Advocate General Szpunar has provided his Opinion in Case C-327/18 PPU RO, the first challenge concerning the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on continuing rights and obligations in EU law. In this case, the CJEU is considering a challenge by a British national being surrendered by Ireland to the UK under the Common European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision (Decision 2002/584/JHA) to face trial on charges of murder, rape and arson. RO claimed that he should not be surrendered to the UK because the fact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU meant that his rights under the Framework Decision could not be guaranteed after withdrawal. The case is significant for determining the impact of Brexit on the rights and obligations of the UK and other EU Member States in the period before withdrawal takes place.
Advocate General Szpunar’s Opinion is that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU does not affect ongoing rights and obligations under EU law. He has proposed that the Court find that the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system should continue to apply for as long as the UK is a Member State. He reiterates that the principle of mutual recognition, which is based on mutual trust, between the Member States means that the execution of a EAW constitutes the rule and a refusal to execute is an exception which must be interpreted strictly. He notes that none of the mandatory or optional grounds for non-execution are present in the case at issue. He rejects RO’s argument that the UK’s withdrawal notice constitutes an exceptional circumstances requiring non-execution. He concludes that as long as a state is still a Member of the EU, EU law applies, including the provisions of the EAW Framework Decision and the duty to surrender. Further, the Advocate General concluded that although the UK is withdrawing from the EU it is not abandoning the rule of law or the protection of fundamental rights. The UK will continue to remain subject to rules of domestic and international law which impose obligations on the UK in the context of extradition. On this basis, the Advocate General proposes that the executing authorities can expect, at the moment of executing the EAW, the issuing Member State to abide by the substantive content of the Framework Decision, including for post-surrender situations after the issuing Member State has left the EU. That presumption is possible if other international instruments continue to apply. Only on the basis of tangible evidence to the contrary could the judicial authorities of the Member State decide not to execute the warrant. The fact that the CJEU would no longer have jurisdiction after 29 March 2019 was not an obstacle to RO’s surrender.
A copy of the Advocate General’s Opinion can be found C 327 18 RO AGO.
David Blundell represents the United Kingdom, led by Josh Holmes QC.