On the 12th of January, 500 of the great and good, or at any rate the well-heeled, sat down to a sumptuous dinner at the Guildhall at a cost of £500 a head. This was to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, widely regarded as one of the most important documents in the world.
Celebrate? A funeral procession would have been more appropriate. Clause 38 provided,
‘No judicial officer shall initiate legal proceedings against anyone on his own mere say-so, without reliable witnesses brought for that purpose.’
Yet the British government had given away, less than three months earlier, the protection provided by that clause. It voluntarily ‘opted in’ to the European Arrest Warrant. This is the legislation about which David Cameron, back when he was in opposition, said,
‘Let us be clear about what it means. One of our constituents goes to Spain on holiday, commits an alleged offence, and returns home. All that is necessary is that the warrant is correctly filled out.’
So there is no requirement for any evidence that he committed a crime. This is quite extraordinary.
Any member state of the EU may demand, without any evidence, that our government arrest a UK citizen and hand him over to await possible trial for a crime he is suspected of having committed. I must be exaggerating? That could not possibly be true? Well, I am not and it is.
The UK was under no obligation to opt in. Cameron chose to. As Christopher Gill, one-time Maastricht rebel, says, ‘All this from the very man who wants to see powers repatriated back to the UK!’ Or Torquil Dick-Erikson, ‘The European Arrest Warrant is unjust and oppressive, and tramples on our historic rights and freedoms.’
At the dinner, speeches were given by the Foreign Secretary and the Master of the Rolls in praise of Magna Carta, but not a word was said about this voluntary surrender of Magna Carta’s guarantee to UK citizens.