Consequences of Brexit for European Union criminal law

Article by Anne Weyembergh (2017)

WEYEMBERGH, A., ” Consequences of Brexit for European Union criminal law”, New Journal of European Criminal Law, vol 8, 2017/03, pp. 284-299.

The United Kingdom has almost always been a fierce defender of its insularity and its national sovereignty. It has been a fervent advocate of the intergovernmental method and has put up stiff resistance to more integration in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and the communitarization of the sector, it has benefited from an exceptional status in the European criminal justice area and from an unusual pick and choose capacity, leading to risks of deep imbalances in the sector. Consequently, the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU could, at first sight, generate a certain amount of relief. However, a deeper analysis about the future of criminal cooperation within the EU without the United Kingdom leads to temper such positive feeling, particularly because of the United Kingdom’s high level of expertise in the field and because of the sensitive questions Brexit raises. One of these is to know what mechanisms will replace the existing ones. Depending on the answer, Brexit might be hard or soft, which will be crucial in terms of maintaining (or not) the effectiveness of the fight against crime and preservation of the superior interest of criminal justice. Another issue is to determine who will negotiate: the EU, the Members States or both? The obvious risk here is that of diluting European criminal law and the danger of some parts of this law being sucked out of the EU’s institutional framework.