The Lib Dems' recent rise is rightly leading to closer scrutiny of the party's policies. Their support for the UK entering the euro, was correctly described as "folly" by the Sunday Times. If it wasn't right to join the euro when the UK was experiencing higher growth in comparison to the eurozone, and if you're willing to admit that the current eurozone interest rates would have hurt the UK's recovery (as Clegg has recently), then when would it ever be right to join? The Lib Dems' answer, "In the long-term", is simply not good enough from a party that wants to govern the country.
But another area that has received far less scrutiny and attention is the Lib Dems' commitment to further EU cooperation on crime, justice and policing. This is extremely important because, under Lisbon, this is the area of EU policymaking that is likely to grow fastest. And for a practical example of why this is all important, we need look no further than a story reported in yesterday's Independent, and today in the Irish Times.
Ian Bailey, a British former journalist suspected in connection, but not charged, with the murder of a French film-maker in Ireland 14 years ago, has been detained by the Irish authorities under a European Arrest Warrant issued by a French judge. French lawyers argue that they have jurisdiction over the case, citing the French constitution which states that murder cases involving French citizens in any part of the world can be brought in front of French courts.
But, as Carol Coulter, the Irish Times' legal editor, points out, the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to prosecute Bailey for the murder. Therefore, in practice, the French extradition request amounts to a breach of the double jeopordy principle, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as well as the Irish Constitution.
We've pointed out some of the EAW's failings before, but this case could potentially prove to be a huge step in a very dangerous direction. If Bailey loses his fight against extradition, the Irish authorities will have deported someone, whom they believe did not have a case to answer under Irish law, to face charges in another country. Leaving aside whether Bailey is ever found guilty or not in the future, this simply cannot be right.
The Irish courts still have to decide whether to action the extradition request but it will be interesting to see how much pressure is put on them by the French government. And given that the French request effectively amounts to a vote of no confidence in the Irish legal and judicial system, what prospect does this man have for a fair trial in France? And doesn't the UK, given that Bailey is a British citizen, have a duty to point this out?