EU extraditions to Britain should continue until Brexit: court

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 28, 2018 An anti-Brexit demonstrator waves a Union flag alongside a European Union flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London. A bill enacting Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has become law after months of debate, the speaker of parliament announced on June 26, 2018 to cheers from Conservative Party lawmakers. / AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN

EU countries should continue extraditions to Britain until it leaves the bloc next year, despite claims that Brexit could cause uncertainty for suspects, the legal advisor to the union’s top court said Tuesday.

An Irish murder suspect appealed against a European Arrest Warrant on the grounds that Britain’s decision to quit the EU left unanswered questions over the arrangements for his transfer.

But the advocate general to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg said that Britain’s June 2016 vote to leave had no bearing on such warrants so long as it remained part of the EU.

“The UK’s decision to leave the EU should not affect the execution of a European arrest warrant issued by it. EU law applies as long as the UK is a Member State,” Advocate General Maciej Szpunar said.

Judges at the ECJ usually, but not always, follow the legal opinions of the court’s advocate general.

The European Arrest Warrant system allows EU countries to request the extradition of suspects from other member states, with very few reasons allowed for refusal.

It has been used in high-profile cases including Spain’s bid to extradite former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont from Belgium and Germany, and for Sweden’s attempt to transfer Wikileaks chief Julian Assange from Britain over sexual assault allegations.

The suspect in the current case, identified only as RO, was arrested in Ireland in 2016 on a warrant issued by Britain on charges of murder, arson and rape, and appealed to the Irish High Court on grounds including issues related to Brexit.

The Irish court then asked the ECJ to rule whether it should refuse to surrender the suspect due to “the uncertainty as to the arrangements which will be put in place after the UK’s withdrawal.”

But the ECJ lawyer said there were no grounds to refuse the warrant.

Britain was still subject to EU laws until it leaves in March 2019, and moreover “there is no basis to question the UK’s continued commitment to fundamental rights,” the advocate general ruled.

The advocate general also said that Irish authorities could expect that Britain could abide by the European Arrest Warrant system’s rules “including for post-surrender situations after the issuing member state has left the EU.”