Human Trafficking and the UK opt-out

Having watched Channel 4’s recent programmes on Britain’s sex traffickers I found this piece in the Guardian very interesting (Labour Condemn’s UK opt-out from EU directive against sex trafficking), detailing Denis MacShane’s criticism of the coalition government’s decision to opt-out of European legislation designed to improve coordination between EU countries. This directive, which is still in the formative stage, proposes steps to make it easier to convict human traffickers and give new rights to victims. On an issue such as human trafficking, which by definition is of a cross-border nature, the rationale for joint action is surely self-evident even to the most ardent of euro-sceptics?

For David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats to opt-out from this is both puzzling and disappointing. If indeed the UK already complies with most of the draft directive then exactly where does the problem lie? If it is one of anti-European dogma then it is a sad indictment on the Coalition. If the policy is to sit back and let the other Member States decide the directive and then decide whether to opt in at a later date, Cameron and Clegg would be repeating a time-old British mistake. By standing on the sidelines and then opting in later, it means that the UK has no real say on the final outcome but if (and often when) a decision is made to opt-in, we are forced into a take-it or leave-it situation, with no opportunity to influence the particular measure in line with UK priorities or specificities.
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