The deadline of the end of the Brexit transition period is nearing and the government is looking likely to achieve its objective. Though the government announced its intention to leave the European Arrest Warrant in February this year, their new plan is a replica, writes Harry Jee.

As we approach the hard deadline of the end of the Brexit transition period and pressure mounts for the UK and EU to do a deal, sources close to the negotiations have said that the government looks likely to achieve its objective on extradition with the EU – but that's not good news.

In February 2020 the government announced its intention to leave the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system. This move was welcomed by Brexiteer MPs who had been pointing to the flaws in the EAW for many years – but there was a sting in the tail.

While the plan to leave the EAW hit the headlines, buried in the same announcement was government's aspiration to strike an extradition deal it described as 'fast-track' and 'based on the EU's Surrender Agreement with Norway and Iceland'. Alarm bells ringing, campaigners piled in to describe this plan as 'replicating the EAW' and little more than 'EAW-lite', fearing that much-needed protections would not be possible if this vision of close cooperation were realised.

And their fears seem to have been proven justified – the word on the street is that a deal for an almost-EAW is very close, with the only disagreement remaining between the two sides being one over the arbiter of the system. The EU, of course, favours the European Court of Justice, while the UK would like a new independent body.

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There has been no word on the sorely needed 'additional protections' the government also pledged to obtain in February, and fears are mounting that far from a bold new world, we're in for a Brexit sell out.

Under these arrangements the fundamental problems with the EAW will remain. The whole system functions on the premise that all criminal justice systems within the EU are of equal quality, and therefore legal matters can proceed on the basis of 'mutual trust and recognition'. What this means in practice is that extradition hearings are effectively a rubber-stamping exercise, where if the paperwork is filled in correctly the accused is put on a plane.

Under the EAW, judges are unable to examine the evidence against the accused, and even proof that the accused person could not possibly have committed the crime is not enough to halt the legal process. One of the few barriers to extradition is the prospect of human rights abuses, but the threshold for evidence has been set so high that it is practically impossible to prove.

The case of Alexander Adamescu, who has captured the attention and support of a range of prominent politicians, is just one example of the injustices that flow from fast track extradition. Adamescu is wanted by Romanian authorities on charges that have been shown to be politically motivated by both British and German intelligence experts, in a system that abuses human rights more frequently than any other in the EU and at comparable levels to Russia.

The paucity of protections in the EAW system mean that his only hope is for Home Secretary Priti Patel to intervene and grant international protection – which she has been urged to do by influential MPs Sir Graham Brady and Steve Baker.

Fears are now mounting that for all the tough talk and bold promises, on extradition at least the government is about to try to pull a fast one. The UK may well be technically outside of the EAW system, and – depending on how negotiations shake out – even outside of the European Court of Justice, but if the fundamentals of the extradition system remain the same, then so do the vulnerabilities in the process and the opportunity for dodgy EU member states to abuse them.

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