The Government has decided not to opt in to a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council establishing a Justice Programme.
The Justice Programme aims to support judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, promote judicial training and facilitate access to justice. It forms part of the Justice, Rights and Values Fund within the proposals for the EU’s new Multiannual Financial Framework, the EU’s budget for the period 2021-2027. The proposal has a Justice and Home Affairs legal base, and so the UK must take an opt-in decision under Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Given that the Justice Programme will run from January 2021 to December 2027, the UK will have left the EU and come to the end of any anticipated Implementation Period (which would conclude in December 2020) before the Programme comes into effect. The European Commission has therefore drafted the Regulation establishing the Programme on the basis that the UK will not be able to participate as an EU Member State, as it will no longer be part of the European Union. Opting in to the proposal would not automatically allow us to participate in the Justice Programme when it comes into effect, but it would allow the UK to have a vote on the proposals until March 2019 and potentially influence its development. If we wanted to join the Programme after leaving the EU, we would need to negotiate with the European Commission to do so as a Third Country.
The UK did not opt in to the existing Justice Programme running from 2014-2020. It was considered that the benefits to the UK from the Programme (in terms of receiving funding for UK organisations to carry out activities under the Programme) did not outweigh its costs to the Government.
Given these reasons, the government has concluded that it is not in the national interest to opt in to the Justice Programme.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords