated will not be acceptable under any proposed deal.

If such an agreement cannot be reached, the fall-back position will be a return to the European Convention on Extradition 1957, and for the UK to designate EU countries under the Extradition Act 2003. The Government is currently trying to pass the Extradition (Provisional Arrest Bill) 2019 which will amend Part 2 of the Extradition Act to allow the UK authorities to treat an Interpol Red Notice as a provisional arrest warrant pending extradition. Currently, the draft bill only specifies six ‘trusted partners’ (Australia, Canada, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States) to which this arrangement would apply. However, it is likely that this would be extended to cover additional countries in the event that an agreement with the EU cannot be reached ahead of the conclusion of the transition period. This will be seen by many as a retrograde step, as the Interpol Red Notice system has been frequently criticised for its lack of transparency and use in politically motivated and corrupt prosecutions.

Failure to reach an agreement which provides for efficient extradition to and from the EU is likely to leave the UK open to criticism that it has allowed itself to become a safe haven for fugitives from justice.

"The UK is to abandon a crucial tool used to speed up the transfer of criminals across borders with other European countries."